a line (1975/1976)

years ago i did a white painting, empty and devoid of personal expression. it was the result and terminal point of years of informal painting which began with spontaneous personal expression. i have done a lot of different work since, but my white paintings of that period still have the greatest significance for me. - significance -, the empty image becomes a sign and has really become sign-ificant.

i designated the white book which i published at that time: 'about this universal book, in which all contradictions have been eliminated and whose contents can be equally acceptable to everyone, in which all problems have been overcome, nothing of reality being isolated at the cost or for the sake of an aspect, can be said that_it is a positive contribution to the synthesis of everything.'

a few years ago my work involved me again in white panels. the format of the panel is a composition in itself. i did not make this first, and here last, decision myself, it was made at random. *)

last year i was working again with wittgenstein's 'tractatus', a book of which i made grateful use for years.

all sentences that suited me became questionable again. a new situation arose. 'the wittgenstein papers' I and II end with a section of blank, white pages.

on returning from my last journey i started reflecting again about language, logic and significance with the aid of the 'tractatus'. The result was once more a renunciation of all personal content. this - void - became my content. my manifest on poetry ended with a white page. language was abandoned, and behold, i called it 'poetry'.

after using this significance i once more had to go through a cycle in order to reach a solution again, for the solution is unity: salt and water taste together.
there are no contradictions.


i originally used randomness to preserve the objectivity of the white paintings, as an impersonal factor to which all decisions could be left and thus rendered generally valid. not until later did iget interested in the random phenomenon itself and consequently for chance, and in connection with it, for change.

white, a survey:

  • white paintings, 1959-63
  • 'wit is overdaad' (white is excess), 22 p. 1960
  • 'wit', 200 p. 1962, 2nd printing 1967, published by hansjörg mayer, stuttgart
  • 'wit', revue integration 9, 1966 (with ad reinhardt 'black' and mathias goeritz 'the golden message')
  • empty sheets, 1967
  • 'on language' (p. 2l), 1972, subvers 8, ijmuiden
  • random shapes, 1972-73 (exhibition galerie zwart [= swart], amsterdam, 1973)
  • 'the wittgenstein papers' II, 16 p., 1974, publ. artists press, berne
  • 'this is poetry' (p. 3), 1975, in: 'vijf taalmanifesten en een gedicht' (five language manifests and a poem), publ. artists press, berne
  • 'noise', temporary travelling press publ. 1 (p. 2-4, 9, 14, 17-32), 1974, publ. artists press, berne
  • 'asiatische & eschenauer texte' (sheet 16), 1975, publ. artists press, berne

source: herman de vries, '- a line -', written in 1975 and published in the English edition of Museumjournaal n° 6 (1976) 239.