Contents “Essentialism is the rhythm of life” — Interview with Jef Verheyen..................................... 5 Works: Jef Verheyen....................................................................................................... 15 Introduction Tijs Visser.................................................................................................................... 61 Beyond the Boundaries of Colour in the Realm of Boundless Being Dirk Pörschmann........................................................................................................ 67 Materiality and Transcendence of Colour: Jef Verheyen’s Painting Jenny Trautwein.......................................................................................................... 81 Works: ZERO and friends...............................................................................................90 The last Modernists — Jef Verheyen, Paul De Vree and the “Flemish landscape” of the 1960s Johan Pas................................................................................................................. 113 Bodies of light and dialectics of the immaterial Spazialismo, Essentialisme, Achrome Francesca Pola......................................................................................................... 141 “Germany and Me” — Jef Verheyen Beate Kemfert.......................................................................................................... 169 “In the Midst of Infinity” — Flemish Landscape Tiziana Caianiello....................................................................................................185 Works: Flemish Landscapes — Günther Uecker and Jef Verheyen.................................198 Interviews: Nanda Vigo.............................................................................................................209 Claire Bataille and Paul Ibens.................................................................................. 215 Gerhard Lenz........................................................................................................... 221 Axel Vervoordt.........................................................................................................227 Dominique Stroobant...............................................................................................233 Appendix: Biography Léonore Verheyen...............................................................................................243 Bibliography.............................................................................................................246 Exhibitions................................................................................................................247 Public collections holding works by Jef Verheyen.....................................................251 List of works..............................................................................................................252 Colophon.................................................................................................................255 Photo credits.............................................................................................................256
JEF VERHEYEN LE PEINTRE FLAMANT
Flamant: 1534 nm Provençal flamenco, Latin: flamma; flame; Web-footed wading bird, usually pink or scarlet feathers. Flame: see burning, fire… (English translation from “Le dictionnaire de la langue Française: Le Robert”)
Jef Verheyen at the opening of his exhibition “Kreislauf der Farben” (Colour Circle), Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, 1973. Photo: Gerald Dauphin, Fotomuseum Antwerp
“Essentialism is the rhythm of life” — Interview with Jef Verheyen
exhibition in 1960, his interest was mainly triggered by the art scene in Düsseldorf, which I knew nothing about at the time. Yves Klein was one of the leading exponents of the trend, and because he lived in Paris and Iris Clert1 helped to spread his ideas, he had a huge advantage. In those When and where did you first meet the ZERO artists? days, Germany had a thing about Paris. Germans saw Oddly enough, I met the three most important figures in Paris as ten times bigger and better than anywhere else. the ZERO movement around the same time. Not all of them As far as I was concerned, Yves Klein’s Anthropométries2 together, but each one individually. That can’t have been a bore no relation to our ideas. I rejected them from the coincidence. I had been familiar with Fontana’s work since start. As “happenings”, I found them interesting, but the 1956, but I didn’t meet him face to face until 1957 in Milan; resulting pictures never satisfied me. They are merely the I also met Yves Klein and Manzoni in 1957. Manzoni demonstration or documentation of an idea. brought his Achrome (Achromes) to my exhibition at the Galleria Pater in Milan in February 1958. After they died, What significant exhibitions were there in those early days? they were the three who were widely identified as the most I think the most important exhibition of those years was important members of the ZERO movement. That was how “Monochrome Malerei” (Monochrome Painting) at the it began. It was really fantastic! Museum Schloss Morsbroich in Leverkusen, rather than “Anti-Peinture” (Anti-Painting) at the Hessenhuis in Antwerp, What drew you to your friends? Tell us about your where just about anyone was allowed to hang something relationship with them. on the wall. The exhibition was too broadly conceived We communicated very well with each other. That was and totally indiscriminate. “Vision in Motion — Motion in because we had the same artistic concerns. We were a Vision” at the Hessenhuis in 1959 was important for me clique of artists. When I met Fontana for the first time, because it was there that I met Günther Uecker. Uecker we both felt there was an instant and spontaneous conand I immediately felt that affinity that is so vital to friendnection. Fontana was like a father or an older brother to ships between artists. me. I learned so much from him. But you could also turn the whole thing around and ask what Fontana learned Which exhibition was the most important for you at the from me. For example, once he had seen my canvases, beginning of your career as an artist? Which was the most he would only buy his own canvases in Flanders. He also beautiful exhibition of that era? borrowed some of my painting techniques. It was all My most important solo exhibition was in 1958 at the about give and take. You simply can’t separate one from Galleria Pater in Milan; the most beautiful was “Flämische the other. You can’t really ask what Manzoni borrowed Landsschaften“ (Flemish Landscapes) in Mullem3 in 1967. from me and what I borrowed from him. It wasn’t just by Mind you, I paint landscapes as a hobby, in the same chance that the two of us immediately clicked. We were way as other people go fishing. I also paint portraits in my pursuing the same ideas, and we discussed a lot of them spare time. This has nothing to do with my work and by letter. We were both surprised to discover that people my painting. on the other side of Europe were working on those same ideas and that there were parallels between their artistic What were the artistic problems that you and the other results and ours. That was around 1957 or ’58, but things ZERO artists had to tackle at that time? didn’t get serious until 1960. When Udo Kultermann We grappled with the problem of how to go beyond Tachism showed such commitment to the new movement in art with and Art Informel. What mattered more to us was to create his “Monochrome Malerei” (Monochrome Painting) consciousness-raising painting. We had turned away from 5
From Vermeer, I have learned a lot about colours and colour in space, and, of course — I’ll say it again — from Jan van Eyck. All these masterpieces are so far removed from us, as if they were hung behind a wall of glass. Today, it’s impossible to paint like Van Eyck. Vermeer, Van Eyck and I perceive nature in a similar way. Our depiction of the natural world has nothing to do with the natural landscape, but with the eternal rhythm of nature.
1 Parisian gallery owner whose eponymous gallery became a centre for avant-garde art from the mid-1950s to the early 70s. She was particularly supportive of Yves Klein’s work. 2 Anthropometry is the study of human body measurement for use in anthropological classification and comparison. Klein used the term to describe performance paintings, where he covered nude women with paint and used their bodies as paintbrushes.
Where does the future of painting lie? Are you asking whether painting still has a future? I don’t believe in a future for panel paintings. That’s because nowadays people no longer learn how to paint. They turn to every possible kind of technique — screen printing, photography and so on. It’s hard to turn away from all that and go back to painting. Can you imagine an artist like Warhol without photography or graphic techniques? The American Hyper-Realists would be unthinkable without photography, even though they have gone back to painting, no doubt as a reaction against the predominance of the graphic arts. Anyone can learn the techniques of painting, provided they are willing. But it is often that very willingness that is lacking. At art school, I was given indepth training as a painter and that is what drives me, not how much money my paintings can fetch.
3 A small town in the province of East Flanders, Belgium. 4 In Grenchen, Switzerland. 5 Pseudonym of the Dutch artist Herman Dirk van Dodeweerd. 6 Painted in few colours.
In an interview commissioned by Anna and Gerhard Lenz, owners of the Lenz Schönberg Collection, and conducted by Reinhard Bentmann, Susanne Müller-Hanpft and Hannah Weitemeier-Steckel at Schönberg on 2 February 1973. Revised and updated by Dirk Pörschmann from a previously unpublished manuscript in the Lenz Schönberg archive.
Enrico Castellani, Jef Verheyen and Piero Manzoni, Milan, 21 January 1959. Photo: Frank Philippi, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Jef Verheyen in his Hoogstraat studio, Antwerp, c. 1970. Photo: Gerald Dauphin, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Jef Verheyen and Roberto Crippa, Milan, 22 January 1959. Photo: Frank Philippi, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Jef Verheyen and Günther Uecker in Verheyen’s Hoogstraat studio, Antwerp, c. 1970. Photo: Gerald Dauphin, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Lucio Fontana and Jef Verheyen at the home of the Belgian collector Louis Bogaerts in Knokke, 3 December 1962. Photo: Filip Tas
Otto Piene, Jef Verheyen and Heinz Mack, at the “ZERO International” exhibition, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp 1979. Photo: Gerald Dauphin, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Works: Jef Verheyen
Jef Verheyen 1957 Espace découpé. Witte Ruimte 65 x 81 cm
Jef Verheyen Lâ€™air 1e st.
1962 130 x 90 cm
Jef Verheyen Untitled
1962 Ă˜ 120 cm
Jef Verheyen Vlaams Landschap
1967 132 x 198 cm
Jef Verheyen BraziliĂŤ
1968 160 x 160 cm
Jef Verheyen La Flèche de Zénon
1971 180 x 180 cm
Jef Verheyen Ici commence lâ€™infini
1973 160 x 160 cm
Jef Verheyen Zomer
1979 179,5 x 296,5 cm
Jef Verheyen Abysses
1979 180 x 286 cm
Jef Verheyen Diamant 1
1984 71 x 71 cm
Lucio Fontana, Hermann Goepfert and Jef Verheyen Untitled
1963 116 x 144 x 30 cm
Lucio Fontana and Jef Verheyen Rêve de Möbius
1962 100 x 150 cm
Jef Verheyen in his studio, Antwerp 1968. Photo: Gerald Dauphin, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Beyond the Boundaries of Colour in the Realm of Boundless Being 1 For more about the special spelling of “flamand” with the letter “t”, see interview with Dominique Stroobant, p. 233. 2 Cf. articles by Tiziana Caianiello, Johan Pas, Francesca Pola and Beate Kempfert and interviews in this book. 3 Quoted in an unpublished letter from Jef Verheyen to Eberhard Fiebig, Antwerp, 14 December 1970, seen in the Eberhard Fiebig Archive, Kassel. 4 See interview with Jef Verheyen, p. 10. 5 In conversation with the author in May 2010 Léonore Verheyen told how every family trip to Paris always meant a visit to the Musée Marmottan to study and marvel at Les Nymphéas. Verheyen also travelled several times with his wife Dani Francq to Monet’s garden at Giverny. For more about Verheyen’s series of paintings Hommage à Monet (Homage to Monet) see interview with Jef Verheyen, p. 9. 6 In conversation with the author in June 2010, Léonore Verheyen related how she and her father made a number of excursions to well-known places where Cézanne used to set up his easel. This was while Verheyen was visiting his daughter, who studied at the University of Provence in Aix-en-Provence from 1976 to 1978.
