Today there are countless varieties of test screens, many of which are extraordinary. The closest to an internationally-accepted standard for video throughout the world is known as the Sony test-screen, though strangely enough it was not actually devised by Sony at all. The coloured bars shown within the pattern must represent a television set’s broadest possibilities: the purest tones it is capable of creating. So it’s an image that shows every possibility of the equipment and the conditions through which it is produced. It shows absolutely everything it can fundamentally offer, all at once, but in terms of content it shows you absolutely nothing, a void, a big neutral space. For these reasons I regard it as the perfect image.
Reproductions of [Robert Ryman’s] paintings—more than any other artist I know, and it’s true, basically, of all artists—betray those paintings. There was a poor victim of all of this who was responsible for color separations for a catalogue that was done in Europe prior to ours, who was hospitalized as a result of the stress of having to work out color separations over four sheets so that you calibrated things that came out more or less acceptable on all sheets. And of course when you deal with Bob’s work you deal with the background white, which on a page is never white. It’s actually a dot matrix and it’s got the full spectrum in it, and it blushes this or it blushes that. So, basically, Bob’s work is the single best argument for why it is that reproductions fail, for why it is that all the ideas about completely replacing painting with pictures—or pictures of paintings—falls flat.