“L’Octogone” – 2002


The Octagon is an installation specifically created by Roman Opalka to display his ‘Life Project’, a means of using painting to make time into something concrete. It was conceived to present visual and sound elements: photographic self-portraits, canvasses and artist’s voice.

The structure plays host to ‘Details’. These paintings of which there are 231 have been made since 1965 following the same process: the artist draws numbers in white acrylic on a canvas measuring 196 x 135 cm. The background colour of the canvas started out being black and has over time become whiter; each new canvas has a background onto which 1% more white has been added compared to the previous canvas. The artist says the numbers as he paints them, and the sound recording is broadcast when they are shown. Finally at the end of each work session, Roman Opalka photographs himself. These self-portraits complete the whole work, making up a single work, a life, the experience of the passage of time.

« When I arrived at the number 6 times 6, I asked myself when I would eventually reach the number 7 times 7. But one thing is certain; I will never manage to achieve 8 times the number 8. Not me, no-one. Hence the octagon provides the conceptual and absolute dimension of my artistic process »

Roman Opalka  Henceforth Roman Opalka’s canvasses will always be displayed in an Octagon.

This work was presented at the Saint-Étienne Métropole Museum of Modern Art (2006) and was mounted at Le Morat (Switzerland) by architect Jean Nouvel (2002).