PROLOGUE Jef Verheyen was a painter. His tool was the paintbrush, his material paint, his medium light, his inspiration the visible, and his chief precision instruments his eyes and mind. Verheyen painted in order to see, and he saw because he felt with his eyes. With his paintings, he arouses and sensitises the perception of the serene spectator, in whom he evokes a sensual openness and a feeling of connection with the surrounding environment. Verheyen painted an essential distillation of his vision, a perfume of the visible, and his paintings offer their viewers possibilities of seeing something new, remembering things forgotten, and experiencing things they have never experienced before. Jef Verheyen was held in high regard among his friends. At a young age, “Le Peintre Flamant”1 came into close contact with artists, intellectuals and collectors in Belgium, Italy and Germany.2 His friendships and his painting were his elixir. In 1970 he wrote: “I think friendship is the eternal summer.”3 Among friends, he not only found acceptance as an artist and a man, but also the energy, friction and heated debate so indispensable to creativity. He sought close contact with his fellow artists and often visited Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni in Milan, Hermann Goepfert in Frankfurt, Günther Uecker in Düsseldorf and Christian Megert in Berne. Verheyen also sought out artists of earlier times and artistic movements. He liked to drop in at art galleries to admire the Old Masters, Jan van Eyck, Vermeer or Botticelli,4 to commune with Claude Monet through his Water Lilies, otherwise known as Nymphéas5 and to visit Paul Cézanne through his letters and conversations and explore places around Aix-en-Provence, where Cézanne made his incomparable paintings of the Montagne Sainte Victoire.6 The relationships between Verheyen’s friends and their late companion are 67
“[…] there is a fundamental narcissism for all vision. And thus, for the same reason, the vision he [the seer] exercises, he also undergoes from the things, such that, as many painters have said, I feel myself looked at by the things, my activity is equally passivity […], so that the seer and the visible reciprocate one another and we no longer know which sees and which is seen.“ Merleau-Ponty, L’œil et l’esprit (Eye and Mind), 1961, p. 256
“And it’s awful for me, my eyes stay riveted to the tree trunk, to a clod of earth. It’s painful for me to tear them away when something has a hold on me.” Conversations with Cézanne, Gasquet, “What He Told Me …”, 1912/1913, p. 117
Surfaces — Space — Depth — Totality “So it is logical that I no longer take any notice of surfaces, that I feel I am a focal point in space: alone against space, alone against nothingness.” Verheyen, untitled, 1958
“My painted spaces are the unspoilt beaches and fields of a new world of colour.” Verheyen, Etwas über Maler und Malen (Something About Painters and Painting), undated
“Nature is not on the surface, it is in depth; colours are the expression of this surface and thus depth. They reveal the origins of the world.” Conversations with Cézanne, Gasquet, “What He Told Me …”, 1912/1913, p. 124
Jef Verheyen, Söll (Austria) 1981. Photo: Anna Lenz, Archive Collection Lenz Schönberg
“I can’t claim that I always achieved what I thought of as one-dimensionality, In fact, that’s the way it should be. My paintings shouldn’t be read spatially, but perceived as a whole.” Verheyen, interview, 1973, p 7
“I would be at great pains to say where is the painting I am looking at. For I do not look at it as I would look at a thing; I do not fix it in its place. My gaze wanders in it as in the halos of Being. It is more accurate to say that I see according to it, or with it, than that I see it.” Merleau-Ponty, L’œil et l’esprit (Eye and Mind), 1961, p. 296
“It’s a difficult idea to grasp„ but that is my aesthetic problem — a painting without beginning or end.” Verheyen, interview, 1973, p. 7
World — Sensibility — Silence “The painter ‘takes his body with him’, says Valéry. Indeed, we cannot imagine how a mind can paint. It is by lending his body that the artist changes the world into works of art”. Merleau-Ponty, L’œil et l’esprit (Eye and Mind), 1961, p. 294
“An artist is only a receptacle for sensations, a brain, a recording device. Damn it, a good machine, but fragile and complex, especially where others are concerned.” Conversations with Cézanne, Gasquet, “What He Told Me …”, 1912/1913, p. 111
“To abandon objectivity, to adopt a colour as your own — in other words to become a colour — is a powerful reminder of how it feels to be in a state of trance. After a while, you are enveloped by colour; then the whole thing goes into reverse, exterior space becomes interior space, and you can no longer distinguish the single dimensions. Everything becomes transparent and, in the silence that surrounds, you are ready to receive.” Verheyen, Farbsehen / Farbsinn (Seeing Colour, Sensing Colour), 1968
Painting equipment, Hoogstraat studio, Antwerp, c. 1970. Photo: Gerald Dauphin, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Materiality and Transcendence of Colour: Jef Verheyen’s Painting Jenny Trautwein
Jef Verheyen placed his life’s work within the context of a generation of artists who, in the 1950s and 60s, were searching for new ways of artistic expression beyond Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism. Among the artists with whom he felt a strong connection, he numbered Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni. In a 1973 interview, he said: We grappled with the problem of how to go beyond Tachism and Art Informel. What mattered more to us was to create consciousness-raising painting. We had turned against Abstract Expressionism. The four of us — Fontana, Yves Klein, Manzoni and I — responded to it with a collective idea. […] We communicated very well with each other. That was because we had the same artistic concerns […] We were pursuing the same ideas.
1 Interview with Reinhard Bentmann, Susanne MüllerHanpft and Hannah SteckelWeitemeier, February 1973: transcript in the archive of the Lenz Schoenberg Collection. Revised and updated interview in this book, p. 4-12. 2 Ibid.
Verheyen also found kindred spirits elsewhere: “We were surprised to discover that people on the other side of Europe were working on those same ideas, and that there were parallels between their artistic results and ours.”1 At the other end of Europe was Düsseldorf, where Group ZERO had formed in 1958. Verheyen became close friends with Günther Uecker, of whom he said: “Uecker and I immediately felt that affinity that is so vital to friendships between artists.”2 Nevertheless there was an important difference, both artistic and personal, between Verheyen and his companions. Verheyen saw himself as a painter in the traditional sense. Unlike Uecker or Manzoni, who experimented with the widest possible array of materials and objects, Verheyen produced his works by applying paint to a classic support. “What others achieve with new techniques and materials, I simply paint,” he said during the same interview. Although the content of his paintings was non-representational, as a Flemish painter he placed himself in the figurative tradition of Netherlandish art. 81
In the history of art, I am particularly impressed by Jan van Eyck’s paintings. I understand them immediately and my response is quite spontaneous […]. From Vermeer, I have learnt a lot about colour and colour in space, […]Vermeer, Van Eyck and I perceive nature in a similar way. Our depiction of the natural world has nothing to do with the natural landscape, but with an eternal rhythm .3
Here, it is obvious that Verheyen recognised the connection between the tradition of representational painting and his own non-representational art. They shared the characteristic on which his entire aesthetic programme was based — colour. He regarded the depiction of nature in painted colours not as a representational reproduction of reality, but as an artist’s interpretation of the “eternal”, transcendental connection of being, made visible in colour. In his published writings and numerous unpublished annotations, letters and interviews, Verheyen dealt extensively with colour theory, the relationship between colour and space and the effects of light and colour materials. He was not concerned with developing a colourful, individual style or establishing a set of personal principles. What he was seeking was a universally valid law of effect. In his manifesto, Pour une peinture non plastique (A Plea for Non-pictorial Painting), he argued that colour recognition was an “exact science”. According to Verheyen, most painters “complain about the INACCESSIBILITY of colour”, but, he claims, only their own lack of interest in colour was to blame: They are all trying to develop a personal way of using colour as a means of expression. However, not one of them has even begun to discover the exact value of a colour. They use colour without realising that they must also understand the connectivity that exists between colours. Instead of investigating colour per se, they attune their skills to the materials they have readily to hand.4
3 Ibid. 4 Pour une peinture non plastique 1959, quotation from the typescript of the unpublished German translation, Für eine nicht plastische Malerei in the Verheyen Archive. 5 Ibid.
Even so, he continues, in practice it depends on “giving a colour its highest level of effectiveness” which, in turn, requires a precise definition of the tangible and intangible characteristics of the colour in question: “It is possible to define a colour, insofar as we can recognise it as a connection between tangible matter and absolute, namely intangible, transparency.”5 Here, it is not possible even to begin to present the rudiments of Verheyen’s physical and metaphysical approach to colour. Even a quarter of a century after his death, his theoretical deliberations and their relationship with tra82
6 Jef Verheyen, “Essentialismus = 0+1”, exhibition catalogue for “Kreislauf der Farben” (Colour Circle), Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf 1973, 30. 7 Dieter Schwarz, exhibition catalogue for “Antwerpen/ Bruxelles ’60: Bram Bogert, Engelbert van Anderlecht, Jef Verheyen” (Antwerp / Brussels ’60, Bram Bogert, Engelbert van Anderlecht, Jef Verheyen) Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Richter, Düsseldorf 2002. 33. 8 Freddy de Vree: “Jef Verheyen auteur flamand”, Retrospektive Jef Verheyen 1932 – 1984, Stiching Kunstboek, Bruges 1994, German edition, 16-17.
