“NOWHERE AND EVERYWHERE, AT ONCE, IN COMPLETE PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL FREEDOM”. THIS IS THE MANTRA OF ONE OF THE MOST SPIRITUAL ARTISTS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
WHEN ONE SPEAKS OF ART AS MEDIATION, THE MEDIUM FOR AN ULTERIOR AND INEFFABLE DIMENSION, IT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO CAST ONE’S MIND BACK TO THE WORKS OF A WIZARD OF COLOUR LIKE YVES KLEIN.
Born in Nice in 1928, Yves, early on drew close to the tenets that would profoundly mark his life and his artistic language. From the start he embraced the dogmas of the Rosicrucians, the mystical seventeenth century Christian Hermetic Society, thanks to the astrologer Max Heidel, and practised the Japanese discipline of Judo, following the Asian philosophies linked to the harmonisation of the body and the mind and inspired by Buddhist spirituality. This constant research of the spirit was tied, in his artistic experimentation, to the study of colour as an ideal means of expressing a universal sentiment, beyond time and inevitably media orientated.
Although part of the Nouveaux Réalisme, which developed between the nineteen fifties and sixties, Yves supported a process of total autonomy, where the strong conceptual connotation of the Neo-Dada movement and that of American Pop Art, dematerialised completely, to become a hymn to the immaterial. Klein emerged in the company of his companions, the sculptor, Arman, and the poet Pascal; it is said that together, one day, the three divided up the world between them.
“Arman got the land and its riches, Pascal got the air, and Yves got the sky and its infiniteness”.
The colour blue, already the object of interest and research by Kandinsky – the chromatic location of the infinite – became for Klein a horizon to aim for, the obsession of his utterly intense research was to patent a particular hue, the now famous International Klein Blue, the unique element of his Monochromes, created by mixing pigment and resin which guaranteed a result that was vibrant, almost porous and vital, as if it were still in the raw powder form.
The extent to which the profound mystical inspiration of the Giottescan blues and the unreal heavens of Renaissance horoscopes conditioned the choices made by the French artist, is both evident and fascinating, in the setting of a continuous return of images and symbols across the centuries.
Klein decided to recount neither stories, nor objects, nor even himself: he chose to go beyond a boundary, to transcend worldly things, in the attempt to gain access to an ulterior sensibility, which was not recounted in words but was inferred with colour, “For me colours are living things, highly evolved individuals that integrate with us and with everything”.
On the canvases drenched in blue, there is no trace of the human hand; the artist is not present, but simply the vehicle for a universal dimension, profound and aniconic.
The monochrome chosen by Klein – also varied with the colours pink and gold – is a journey in the search for a spiritual equilibrium that can take place only in a unit that is far from the things of the world.
Here, it is evident that art becomes a metaphor for the nostalgic attempt to create a contact with a dimension that is, in reality, beyond perception; that intuition of the infinite which the individual is searching for, halfway between heaven and earth.
Colour absorbs and captures everything that is solidified in it: in Blue Sponge Relief, 1960, sponges soaked in paint became three dimensional sculptures, also in Venus Blue (1962) and the in the so-called Antropometrie (Anthropometry) series, in which blue paint on the bodies of female models was transferred to canvas, as a celebration of the eternal return of life and of the creation, as a ritual that links us to cosmic unity.
The relationship between the artist and the canvas, between the thinker and his performance, is a sacred rite, a liturgy and an ascent towards a magical universe.
In 1958, he staged Le Vide (The Void): a room which housed only “the sensibility of the artist”. This immaterial merchandise could be exchanged for gold and every guest was invited to drink a blue-coloured cocktail, almost a primitive return to the magic rituals of indigenous peoples for whom consuming the chrysalis would confer on them immortality. Thus, the artist does not use images and words to support the story, but the artist himself becomes the work of art, conferring on them absolute autonomy, as the synthesis of pure expression. The intention, the gesture, the creative act, are now at the base of the value of the artistic product, which becomes performative and ritual.
The artist painted more than a thousand canvases in spite of his death at the age of only 34, and in all these acts of appropriation Klein materialised the immaterial, attempted to capture the void, and sought to restore the indefinable profundity of the spirit, comprehending it in millions of blue pigments.
Text by Agata Gazzillo