ditional colour theory and contemporary art manifestos remain completely unexplored. Instead, this essay will attempt to provide a preliminary insight into Verheyen’s painting techniques and how he developed them. Any attempt to achieve a deeper understanding of his theories must begin with the question of how Verheyen used colour. There has so far been no research into the techniques and materials used in his painting, which can only be hinted at in this essay. To compound matters further, even when closely examined by experts in the technical aspects of art, Verheyen’s paintings do not always reveal the secret of his technique. Nevertheless, his endeavours to produce painted works of art that transcended their own materiality formed a significant part of his aesthetic agenda. He was constantly in search of ways to transcend materiality using material means. Verheyen employed a sophisticated technique in which he built up paint in translucent layers, or glazes, to produce subtle gradations of colour. In adopting this method, Verheyen placed himself in the old-masterly tradition of Jan van Eyck, who perfected this same use of glazes in the fifteenth century. While the early Netherlandish artist used the glazing technique to create the illusion of depth and reproduce the reality of things in the painting with mimetic precision, Verheyen only represented the colours themselves, but his use of glazes disguised their materiality. The colours became visible by making invisible the fact that they consisted of tangible material, thereby allowing their intangible “essence”, to have its effect on the viewer.6 The extreme smoothness of the painting surface also contributed to this dematerialisation. To apply paint, Verheyen used a wide bristle brush or, according to Nic van Bruggen, “shredded nylon stockings”.7 He even avoided using brushstrokes and only when the painting was lit from the side was it possible to detect that the paint had been applied “mechanically”, namely with a brush or other implement. He avoided any brushstrokes, since the brushstrokes were only visible under a spotlight. The even application of colour created a dematerialising effect. Not a trace remained of the working process. The artist stayed in the background to create space for the colours to take effect. At the same time, Verheyen’s choice of support for his painting showed his desire to downplay the material he used. At first, in the 1950s, he painted on chipboard and jute fabric for financial reasons.8 Later, he moved over to fine linen. He spread the canvas with primer and then applied the paint in 83
Lucio Fontana Concetto spaziale N 19
1958 100 x 80 cm
Otto Piene Bronze by Gold
1957 60 x 80 cm
Henk Peeters Pyrografie
1959 (2006) 120 x 100 cm
Otto Piene Akkumulation
1962/63 120 x 170 cm
G端nther Uecker Reihung
1972 160 x 160 x 15 cm
Enrico Castellani Superficie nera
1959 88 x 68 cm
Lucio Fontana Concetto spaziale
1959 50 x 65 cm
Piero Manzoni Achrome
1958/59 18 x 24 cm
Heinz Mack Falt-Relief
1958 150 x 75 x 17 cm
Gotthard Graubner Kissenbild
1964 – 1968 80 x 80 x 5 cm
Otto Piene Schwarze Sonne
1962/63 151 x 151 cm
Hermann Goepfert Aluminiumreflektor d III
1964 155 x 81,5 x 20 cm
Christian Megert Ohne Titel (Spiegelobjekt, quadratisch, No. 111304)
1969 120 x 120 x 13 cm
Heinz Mack WeiĂ&#x;er Rotor
1958 100,5 x 101 x 31,5 cm
Jef Verheyen, Signes du poĂ¨te disparu, drawing in Gedicht en Grafiek 59, De Tafelronde, 5/6, 1959
Paintings by Jef Verheyen (left) and Guy Vandenbranden (right) at the first exhibition of the Nieuwe Vlaamse School, CAW, Antwerpen, 1960. Photo: Frank Philippi; from: De Tafelronde 16/1, 1971)
5 Ibid. p. 151
was one of the founders of Symbolism and Apollinaire collaborated with the Cubists. Some avant-garde movements actually owe their formation to the power of the word: Futurism is a literary concept coined by the poet Marinetti, while Dadaism is a creation of Tzara, and Breton was the pope of Surrealism till the day he died. In Belgium, Antwerp literati Paul Van Ostaijen (1896 – 1928) and Michel Seuphor (pseudonym of Fernand Berckelaers 1901 – 99), introduced international Expressionism, Dadaism, Futurism and Constructivism to a young guard of visual artists between 1918 and 1928. This “classic” avant-garde model, and the catalytic role of literary figures such as Van Ostaijen and Seuphor, was undoubtedly what poet and critic Paul De Vree had in mind when he sought a rapprochement with visual art in the late 1950s. In his programmatic text, De avant-garde. Plastisch: poetisch (The Avant-garde. Visual: poetic) of 1962, De Vree explicitly addresses this trans-media aspect of “parallelism” and makes specific connections with the paths established by the early twentieth century avant-garde poets. The author deals extensively with the parallels and collaborations between poets and painters: Paul Van Ostaijen and Oskar Jespers, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay, Michel Seuphor and Piet Mondrian, Hugo Claus and Karel Appel are all considered. Extending this avant-garde line to the contemporary neo-avant-garde of around 1960, De Vree describes how Jef Verheyen introduced “the avant-garde” to Antwerp together with author Ivo Michiels, initially with artistic input from Milan (from Lucio Fontana and others), and afterwards with “the offensive in favour of distinctly Flemish Essentialist painting”. But, De Vree writes, “the paths of the visual artists also cross those of the younger writers here. Shows and vernissages are the work of literary kindred spirits”.5 De Vree is referring here partly to his own role, as well as the fact that a reaction to Subjectivism and Existentialism was already under way in the progressive literary circles of the late 1950s, which were seeking an affiliation with visual modes of expression. In his essay, De Vree makes frequent reference to Verheyen, whom he describes as “the barometer of his generation”, and to his influence on contemporary poets. Language played a major role for Jef Verheyen. He read and wrote a great deal, and used text to organise, position and communicate his complex visual ideas. The catalogue from his first retrospective exhibition in 1979 117
De Tafelronde and G 58: the poet and the painter Born in 1909 (the year of Marinetti’s famous Futurist manifesto), Paul De Vree hailed from an older generation than Verheyen. At the time the two met, De Vree had a rich career behind him as a literary critic, poet and publisher. Through his role in journals such as Vormen (Forms) (1936 – 40) and, above all, De Tafelronde (1953 – 81), this versatile and active author had become a figurehead (albeit a controversial one) in Flemish modern circles. Around the time that De Vree sought an affiliation with the visual avantgarde of the late 1950s, his own Modernist poetics, which he had been using since the 1930s, were evolving towards a more explicitly textual and visual experiment. The period of his collaboration with Jef Verheyen saw this development accelerate. De Vree published the experimental poetry collections Egelrond (Hedgehog-ring) (1957), Grondbeeldig (Fundamental Imaging) (1960), Pl.acid.amore (1963) and H.eros.hima (1965). With the “mechanical poems” in the Explositieven (Explositives) collection (1966), created by constantly turning the sheet of paper round in the typewriter, he took the definitive step towards concrete poetry, which ultimately evolved into visual poetry with Zimprovisaties (Zimprovisations) (1968) and Poëzien (Poevision) (1971). During that period, De Vree not only sought contact with historical avant-garde “pioneers” from the interwar period (he was in touch with Raoul Haussman, for example), but also with international neo-avantgarde figures such as Henri Chopin. They set him on the track of sound poetry, among other areas. The development of the journal De Tafelronde, in which De Vree was involved from start (1953) to finish (1981), runs astonishingly parallel to his own poetic development. While a fusion of tradition and experimentation still prevailed in the first three years, experimental poetry was the dominant theme from year four onwards (1957). In that period, De Vree took over the role of editorial secretary from Ivo Michiels and largely determined the journal’s editorial policy. For example, a greater affiliation with the visual arts was sought. As shown above, from 1950 onwards Verheyen had formed part of the complex pattern of Antwerp literary journals in which De Vree also played an active role. Verheyen became involved in De Tafelronde through Ivo Michiels, whom he met in 1955, and his first contact with De Vree probably dates from 1958. In the summer of that year, the editorial teams 120
Paul De Vree, De Nieuwe Vlaamse School. Achter- en voorgronden, De Tafelronde 16/1, 1971, cover with reproduction of the Manifesto
Profile II. Belgische Kunst Heute, St채dtische Kunstgalerie Bochum 1963, catalogue cover
Information leaflet for the film Essentieel, 1964. Verheyen Archive
NIEUWE VLAAMSE SCHOOL recognises in itself THIS Flemish tradition, that the universal characteristic of modernity is contained in its own nature, i.e. the Flemish nature; … is dedicated to the conviction that authentic painting has never been formal or fashion-driven by nature, but of course only contained the essence, as a result of which it has the ability not to confuse the essence with the passing message of the earlier masters …
13 De Vree Paul, op. cit., p. 18 14 De Vree Freddy, op. cit., p. 19
The rest of the somewhat muddled text, drafted by Jef Verheyen and Paul De Vree, is dominated by an anti-Belgian discourse and criticism of the fads of contemporary art. (In an initial, unpublished version in Jef Verheyen’s archives the anti-Belgian theme is less prevalent, while the art system and its norms and fashions are more sharply lambasted). The bilingual pamphlet bears the names of artists Mark Claus, Herman Denkens, Jan Dries, Vic Gentils, Jef Kersting, Nico Klerks, Guy Mees, Guy Vandenbranden, Englebert Van Anderlecht, Wim Van de Velde and Jef Verheyen himself. These artists were also taking part in the exhibition, which was introduced by painter Nic van Bruggen. Under the signatures was a separate, unsigned text by Verheyen headed with a rhetorical question: “Does universality lie in tradition?” With the text and the exhibition, the group around Verheyen and Van Anderlecht clearly severed its ties with G 58, which opened a group exhibition in the Hessenhuis that same evening, and formulated “a declaration of war against the currently prevailing policy in the area of the visual arts”.13 The Verheyen-De Vree duo’s provocative initiative raised many questions. Freddy De Vree rightly points to the Flemish nationalist rhetoric and its inconsistency with the internationalism of the ZERO artists admired by Verheyen and De Vree. However, this strange and, to many people, paradoxical mix of Modernism and nationalism is not only seen in Verheyen and De Vree. It goes back to the activism of Paul Van Ostaijen, for whom sympathy for the Flemish movement and internationalism were not mutually exclusive. In any case, the point of the show eluded most observers. Pamphlet and exhibition consequently met with sharp criticism.14 Paul Vaucaire, for example, wrote in Le Matin daily newspaper (3 November 1960): “… immatérielle, sur la crête du néant, la peinture de Jef Verheyen est la moins flamande qui soit” (“… dematerialised, verging on nothingness, Jef Verheyen’s painting is the least Flemish possible”). Ben Klein stated quite plainly in Het Kahier (November 1960) that Verheyen had weakened his position by breaking away and had 125
Letter from Paul De Vree to Jef Verheyen about Fontana’s project for the exhibition “Integratie”, 14.7.1964. Verheyen Archive
Fella), provided filming and editing, composer Jan Bruyndonckx created the “concrete” musical score and Paul De Vree supplied the script, which was recorded by actor Julien Schoenaerts in five languages. Contrary to what viewers might have expected (and apparently actually did expect), Essentieel is not an abstract film, but consists of sequences of images of nature selected by Verheyen to which light and colour in various forms are central (monochrome, pointillist, vibrating etc.). The twenty-minute, 16-mm film premièred at Poesie und Film. Manifestation der Antwerpener Essentialisten (Poetry and Film. A Show by the Antwerp Essentialists), an exhibition staged by Galerie d in Frankfurt (5 April 1964) where, according to one review, it sparked off an “immediate debate”. The daily newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau’s reviewer mustered little appreciation of the outmoded essentialism of the Antwerp group, but was more positive about the film, which he termed “a manifesto of Essentialism in film”.31 Verheyen elaborated on his intentions in a newspaper interview: Donner une forme dynamique à ce qui, en peinture, ne peut être traduit que de façon statique, ou presque. Fixer sur pellicule un phénomène irrationnel: celui de la métamorphose des couleurs en lumière. Montrer, par conséquent, leur matérialisation en valeurs spatiales quoique impondérables. (To give a dynamic form to something that, in painting, could only be translated in static or almost static form. To fix an irrational phenomenon on film: the metamorphosis of colours and light. To show, consequently, their materialisation in spatial, though imponderable, values.)
31 HR 1964, Frankfurter Rundschau 7.4.1964, De Vree to Verheyen 14.9.1964, Liefooghe, op. cit., p. 18)
According to Verheyen, De Vree’s script “adhered” as closely as possible to the spirit of the work. The film then had a few more showings in Belgium and the Netherlands. Shortly afterwards, arguments arose over the financial management of the entire project. The film has now vanished without a trace. Essentieel can be regarded as an experiment in the integration of the arts: the view of one painter resulted in a synthesis of film images, music and poetry. In the same year, however, Verheyen and De Vree developed a more explicit integration concept: the “Integratie 64” (Integration 64) exhibition. Visual art and architecture were to enter into dialogue there and thus offer a conceptual framework for a modern and artistic understanding of the urban environment. On that occasion, Renaat Braem (1910 – 2001) joined the Verheyen-De Vree team. This socially committed, leftist inspired, 133
32 De Vree to Verheyen 14.9.1964, Liefooghe, op. cit. p. 18
functionalist architect was of the same generation as De Vree; he had worked with Le Corbusier and strove for a radical form of social housing. The “synthesis of the arts” forms an ideological leitmotif in his work. The previous year, Braem had designed a pavilion for the “Integratie van de Kunsten” (Integration of the Arts) for the seventh Middelheim Biennial, incorporating a monumental photo montage with seventy panels related to this theme. In 1964, Braem completed the reconstruction of the nineteenthcentury fort in Deurne on the outskirts of Antwerp as the Arena sports and cultural centre. “Integratie 64” acted as an inaugural exhibition, and had to direct the attention of press and public to the ambitious project. Verheyen and De Vree invited visual artists and architects who favoured the notion of the integration (or is it interaction?) of the arts. The majority of these belonged to Verheyen’s international ZERO scene: Günther Uecker, Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, Otto Piene, Heinz Mack, Victor Vasarely, Hermann Goepfert, Oskar Holweck, Wolfgang Döring and the architects Renaat Braem, Werner Ruhnau, Sebastian Paquet, Christian Megert, Hans Jochen Kirchberg, Nanda Vigo, Oskar and Zofia Hansen, and Urs Graf all accepted the invitation. Mack, Megert, Goepfert, Uecker and Vasarely provided works that had to be realised on site. To this end, they collaborated with local companies and suppliers. Fontana sent a design for a monumental, perforated iron sculpture with internal lighting, De tijd en de ruimte (Time and Space), which was produced to plan. Three monochrome colour tables by the recently deceased Yves Klein were realised with the permission of his widow. Verheyen’s father-in-law made a scale model according to Klein’s plans and the firm Acrylform carried them out. Verheyen thus played an important organisational role here, too, as emerges from a published letter by De Vree about the transportation of the pieces.32 The organisers had evidently learned from previous experience, because Verheyen is not mentioned anywhere as a co-organiser, although he is listed as an “ordinary” participant. He realised a project with Braem and showed documentation about his wall painting in the Volksschule (secondary school) in Frankfurt designed by Sebastian Paquet. The first issue of Plan, the architecture and art monthly, appeared as a publication for the show with a layout by Braem and a cover designed by Vasarely. Paul De Vree took care of the editing of the quadri134
Integratie 64. Plan 1, October 1964, cover. Design: Victor Vasarely
Jef Verheyen in Lucio Fontanaâ€™s studio, Milan, January 1959. Photo: Frank Philippi, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Bodies of light and dialectics of the immaterial Spazialismo, Essentialisme, Achrome Francesca Pola
Art is such a mysterious thing, and all our lives we pursue this mystery and are only too pleased not to discover it, because otherwise it would be the end of art. It is the mystery of human intelligence. Lucio Fontana to Jef Verheyen, 19611
1 Letter from Fontana to Verheyen, Milan, 4 July 1961, in Paolo Campiglio (ed.), Lucio Fontana. Lettere 1919 — 1968, Skira, Milan, 1999, p. 181.
This essay will focus on a decisive moment for the birth of a new European artistic vision: the late 1950s and early 1960s which witnessed a general abandonment of the expressive space of the subject associated with the post-war Art Informel movement and the advent of a new and free relationship with global space and with the vastness of an expanding universe. I intend to reconstruct and document a series of episodes, relationships and influences that linked the personality, thinking and work of Jef Verheyen with the Italian art scene — a scene which at that time, thanks to the seminal figures of Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni, played a key role in the germination and direction of this new artistic identity. I shall concentrate on this decisive moment, when a formal “return to ZERO” and expressive reduction were seen as offering a constructive way of reformulating visual language, once the historical and cultural disappointments that followed the Second World War had been shed. The result was the development of a positive vision: not a sterile eradication of the past, but the focusing of new issues more closely attuned to the changed human dimension, as humans began physically to explore the cosmos. An examination of this network of exchanges and associations will give us a clearer grasp of the origins of Verheyen’s mature artistic style, and set it against a backdrop of relationships that would have an indelible influence 141
idealistic, compared, for example, with the modern phenomenological approach espoused by Fontana, who sought to make a concept present by crossing the physicality of a complex, dynamic relationship with reality and its expansive possibilities. Similarly, the creative solution which Manzoni, deliberately using similar terminology, was shortly to define as achrome was not the pure experience of chromatic reductionism postulated by Verheyen, but a way of appropriating the world concretely in a neutralising vein, to save it from transience and decay and translate it into a totalising vision. Achrome: a vision of concreteness After these initial contacts in Milan, Verheyen tried to get the Italians to exhibit in Antwerp together with artists from other countries, with Manzoni acting as intermediary. On 30 January 1959, he wrote to Verheyen with the address of Yves Klein, c/o Werner Ruhnau in Gelsenkirchen, and suggested he ask Klein for the addresses of the “two other German monochrome painters” (most likely Heinz Mack and Otto Piene of Dusseldorf). Manzoni also put Verheyen in touch with Agostino Bonalumi and Castellani, whose creative ideas he shared during this period. In a letter written some time in March 1959, he added: I will also speak with other interesting young artists keen on exhibiting: so if you can get a fair number of good painters, you will be able to make your own selection for the exhibition. I, too, am interested in this exhibition: it is a pity that here in Milan we’re going through a bit of a crisis, so I can’t afford to come to Antwerp: but as soon as I’ve got some cash, I’ll come straight away. I am also interested in Michiels’ books: you know, I’ve already got all the proofs ready and I would really like him to write an introduction.
Manzoni himself turned down the opportunity of holding a solo exhibition in Antwerp because he could not undertake the journey, given his many commitments in Italy and the work required in preparing the Azimuth review, the first issue of which was published in September 1959. In his Essentialisme manifesto, Verheyen used the term “achrome”, which may be translated as “colourless”, and which, during the spring of 1959, was adopted by Manzoni for the titles of his current works, thereby summarising a radical concept and signalling its international currency, 148
Front cover of the second issue of Azimuth, Milan, May 1960
Front cover of the ZERO exhibition catalogue, Ad Libitum Gallery, Antwerp, 1962
Poster for the NUL exhibition, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1962
Piero Manzoni, Impronte (Fingerprints), March 1962, ink on paper. Done by Manzoni on a page of Verheyenâ€™s visitorsâ€™ book. Belgium, Verheyen Collection
concept to the Placentarium, a spherical or oval “pneumatic theatre” developed in August 1960 for the stage set of Piene’s Lichtballet (Ballet of Light): a real volume which translates the virtual volume of the absolute body, into an imploded situation (the artist himself speaks of the viewer being immersed in a “foetal” position).17 Meanwhile, in the spring of 1960, Verheyen exhibited with Fontana and Manzoni in the ground-breaking Monochrome Malerei exhibition at the Städtisches Museum in Leverkusen, which took monochrome painting as its theme in bringing together many European experiments connected with the new idea of expressive essentiality.18 The exhibition was curated by Udo Kultermann, whose catalogue article (entitled “Monochrome Malerei: Eine Neue Konzeption”) was reworked by the author and published again, a few months later, in the second issue of the Milan-based review Azimuth, under the title “Una nuova concezione di pittura”. Kultermann writes that: The new painting seeks to objectivise the instruments of action, to the point where the constellation and true nature of formative matter itself become its starting point and means of implementation, and the real objective structure takes the place of the vague trace of personalised forms of expression. […] The aim is not to produce art, but to transform reality.
Versions of the articles published by Manzoni and Castellani in this second and final issue of Azimuth were also published earlier in the Leverkusen catalogue, as if to emphasise the close affinities in the ideological development of the new vision. The fact that Azimuth was published in four languages is emblematic of the “transnational front” brought into being by the seminal influence of Manzoni and his more active European partners, such as Verheyen. In his article “Libera dimensione”, Manzoni writes: 17 Letter from Manzoni to Piene, Albisola [August], 1960: “Many variations are possible in this theatre, in the structure, etc. (provided that the foetal position of the spectator is ensured)”. 18 Leverkusen, Städtisches Museum, Schloss Morsbroich, 18 March – 8 May 1960.
The issue for me is to render an integrally white (or rather integrally colourless, neutral) surface, independent of any pictorial phenomenon, any intervention extraneous to the surface value: a white which is not a polar landscape, an evocative or beautiful material, a sensation, a symbol or anything of the kind; rather, a white surface which is a white surface, nothing more (a colourless surface which is a colourless surface) or, even better, which just is, which just exists (and total existence is pure possibility).
Dadamaino Volume a moduli sfasati (Volume with out-of-phase modules), 1960, perforated plastic, 150 x 100 cm Courtesy of A arte Studio Invernizzi, Milan
Dadamaino, Volume (Volume), 1959, tempera on canvas, 45 x 45 cm Courtesy of A arte Studio Invernizzi, Milan
Letter from Piero Manzoni to Dadamaino, Herning, July 1961 Courtesy of Archivio Dadamaino [2 pages, front and back]
Here, it is the acquisition of the world’s dynamism in the absolute of the white body that confirms its essence. This is paralleled by the vision of Castellani, who, in Continuità e nuovo, speaks of a “concreteness of infinity” which can emerge only from a physical relationship with the iteration of the generative element of the image as a tangible entity. In both operational and theoretical terms, these are somewhat eccentric positions to put forward in a European context, where the point of reference was still the pictorial dimension: a dimension which Verheyen himself was to resolve in a different and more evocative direction, in a sort of chromatic pantheism which receives spatial and light-related stimuli in a quite different way, leading to an explosion of flows of light and cathedrals of light, which, in their very titles, bespeak his particular vocation and frame of reference. Excavating space The Leverkusen exhibition also confirmed Fontana’s pioneering role in the new European school, while he himself, in a way typical of the man, was again developing in an unexpected direction. On 5 October 1960, he wrote to Verheyen from Milan: I worked hard at Albisola this summer, making nearly thirty very large terracotta balls with large incisions and holes in them. I’m very pleased. This is nothingness! The death of matter, the pure philosophy of life.19
The new cycle he was referring to was that of his nature, shown for the first time in the “Dalla natura all’arte” exhibition at the Centro Internazionale delle Arti e del Costume, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, in the summer of 1960. For Fontana, the nature represented a new way of excavating space, superseding the synthetic colour of his inchiostri, then his tagli. They were his way of sinking back magmatically into matter and thus maintaining the dialectic, so typical of his approach, between close-up penetration and cosmic expansiveness, turning every creative action into a new irradiating and polysemic centre. This emerges from another letter to Verheyen, written a few months later, with reference to the nature: 19 In Campiglio, op. cit., pp. 179-180.
Lucio Fontana, experiment with light images in motion for television, 1952. Archivio Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan
Jef Verheyen and Piero Manzoni in Milan, January 1959. Photo: Frank Philippi, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Lucio Fontana, Fonti di energia (Energy sources) for “Italia 61” held in Turin, 1961, seven storeys of neon light (destroyed). Architects Gian Emilio, Piero and Anna Monti. Environment created for the National Labour Exhibition, Turin, Palazzo del Lavoro, May — October 1961. Milan, Archivio Fondazione Lucio Fontana
perceptive dynamic, to her subsequent Volumi a moduli sfasati (volumes made up of out-of-phase parts), in which she used a hole punch to make rhythmic sequences of holes in layers of rhodoid (a transparent plastic material), superimposing them to generate interferences. Despite the obvious differences, it is these latter works, in their investigation of transparency and their dematerialisation of the surface image, that exhibit a parallelism of ideas with Verheyen’s creative experimentation of that period, though his focus on a direct relationship between light and colour excludes any rhythmic/temporal dimension from the immaterial. Reflection on transparency was also central to Manzoni’s investigations in the early 1960s. In a letter he wrote to Verheyen from Albisola on 1 August 1961, he says that he has begun “to think of the text on the immaterial”, as well as producing some “new works, even hairier than the previous ones I showed you in Milan: made using fibres 15-20 centimetres long” and “two new linee (lines): one 1000 metres in length, the other 1140”. The first of these developments indicates an increased use of synthetic materials and the second, a persistent conceptualising intention in making the drawn line disappear into sealed containers, larger in size than the first linee created in 1959. Also from the early 1960s dates the first draft of the book Piero Manzoni: The Life and the Works, planned as a publication consisting of nothing but transparent pages, and advertised by the Petersen Press in 1962, shortly before Manzoni’s untimely death in February 1963. In the autumn of the same year, Fontana, Verheyen and Hermann Goepfert completed a joint work interpreting the same dimension of immaterial totality, in this case by including a further component: sound.28 Transparency as a rhythmic dematerialising element appears again in the project for an environmental sculpture conceived by Fontana and built under Verheyen’s supervision for the “Integratie 64” exhibition, held in Deurne (Antwerp) in October 1964. This is how Fontana presented the plan to his friend in a letter from Milan, dated 15 June 1964: 28 The work was based on Goepfert’s idea of the Optophonium, in which lights pulsate in time with an electronic sound impulse, producing a synthesis of light and sound.
I am enclosing photographs of a sculpture project for the “Integratie 64” exhibition. If the project interests you, I can make a larger maquette in sheet metal and you can reproduce it on an even larger scale, 4 metres or more, 5 or 6 metres, in stainless steel. The sculpture has holes and reliefs and must be lit from inside
Lucio Fontana, Concetto spaziale, Il tempo e lo spazio (Spatial concept, time and space), 1964 Maquette of the environmental sculpture created for â€œIntegratie 64â€?. Archivio Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan
Letter from Lucio Fontana to Jef Verheyen, Milan, 15 June 1964. Verheyen Archive (see p. 129)
and out. I think it would be possible to create a fine and striking light effect. The title could be Concetto spaziale, Il tempo e lo spazio (Spatial Concept, Time and Space).29
29 In Campiglio, op. cit., p. 189. 30 For a specific and detailed analysis of this work by Fontana, cfr. Luca Massimo Barbero, Lucio Fontana per Italia 61: “Fonti di energia”, in Luca Massimo Barbero (ed.), Torino sperimentale 1959 — 1969. Una storia della cronaca. Il sistema delle arti come avanguardia, Umberto Allemandi & C., Turin, 2010, pp. 187-212. 31 Signed by Fontana, G. Kaisserlian, B. Joppolo, M. Milani, reproduced in E. Crispolti & R. Siligato (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., 1998, pp. 117-18).
Fontana had theorised about the possibility of a fusion of space and time as far back as 1946, in the spatial formulations of his 1946 Manifiesto Blanco. In the hour-glass structure of this work (an image of time running through space), he extended the idea by projecting light in the form of a pulsating body. This was in keeping with the idea of experiencing total immersion in light which Fontana had already explored in his pioneering — indeed “immaterial” — experimental images for television in 1952, and had translated into extraordinarily multiplied and expansive lines in the exceptional installation comprising seven levels of neon lights created for “Italia 61” in Turin in 1961.30 In this essay, intentionally combining theoretical analysis and historical reconstruction, I have sought to provide new material and food for thought, which I hope will lead to further research. Such research might be comparative, reconstructing the relationships between the artists referred to here and their mutual influences, or it might lead to deeper understanding of their individual careers by examining their parallel positions. The personal and poetic freedom that characterised Verheyen’s relations with his Italian colleagues, particularly Fontana and Manzoni, may in a way be seen as representative of that of a whole generation of European artists. Intense experience of real, ongoing transnational dialogue was possible for the first time, quickly establishing a pattern of varied stimuli. From this point of view, we might perhaps recognise in the work of Verheyen an ideal synthesis of the great Flemish tradition of brilliant but cold light effects and the intensely corporeal light and warmth of the Italian Renaissance which, in the late 1950s, was preparing to take possession of the real space of the world, moving towards the luminous — and mysterious — space of a now boundless cosmos, beyond the history of human imagery: “Art is eternal, but it cannot be immortal,” the First Manifesto of Spatialism declared, explaining that, “it doesn’t matter to us if a gesture, once accomplished, lives for a second or a millennium, for we are convinced that, having accomplished it, it is eternal.”31
Jef Verheyen and Lucio Fontana painting together in preparation of the exhibition “Retrospective Lucio Fontana”, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1966. Photo: Ad Peetersen, Amsterdam
Jef Verheyen, Ursula Lichter, Jochen Kirchberg, Galerie Lichter, Frankfurt, 10 February 1967. Photographer unknown, Verheyen Archive
Rotraut Klein-Moquay, Exhibition “Jef Verheyen. Kreislauf der Farben” (Colour Circle), Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf 1973. Photo: Manfred Tischer, Verheyen Archive
33 Letter from Jef Verheyen to Hermann Goepfert, late April 1971, Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S1-383/4. 34 Letter from Jef Verheyen to Hermann Goepfert, 17 July 1970, Institut für Stadtge schichte Frankfurt am Main, S1-383/4. 35 Letter from Jef Verheyen to Hermann Goepfert, undated, Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S1-383/4. 36 Letter from Jef Verheyen to Hermann Goepfert, year not shown, Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S1-383/4. 37 Letter from Jef Verheyen to Hermann Goepfert, undated (ca. 1970), Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S1-383/4. 38 See Essay Tiziana Caianiello, “In the Midst of Infinity” — Flemish Landscape, S. 183-197) 39 Letter from Günther Uecker to Jef Verheyen, 31 March 1970, Verheyen Archive. 40 Letter from Günther Uecker to Jef Verheyen, 1 August 1971, Verheyen Archive.
In 1970, Verheyen contributed to two group exhibitions. The Museum Schloss Morsbroich in Leverkusen put its recent acquisitions on show, with Jef Verheyen represented in the monochrome painting section. Klaus Honnef launched the “Umwelt-Akzente” (Accent on the Environment) exhibition in Monschau. Verheyen took part with others including Jan Dibbets, Alf Lechner, Adolf Luther, Ulrich Rückriem and Stefan Wewerka. For Verheyen, Germany became ever-more appealing. “Here, everything is as usual, peaceful and beautiful. What’s happening in Germany? … France is a bit cut off and the people aren’t really European.”33 His trips to Milan became less and less frequent — “Milan is nothing now Fontana isn’t there any more. I’ve been here two days but the excitement has gone”34 — until he finally gave up visiting the northern Italian city: “The Roberto Grippa business is stupid. As far as I’m concerned Milan is finished […] — another good friend less.”35 His interest in Germany was also intensified by internal political changes. “Willy Brandt is tremendous. It’s fantastic what he has achieved in such a short time. The CDU should stick that in their pipe and smoke it!”36 He thought more and more about relocating his studio to Germany. He wrote: It’s a pity I can’t express myself very well in German, but in a year or two things are bound to improve. You are lucky to live in a big country; here it gets smaller and smaller every day. My colleagues here grow a year older with every day that passes, which makes life here rather boring. As soon as I can manage it, I’m out of here.37
Uecker often visited Verheyen in Antwerp. In 1967, they completed their joint project, “Vlaamse Landschappen” (Flemish Landscapes), not far from Ghent.38 They met in Venice where both were exhibiting at the 1970 Biennale. The two friends planned their meeting and their presentation: “Hey, Jef, I think this is going to be fun. I’ve been doing some good work. I should like to show my best work. I think you did the right thing, showing only large paintings. That way we shall both be strong, as strong as our friendship. Affectionately, G. Uecker.”39 In one letter, Uecker mentioned that he had been in contact with the director of the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Gerhard Storck, and encouraged Verheyen to write to him.40 The following year, 1971, it was Storck who contacted Verheyen because he intended to make a purchase from the gallery owner Hans Liechti and also wanted discuss a 179
Jef Verheyen holds his Le vide (Empty) up against the sky in the garden of his house on Van Schoonbekestraat, Antwerp, 1968. Photo: Gerald Dauphin, Fotomuseum Antwerp
“In the Midst of Infinity” — “Vlaamse Landschappen” Tiziana Caianiello
1 I am grateful to Dirk Pörschmann for his generous support while researching this article. 2 Author’s conversation with Günther Uecker, 25 May 2010. 3 Ibid.
In 1967, an extraordinary exhibition took place. It was called “Vlaamse Landschappen” (Flemish Landscapes).1 There were no works of art on display in a museum or gallery space. The exhibition venue was the countryside outside Mullem, a little village south of Ghent in Belgium, and the works on show were specially conceived to include the surrounding landscape. The artists responsible for the whole concept and the individual works presented were Günther Uecker and Jef Verheyen. The initial idea for the joint exhibition came from Jef Verheyen. He knew the owner of a kasteelke, or small castle, in Mullem, who ran a gallery there. The gallery owner was expecting the artists to come up with a conventional exhibition, and set about clearing the castle rooms to make way for the show. But his expectations were not fulfilled. The walls of the castle remained bare and the works created in the landscape were not suitable for sale — a situation that caused some embarrassment to Verheyen, who had negotiated the deal.2 The artists themselves also took responsibility for advertising the event, putting up posters and marking the roads leading to the village with white paint. At the same time, however, they removed a sign pointing to the “galerij kasteelke mullem” because they felt the term “gallery”, suggesting a conventional exhibition site, to be inappropriate.3 The exhibition was divided into six sections. It included a series of whitepainted wooden frames, which the artists placed one behind the other at increasingly long intervals. Then there were white sheets, either laid out on the grass or hanging from washing lines, a series of evenly spaced holes dug in the ground, and several rows of compressed bales of straw sprayed with whitewash. There was also a group of wooden hay rick stands, as well as a wooden bridge into which the artists had hammered nails. 185
4 The precise opening date is shown on the exhibition posters. 5 Author’s conversation with Günther Uecker, 25 May 2010. 6 Ibid. Unfortunately, the artists’ preparations were destroyed by a storm. 7 Earth Art, Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 1969. 8 Heinz Mack produced the first plan for the Sahara Project in 1958. A description of the revised plan was then published in the third issue of the magazine ZERO in 1961. Mack installed the project for the first time in the Tunisian desert in 1968, cf. Anette Kuhn, “Reservate der Kunst. Zu den Projekten der ZERO-Zeit”, Utopie und Wirklichkeit im Werk von Heinz Mack, 119-25. 9 Günther Uecker, “Ein paar Gegenfragen”, Die Zeit, 19 September 1969.
After Uecker and Verheyen had worked in the open air for about a week, the exhibition opened at midnight on 23 June 1967 in the presence of numerous visitors.4 The opening was in the style of a “happening”. Outside the castle, torches were stuck in the ground, lighting up the night to highly dramatic effect. According to Uecker, these were an allusion to Verheyen and his Flemish origins: he was the torchbearer for Flemish art.5 At the same time, the German words Flamme (flame) and Flame (a Flemish-speaking Belgian) are very similar — a play on words that Verheyen adopted as his own. For the opening, Uecker and Verheyen had set up a table in the open air, laden with regional specialities. The result was reminiscent of a Flemish still life from the Baroque period.6 One year before the “Earthworks” exhibition was held at the Virginia Dwan Gallery in New York — regarded as the show that heralded the birth of Land Art — and two years before the ground-breaking “Earth Art” exhibition in Ithaca,7 Uecker and Verheyen demonstrated how a real landscape could be used as a means of artistic expression. While “Vlaamse Landschappen” connected with other works by Günther Uecker, for Jef Verheyen this open-air exhibition appears at first glance to have been an unusual event in his artistic career. In the early 1960s, the ZERO artists Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Günther Uecker had staged openair happenings and developed ambitious projects involving the world of nature. For example, the “Sahara-Projekt” (Sahara Project) was envisaged as a variety of objects placed in the midst of unspoilt nature by Heinz Mack and other like-minded artists.8 While Mack’s Sahara Project set out to create intense and vibrant lighting effects — particularly through the introduction of specially made pieces of art — in “Vlaamse Landschappen” Uecker and Verheyen’s restrained approach emphasised the characteristics of the countryside around Mullem. By the end of the 1960s, more and more artists were finding that conventional exhibition venues had become too narrow, both spatially and conceptually, for their projects. In an article in Die Zeit in 1969, Günther Uecker wrote that “Nowadays, a museum can only exhibit models and vistas which, in turn, represent a demand, which itself can only be met in the new dimensions.“9 The same year, he took part in the exhibition and artists’ symposium “Earth Art”, and devoted an edition of his Uecker-Zeitung to the event. The 186
Günther Uecker, sketch explaining the different parts of “Vlaamse Landschappen”, 25 May 2010. Archive ZERO foundation
10 Uecker-Zeitung, January 1969. “In these places spiritual self-realisation can be achieved. This can be an evolution of silence, with no ostensible drama, a change in the way we look at objects. […] Let us abandon familiar dimensions, let us search freely and openly for a new side of existence.” Ibid. About similarities and differences with the Land Art cf Sigrid Wollmeiner: “Land Art oder Natur-Kunst? Günther Ueckers Auseinandersetzung mit der Natur und ihrem Material”, Günther Uecker. Die Aktionen, Klaus Gereon Beuckers (ed.), (Petersberg 2004), 121-35. 11 Hermann Goepfert, “Jef Verheyen, Flame und Belgier”, Egoist, no. 11, March 1967, 25. 12 Epoche ZERO. Sammlung Lenz Schönberg. Leben mit Kunst, vol. 1, (Ostfildern 2009), 165, VER 07. 13 Hermann Goepfert, Op. cit., p. 25 14 Hermann Goepfert tellingly writes: Op. cit., p. 25 15 The text of the manifesto, published on 15 October 1960, appears in the exhibition catalogue for “Antwerpen 1958 – 1969” (Antwerp 1958 – 1969), Museum Van Hedndaagse Kunst, Antwerp 1993, 20-21.
text of his lecture was printed on the newspaper’s front page: “Earth: here is a new medium through which to turn our ideas into reality,” he wrote. “In this space, spiritual emancipation is boundless.”10 Interestingly, in the same edition he also published photos of the “Vlaamse Landschappen” exhibition. Although projects using the landscape itself as artistic material appear to have been atypical of the painter Jef Verheyen, his visual poetry is clearly recognisable in “Vlaamse Landschappen”. The artist Hermann Goepfert wrote of Verheyen: “The blue-grey sky of Flanders, the red sun of Flanders, the yellow landscape of Flanders and the flickering light of the River Schelde. That is Verheyen, Verheyen the man and Verheyen the artist. Such unity of landscape, man and artistry is rare.”11 Despite their abstract nature, it is often possible to detect landscapes within Verheyen’s paintings and many of his works are named after places, such as Roussillon in France, Venice, Fiesole and Urbino in Italy and Brazil. In 1967 — the same year as the exhibition at Mullem — Verheyen painted his own Flemish Landscape,12 a large landscape-format piece in which everything appears to dissolve into brightly coloured light. Goepfert placed special emphasis on this ability to reproduce in paint the real atmosphere and light of a landscape (some of Verheyen’s paintings are entitled L’air — Air). Verheyen, he wrote: knows that when the landscape of Kempen is filled with water vapour from the sea, you find yourself in a new, grey-blue space permeated with pink and gold in which there are no clearly defined shapes. Verheyen strives to use his materials to fulfil his dream of producing areas of colourful reality devoid of firmly delineated shapes.13
Verheyen felt deeply rooted in the tradition of Flemish art.14 In 1960, he founded a group of artists which he named the New Flemish School. In a manifesto, the members of the group proclaimed that the modern concept of universality had always been part of the Flemish tradition.15 Building on the significant achievements of earlier Flemish art, Verheyen attempted to develop a contemporary style of painting. Among his favourite painters was Jan van Eyck, whose work Verheyen had studied closely, paying particular attention to the way in which van Eyck created space through the use of colour. Van Eyck’s ability to recreate atmospheric intensity is evident in his Virgin of Chancellor Rolin (c. 1435, Musée du Louvre, Paris). Behind the central figures is a window divided into three arches, looking out on to a 188
Jef Verheyen, Vlaamse Landschap, 1967, Sammlung Lenz Schönberg. Foto Philipp Schönborn, München
Jan van Eyck, Virgin of Chancellor, c. 1435, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library, London
After Verheyen’s death in 1984, Günther Uecker wanted to install a wooden bridge studded with nails in the Open-air Museum for Sculpture, Middelheim (Antwerp) and a frame with a view over the park, in memory of his friend and the “Vlaamse Landschappen” exhibition.45 The proposal was turned down by the museum’s committee. For the exhibition at the Langen Foundation, Uecker has put forward a similar proposition. Rows of bales of compressed straw and a frame erected outside the museum building will evoke memories of an exhibition that took place long ago in the Flemish countryside and to which a Flemish artist made a major contribution.
45 cf. Freddy de Vree, Lux est Lex. Jef Verheyen 1932 – 1984, Axel Vervoordt Kanaal, (Wijnegem 2004) 55.
Works: Flemish Landscapes G端nter Uecker and Jef Verheyen
G端nther Uecker, Jef Verheyen, Vlaamse Landschappen. Photography: Gerald Dauphin, Fotomuseum Antwerpen
Nanda Vigo and Lucio Fontana at the Galleria Vinciana, Milan 1964. Photo: Fabrizio Garghetti
Editorâ€™s note:â€‚ The order of the interviews is based on the chronology of encounters between Jef Verheyen and the interviewees.
Interview with Nanda Vigo and Axel Vervoordt Interview conducted by Dirk Pörschmann and Tijs Visser, 30 May 2010, ’s-Gravenwezel / Belgium
Where did you first meet Jef Verheyen? N.V.: It was in Lucio Fontana’s studio. But Jef was also a good friend of Piero Manzoni, and we always spent a lot of time together when he was in Milan, going to exhibitions and things like that. When you met him there, did you also talk about his work as a painter? N.V.: He didn’t really like talking about his paintings. He liked to talk about philosophy, life, all kinds of things, but he hardly ever spoke about his own paintings.
God) series, even if I still find it difficult to understand the concept exactly. N.V.: What Fontana meant was the end of time and space. He wasn’t thinking of the Christian God. The word God meant for Fontana cosmos and time. It had nothing to do with the Catholic faith for him. AV: For me, it is not just an end, but also the idea of a beginning. It’s both, and that’s the reason why Fontana chose the shape of an egg. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Fontana put three dimensionality into painting. In a figurative sense, he opened the egg, so the chicken was born and with it new energy. In Fontana’s work, what I see is not so much an act of aggression as the labour of the midwife. It always takes this brief moment of forceful action, a thoroughly painful prising open — which shouldn’t be confused with violence — for life to be able to find its way out.
What was the relationship between Verheyen and Fontana? N.V.: A very close relationship. Fontana told me several Why couldn’t or wouldn’t he talk openly about his work? times that Jef was like a father to him. I didn’t understand that at first, since Fontana was 33 years older than Jef. I’ve N.V.: In my view, it had to do with the way he was. found an explanation since then. Lucio was not an intelBas-ically, he had two personalities. At work alone in the studio, i.e. when he was painting, he was a completely dif- lectual type. He hardly ever read, and wasn’t interested in ferent person. I think that those were the moments in which great philosophy. He was not a thinker but a doer. He had a well-developed instinct for people and art. He underhe was completely relaxed — happy at being alone, with his art and his philosophy. When he was drunk, arguments stood quite intuitively what artists were getting at in their and differences of opinion would blow up out of the blue, work: why they used particular materials, why they might have made the decisions they made, etc. Lucio didn’t know and he raved and became violent. With friends — with Fontana, Manzoni, or me — he was very friendly, attentive very much about the history of art or about philosophy. He had his own philosophy without knowing anything about and confiding, because that’s how he was with friends. It philosophy. Jef was completely different: he was very inwas different with people he didn’t know. He could get terested in philosophy and in mathematics. In Jef, Fontana impatient and quarrelsome at the drop of a hat. With his had found a friend who helped him formulate his instincts friends, he felt and indeed knew that he was accepted and understand connections better. So when Fontana said for what he thought and what he believed in his art. We Jef was like a father to him, that was certainly because Jef didn’t have to argue, because we felt our solidarity. AV: That’s the reason why Gerhard Lenz called Verheyen was a contemplative thinker who could express what Lucio sensed intuitively. Moreover, Fontana had a difficult relaa Mozart among painters. He had this wild, belligerent tionship with his sculptor father, Luigi, in whose studio in and argumentative side. He was very intelligent. Everything he said was intelligent, but you had to go along with Santa Fé, Argentina, he had worked at the beginning of his career. Their understanding of modern art was totally difhim. When he was painting, he was at one with the cosmos, he felt a link with a higher realm. I think Fontana felt ferent, Lucio received neither approval nor sympathy from his father. Jef offered him both. the same. I can see that in his La Fine di Dio (The End of 209
Lucio Fontana in his studio, Milan, 21 January 1959. Photo: Frank Philippi, Fotomuseum Antwerp
Nanda Vigo and Piero Manzoni at an opening at the Galleria dellâ€™Ariete, Milan 1963. Photo: Ugo Mulas
I’m reminded of Fontana’s Manifesto Blanco of 1946, where he writes about science without getting to the heart of the matter. N.V.: Because he didn’t really know anything about science. We could take as an example the collaboration bet ween Verheyen and Fontana on Rêve de Möbius (Moebius’s Dream Fig. p. 57). Fontana understood the painting and knew what it was about, not because he had studied Moebius’s mathematics but because he sensed, from his conversations with Jef and of course from his own art, what the significance of infinity could be in a work of art.
End of conversation. That’s the way Jef was. In his paintings, Jef was absolutely naked, which made him inordinately vulnerable. His paintings were very private for him. N.V.: I think for him his paintings were like a secret between him and the cosmos.
So Fontana had found in Verheyen someone who could give rational answers to his questions? N.V.: Yes. Jef came at it through the mind and knowledge, Lucio via the heart and instinct. Fontana also had this strong attachment to Jef because he sensed he was talented. He valued his art and his intellect, and wanted to help him get on. Fontana took an interest in young artists; he was very generous in his support. I remember well how Fontana would make up his mind about people’s work. When I thought I’d like a work, he would tell me, time and again, that I should first look at the man to know whether the art was good and would suit me. You had to know the artist first before you could understand whether the work was right for you. Jef and his art were spot-on for Fontana. But let’s go back to Jef’s character. I think he couldn’t talk about his paintings because they were bound up with his mind and his vulnerable inner self. AV: His paintings were part of his soul, and he hated when people would try to touch them. He’d lose his temper and get furious at the least little damage. He could actually be scary about this sometimes. He insisted that people wore gloves to carry his paintings. In general, it is not the artists but the collectors who are so finicky with the work. It was different with Jef — he had very strict rules about how his paintings were to be treated. N.V.: I remember visiting him in Antwerp, it must have been 1964. He showed me a lot of his paintings. I asked him, off the cuff, to tell me about the light in his paintings. He just looked at me and asked: ‘Do you like my paintings or not?’ I replied that I did like them, and that was that.
All the ZERO artists travelled a lot at that time, meeting up to work and exhibit together. What was the need for that? N.V.: We had the same interests and wanted to swap ideas, and of course there weren’t then the instant forms of communication you have today. So we met up. We often met at the famous Jamaica Bar, around the corner from the Academy of Art in Milan. It was an important meeting place for artists and free thinkers. You’d pick up a lot of news there. The bar was a real forum of information about contemporary art. We generally met around 6pm. We’d have an aperitif, go off together to exhibitions, and then return for a few more drinks before going out on the town. AV: For the Japanese Gutai artists in Kobe the meeting point was the small Metamorphosis bar. In Antwerp, artists used to meet at the café De Muze. Jef was always there. The exhibition at the Langen Foundation is showing Verheyen in the context of his friends. What did friendship between artists amount to in the ZERO days? N.V.: You had friends everywhere in Europe, and we felt like a large family — Fontana, Jef, Piero, Günther Uecker, herman de vries, Heinz Mack, Jan Schoonhoven, Kusama, Christian Megert, Jésus Raphael Soto, Hermann Goepfert, Otto Piene and lots of others. There was a solid basis to our friendship, because we were all looking in the same direction. We were looking at the light. Each of us in our own particular way of course, but we were all looking directly at the light. We had that orientation in common.
Nanda Vigo (*Milan) is an artist, architect, and designer. She studied at the Ă‰cole Polytechnique in Lausanne, opened her first studio in Milan in 1959; she has exhibited extensively in galleries and museums across Europe since then. Her work is generally connected with her â€˜chronotopical theoryâ€™. As with all artists of the ZERO movement, the medium of light is also of key importance in her work. She experiments with aesthetics, particularly with how the use of industrial materials (glass, mirrors, neon lights, etc.) can have a positive effect on human sensibilities. Nanda Vigo took part in the Milan Triennale in 1964, 1983 and 2006, and in the 40th Venice Biennale, in 1982. She worked closely with architect and designer Gio Ponti and artists Piero Manzoni and Lucio Fontana, in whose studio her long-standing friendship with Jef Verheyen began.
Heinz Mack, Nanda Vigo and Max Bill at the opening of documenta 3, Kassel 1964. Photo: Erhard Wehrmann
Lucio Fontana and Jef Verheyen in the Jamaica Bar, Milan, 23 January 1959. Photo: Frank Philippi, Fotomuseum Antwerp
(from l. to r.) Christine Uecker, Jef Verheyen, G端nther Uecker, unknown, unknown, Claire Bataille, Roger Nellens, Antwerp, around 1970. Photo: Gerald Dauphin, Archive Claire Bataille
Claire Bataille (1940) and Paul Ibens (1939) studied architecture at the Van de Velde Institute in Antwerp. They set up an architectural and interior design practice in there in 1968, and it has been thriving for 42 years. They do interiors for offices, commercial buildings and private houses. In addition, they design articles that sell widely in international markets. Most of their architectural work has been in Belgium, though they have on occasion worked elsewhere in Europe and in the US. They were both good friends of Jef Verheyen, whom they met in 1964.
May Vervoordt, Jef Verheyen and Axel Vervoordt, at the opening of the exhibition “Jef Verheyen. Kreislauf der Farben” (Jef Verheyen, Colour Circle), Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, 1973. Photo: Manfred Tischer, Verheyen Archive
Interview with Axel Vervoordt Interview conducted by Dirk Pörschmann, 15 April 2010, ’s-Gravenwezel / Belgium
Where did you get to know Jef Verheyen? Where did the first meeting take place? I first saw his paintings at the house of his friend and patron Jos Macken, an important collector of oriental art who also happened to own quite a few Verheyens. When I saw Macken’s collection — it was in 1969 or 1970 — I was absolutely overwhelmed. I loved the paintings from the first moment I saw them. I asked Macken for the address of the artist, and straight away went to visit Verheyen in his studio. He only had one work to show me, and I immediately bought it. I really wanted to own a painting by Verheyen. His paintings were scarce, as they sold very well despite the relatively high price. In general, he would sell out before the exhibition even opened. But you wanted to know how we became friends. We worked together for a year at least, and during that time we got to know each other better and better. We respected each other, personally and professionally. And our friendship grew and became stronger from this sense of affinity. Do you see Jef Verheyen the person in his paintings? Not really. He was a special friend, and I was able to learn a lot from him. He was well read and cultured, and was always encouraging me to read books, which he was incessantly recommending. He could be wild, but also very nice. He had a big heart, had everything, and was extreme in every respect. His paintings may look light and simple, but for me, as someone who knew him well, they are full of depth and timelessness. For years, I had loved, collected, and dealt in antiquities. And then, all of a sudden, I felt a great need to live with paintings by Jef Verheyen. I found something in his paintings that I couldn’t find in the art that had been my passion till then — space opening into infinity.
What was the difference between Verheyen in life and in his art? Life was a great strain and a tough struggle for him, but when he painted, he was like an angel, able to apply himself to painting, to surrender himself entirely to it without a struggle. He felt a relationship with the cosmos. He talked about that often. I believe that great artists, above and beyond their egos, are the channels for cosmic messages or energies. My feeling tells me that Jef used this for his art. When he was able to paint, his ego wasn’t so pronounced. He sought to get close to the void. But when he put down his brush, he folded back into his ego and resumed his personal struggle with life. It was strange. You could think Jef had two personalities — the being of his paintings and his own being. I believe in the concept of Yin and Yang and the link between extremes. His extreme strength and his wild nature went hand in hand with his great human warmth and with the fragile aesthetic of his paintings. He was not a simple man. He was very vulnerable and quick to take offence. And he reacted strongly. My wife May and I liked him very much, which is why even today it is still not easy to admit that he was a difficult person. He and his works were a whole; they created a harmony that bound both sides together. What was Verheyen’s relationship to collectors and gallery owners like, given that he was so individualistic? Many gallery owners had great problems with Jef Verheyen, as he wanted to sell directly to collectors. His attitude was clear: ‘they’re my paintings. I’d like to know what collection they’re hanging in, and I should be the one making money from them’. He would get the contact information of collectors during gallery exhibitions, and then he would often enough just cut out gallery owners altogether, to avoid paying them a commission. Naturally, this led to great problems. That was already very strange, and at the same time a pity for him, since the aggravation was a drag on his artistic success. I didn’t mind it myself, since I learned so much from him, and he was such a close and valuable friend — you cannot put that in the balance with money. He was an inspiration to me, like a brother, a father, and also a teacher. I’m still profiting from his knowledge
Dominique Stroobant, â€œschwarz darstellenâ€?, (representation in black), black Swedish granite, 2009
ing or intuition. I taught myself photography, and started doing pinhole camera photography in 1977. It was as a result of that that I came to understand a lot about the physics of light. Jef and I wanted to do more work on such questions as: what is a hole? what is refraction? what is Fraunhofer’s diffraction? Things like that. Unfortunately, he died so prematurely. Light does not consist only of waves; it is also composed of the radiance of material. We still don’t know what light is, exactly. Jef’s intuition was that of a painter. He regarded light as a material, and in so doing he approached our contemporary views about light quite a bit. Light, as invisible matter, is being, not non-being. How would you describe Jef Verheyen as a person? He was a child of World War II, and he had political views that were often very conservative. We were not close at this level, as I’m a militant anarchist. We respected each other, but in things like that I didn’t understand him. Fortunately, such political ideas had nothing to do with his aesthetic ideas. In one way, it was paradoxical when he said: ‘Moi d’abord, les autres après’ (‘Me first, then the others’), since I don’t know any other artist of his generation who did so much for his colleagues. He was actually a socialist. He promoted and supported. He was very generous and thought very collectively. His friends were precious to him, and he had friends of all ages. What do you see as the special quality of Jef Verheyen’s painting? There is something contradictory in Jef Verheyen. Jef, for example, often quoted Jean Dubuffet’s statement: “Peindre n’est pas teindre” (“Painting isn’t colouring”). That’s nice and alliterative, and suits Dubuffet. Dubuffet worked with a lot of materials, while Jef painted without you seeing that it’s painted. His painting is almost intangible, and yet he talked a lot about matter. With him, there’s this ambivalence between a rather conceptual approach and a technical approach. He said: “I’m a painter. I’m the son of a decorator. I paint like a Fleming. I paint beautifully, but you don’t need to see that it’s painted”. It has to be painted invisibly or transparently; or, better said, intangibly. And yet the material is there. It’s like in chip technology.
A circuit can’t be thinner than the size of a molecule. That’s the physical limit. His dream was to get his technique, his craft as a painter up to this physical limit. Of course, this doesn’t mean that material vanishes. It’s there, but barely. What ideas of perception did Verheyen have as a painter? Verheyen’s credo in perception was: “Voir, c’est sentir avec les yeux” (“Seeing is feeling with the eyes”). Like Monet, Max Bill, myself and many other artists, he had very poor eyesight. Seeing, the whole question of perception in fact, preoccupied him from the start. He read a lot Maurice Merleau-Ponty early on, since, as a Fleming, he naturally had a much stronger relationship with French philosophy. Incidentally, we’d already read MerleauPonty in school. I talked about it a lot with Jef. “Je ne peins pas ce que je vois, je peins pour voir” (“I don’t paint what I see; I paint in order to see”). He liked to say this, and he said it often, always in French, as if it were an echo of Bachelard’s dictum: “Voir avec des yeux neufs, ce serait encore accepter l’esclavage d’un spectacle. Il est une volonté plus grande: celle de voir avant la vision, celle d’animer toute l’âme par une volonté de voir” (“To see with new eyes can still be a slavery to spectacle. There is something still greater to be wished for: the will to see before actually seeing, to animate the whole soul through a will to see”).2 What got Verheyen interested in the idea of three-dimensionality in painting? The interchangeability of front and back. Painters are interested in such perception phenomena in perspective. The history of painting basically always has to do with trompe-l’œil. To conclude, tell me something about the work you want to do in memory of Jef Verheyen for the exhibition. We planned a lot of projects together. One of these projects was a subject he toyed with in many of his works — diagonals, like an N for example. We developed a small prototype, and exchanged ideas about it. But then he died, so suddenly, and we were unable to do it on a larger scale. What we were interested in at the time was
Biography ___ Born 6 July 1932 in Itegem, Belgium. 1946 Studies painting with Frans Ros in Lier. 1946 – 1952 Fine Arts education (drawing, etching, painting, applied arts) at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp. 1951 Receives a scholarship from the municipal borough of Nijlen, gives the money to his parents, rents a studio in the Kattestraat in Antwerp. Meets Dani Francq at the Academy, love at first sight. They attend classes together, and both enter the Higher Institute for Fine Arts the following year. 1952 – 1954 Post-graduate studies at Higher Institute for Fine Arts, Antwerp. Drawing, ceramics, painting. Works at the Studio Paul van Vlasselaer for decorative arts and scenography (Verheyen would continue to visit the Studio until 1956 – 1957). Engages in academic studies and explores figuration (landscape, portrait, still-life). Attends the ceramics studio of Olivier Strebelle. Verheyen and Dani Francq travel extensively and work abroad. In 1953 they spend three months in Vallauris (France) making ceramic pieces — with Raoul Dauphin, Pablo Picasso
and Fernand Léger — which are subsequently exhibited. They pick grapes in Provence, then travel to Spain. Second Middelheim Biennial. Verheyen discovers the work of Lucio Fontana and Constantin Brancusi: metal flowers (Fontana) and marble (Brancusi). Michel Oukhow, who lives below Verheyen, is the first collector of his work. Verheyen works for a short time in the mines, then as a house painter. He has good contacts with Paul Bervoets and Lode Jacobs. 1954 With ceramicists Dani Francq, Marina Van Acker and Blanca Olmedo, Jef Verheyen sets up a studio/shop in Antwerp, opposite the Rubens House, and calls it: l’Atelier 14. The official opening is 21 July 1955 (see also press 1955). Exhibition in the Gard Sivik, a private club in Antwerp. 1955 Meets writer Ivo Michiels when a first article appears in the press (see the many articles and texts, including “Jef Verheyen , schilder, ook een verhaal” [Jef Verheyen, painter, also a story], published on 6 July 1972 in Bookmultiple Jef Verheyen “40.” 1956 Member of “Het Kahier” in Antwerp; close association with Jan Christiaens. Verheyen finds Theedrinken the finest play ever written in Dutch. First black monochromes, which Verheyen defines as
Schwarz darstellen (depicting black). In September 1956 Verheyen hitch-hikes to Madrid, visiting Paris and Bordeaux en route. 1957 Meets Jozef Peeters and Gianni Dova in Antwerp at the openair exhibition (in September) at the Middelheim (the work Verheyen shows there, keramisch wit [Ceramic White, in grog, height 120cm] is broken, though covered by insurance). First white monochromes (on wood and canvas). Collaborates with Wim Van Gils (architect) on a wall painting for a hospital at Stavelot and installs fluorescent structures in the tunnel of the press pavilion at the World’s Fair in Brussels. Travels to Milan in September 1957; travels to Saint-Paul de Vence: visits Raoul Dauphin, whom he introduces to Iris Clert in Nice. On the way back, stops in Paris with Dani Francq. Visits Yves Klein’s “installation” — the empty room — at the Iris Clert Gallery (see letter from Verheyen, end of 1957). Contact with Roberto Crippa and Lucio Fontana (exhibition opening, Galleria Pater). 1958 In February, Verheyen is first in Basel and then in Milan (letters from Jef Verheyen to Ivo Michiels and to Dani Francq mentioning, among other things, the work Verheyen sold to Lucio Fontana
[20 February 1958], a blue painting). Roberto Crippa is in Belgium for the World’s Fair (April). At of Verheyen’s and Ivo Michiels’ request, he places a sculpture in the Belgian pavilion. In Lausanne, Verheyen’s manifesto, Essentialisme (Essentialism) is accepted for publication in art actuel international, issue 1959 – 13. Having played an active role in founding the G 58 group in Antwerp (in the Spring of 1958) and taken part in its first exhibitions, Verheyen breaks away from the group after the opening of his first show at the Hessenhuis. November 1958: first exhibition at the Hessenhuis. Lucio Fontana buys L’air est plein de ta chaleur (The Air is Full of Your Warmth) shown there and in Milan, and gives him what Verheyen describes as a “splendid black-green painting”. In a letter (November) from Italy: “I’m leaving G 58”. Plans a major international exhibition with Guy Vandenbranden: they invite Piero Manzoni, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Günther Uecker, Engelbert Van Anderlecht, Jozef Peeters and several others to take part. The exhibition (“Vision in Motion”, March – May 1959) is eventually held at the Hessenhuis, though Verheyen, Piero Manzoni and Lucio Fontana do not take part. Verheyen has his first encounter with Günther Uecker there (“nailed balls”). Verheyen meets the writer Guy Vaes and moves into a larger studio in his house in Lange Noordstraat.
Works in Milan, where he organises exhibitions with other Belgian artists (October, November, and mid-December 1958; see also Frank Philippi: photo reportage in Milan). 1958 – 1960 Black paintings, gold, brown, silver, paintings with smoke, 1X1 = 1. travels through the Mediterranean: watercolours, works in ink. 1959 Is in Milan (1 November to 18 January) working with Frank Philippi (photo reportage). In April he returns there and concludes exchange with Lucio Fontana (the red painting shown in the Hessenhuis). Stays in Albisola Mare with Piero Manzoni (they travel together from Milan), Lucio Fontana, Pol Bury, Ivo Michiels and others. Panarea-series (paintings, ink drawings). Panarea is also the title of an essay on “the single dimension”. Antwerp: Fifth Middelheim Biennial. Includes work by Lucio Fontana, Roberto Crippa and Olivier Strebelle. Co-founds the “Nieuwe Vlaamse School” (New Flemish School) with Engelbert Van Anderlecht and Paul De Vree (see the article by Johan Pas). Meets Swiss gallery and hotel owner Hans Liechti in December, in Grenchen, Switzerland. Liechti offers Verheyen a contract,
providing very welcome financial security and the beginning of a long friendship at the start of the Sixties. Through Liechti, Verheyen makes other connections in Switzerland. Verheyen rents a studio in Weert, a village on the River Scheldt, in a farm called Tempelierenhof which he first shares with Guy Mees for a short period. He spends the summer there, writing and painting.
at the villa of the collector Louis Bogaerts in Knokke, on the Belgian coast (see video with document and Karel Geirlandt interview, BRT, 3 December 1962; see also work with Hermann Goepfert and Lucio Fontana in 1963, p. 56). Contributes work to the book project Das Weiße Buch (The White Book), as do Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, Günther Uecker, Otto Piene, Heinz Mack, Christo, Walter Leblanc, etc. Günther Uecker works in Antwerp. Verheyen participates in almost every ZERO exhibition and plays an important role as the contact person for the group and the artists in Belgium (collectors, gallery owners, etc.).
1960 Publication of Pour une peinture non plastique (Plea for Nonpictorial Painting) (Weert) 1959. Verheyen and Englebert Van Anderlecht collaborate on a series of ten works, Ni l’un ni l’autre (Neither One Nor the Other) (26-29 August 1960; see Frank Philippi’s photo reportage) Goes to Düsseldorf, where he stays with Günther Uecker, and to Frankfurt, to visit Hermann Goepfert and Rochus Kowallek. 1961 Verheyen moves to Charlottelei and establishes his studio there. Paul De Vree and Verheyen collaborate on a project for an international exhibition in Ghent to which they invite a number of ZERO artists.
1962 – 63 Works on several series: Sunbow Series, Rainbow Series, Lightbow Series, the “Four Elements”, Squares, the “Painting = tests” series. Paints a number of canvases on the theme of AB-BC. 1963 The journal De Tafelronde publishes Essentialisme at Paul De Vree’s suggestion. Verheyen works with Lucio Fontana and Hermann Goepfert in Frankfurt.
1962 Verheyen and Lucio Fontana collaborate on two works, a triptych and Rêve de Möbius (Möbius’ Dream, p. 57)
1964 Verheyen makes the film Essentieel (Essential) with Jos Pustjens,
Paul De Vree and others (see flyer for the Berlin and Frankfurt showings). Project and plans for a wall painting for a school in Frankfurt (p. 126) and for the international exhibition in “’t Fortje”. Venetian paintings in exhibitions in Basel, Solothurn and Brussels. 1965 Travels extensively as he prepares exhibitions; collaborates with Hermann Goepfert, Lucio Fontana, Günther Uecker and Rotraut. Exhibitions in Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva. 1966 – 1967 Initial contacts for a solo exhibition in Mullem. Paints Lichtkathedralen (Light Cathedrals); his designs for sculptures take shape. In chromeplated metal: ruimte / le vide et le plein (Space / Empty and Full). The first prototype becomes a multiple. Marcel Stal meets Jef Verheyen and puts him in touch with the Brussels art scene. This Francophone gallery owner shows Verheyen’s work on several occasions over the years. The painter shares the former soldier’s liking for horse-riding, refinement, and the pleasures of life. 1967 With Günther Uecker, Verheyen organises the openair exhibition, Vlaamse
Dixième Biennale Internationale d’Art de Menton Palais de l’Europe, Menton Collectie Hans & Käthi Liechti Zwitserland Provinciaal Hof, Bruges Van Ensor tot heden Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels Große Düsseldorfer Kunstausstellung 1978 Kunstpalast Ehrenhof, Düsseldorf 1979 ZERO. Bildvorstellungen einer europäischen Avantgarde, 1958 – 1964 Kunsthaus Zurich Stichting Veranneman Casino, Knokke ZERO Internationaal Antwerpen Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp 1980 150 jaren Koninkrijk België. Hedendaagse Vlaamse kunst Amersfoort 150 jaren Belgische kunst Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels Belgique — Pays-Bas. Convergences et parallèles dans l’art depuis 1945 Paleis voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels; Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam 1981 Negatie-Integratie, van Dada tot Heden in België Provinciaal Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Lakenhalle, Ieper Naar en in het landschap Internationaal Cultureel Centrum, Antwerp
1982 Verzameling van het museum voor hedendaagse kunst Gent Paleis voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels Picturale opties ’50 – 70 Internationaal Cultureel Centrum, Antwerp Bilan Antwerpen 1982 Galerij Campo, Antwerp Phoenix Alte Oper, Frankfurt am Main
Gruppe Zero Galerie Schoeller, Düsseldorf Belgische kunst II Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Brussels La Couleur seule Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
1983 Hommage à Hans Liechti Villa Medici, Solothurn Informele kunst in België en Nederland Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp 1984 ZERO Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach
1989 Sammlung Lenz Schönberg. Eine europäische Bewegung in der bildenden Kunst von 1958 bis heute Zentrales Künstlerhaus am Krimwall Moscow 1991 Sammlung Lenz Schönberg. ’… die Kunst von innen bittend …’ Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck; Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen 1992 Sammlung Lenz Schönberg. Aus der Stille der Zeit — über die Grenzen von Raum Galeria Zachęta, Warsaw ZERO. Eine europäische Avantgarde Galerie Neher, Essen; Galerie Heseler, Munich; MittelrheinMuseum, Koblenz
1985 Bilder und Objekte aus der Sammlung Lenz Schönberg. Eine europäische Bewegung Museum Carolino Augusteum, Salzburg 1988 Goepfert und ZERO — ZERO und Goepfert Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main Zero, un Movimiento Europeo. Colección Lenz Schönberg Fundació Caixa de Barcelona; Fondación Juan March, Madrid Vision und Bewegung. ZERO. Werke aus der Sammlung Lenz Schönberg Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus
1993 Objart Internationaal Cultureel Centrum Antwerp Filip Tas. Kunstenaars in Antwerpen 1960 – 1970 Provincie Zaal Antwerp On taking a normal situation Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp
1994 Des bords de l’Escaut aux rives de la Sorgue Musée Campredon, L’Isle-surla-Sorgue 1997 Zero und Paris 1960. Und heute Galerie der Stadt Esslingen, Villa Merkel, Esslingen; Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Nice 1998 Een kunstgreep omtrent 1968 Cultureel Centrum Antoon Spinoy, Mechelen 2000 MO(u)veMENTS. Kunstenaarsbewegingen in België van 1880 tot 2000 Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp Brussel kruispunt van culturen Paleis voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels Kijk 100 jaar Hedendaagse Kunst Paleis voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels 2002 Antwerpen/Bruxelles ’60. Bram Bogart — Englebert Van Anderlecht — Jef Verheyen Kunstmuseum Winterthur 2003 ZERO. Die europäische Vision — 1958 bis heute. Sammlung Lenz Schönberg RLB-Kunstbrücke, Innsbruck Gelijk het leven is Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent
List of works by Jef Verheyen ___ Espace découpé. Witte Ruimte 1957 65 x 81 cm Paper, glue, casein paint on jute Private collection, Belgium Al piccolo Luca 1958 80 x 100 cm Oil on jute Private collection, Germany Untitled 1959 65 x 81 cm Oil on canvas Vervoordt Foundation Anvers 1959 100 x 81 cm Mixed media on canvas Collection of edith wahlandt galerie, Stuttgart Vibration 1959 80 x 65 cm Silver paint on canvas Collection of Henk Peeters La lumière devient flamande 1959 80 x 100 cm Oil on canvas Private collection, Belgium
Espace flamand 1960/1961 130 x 190 cm Oil on canvas, brass powder Collection of Stiftung museum kunst palast Zwart Licht 1961/62 122,5 x 122,5 cm Oil on canvas Vervoordt Foundation
Vlaams Landschap 1967 132 x 198 cm Oil on canvas Lenz Schönberg Collection
Le Pommier (d’après Dani) 1976 103 x 103 cm Matte paint on canvas Private collection, Belgium
Brazilië 1968 160 x 160 cm Matte paint on canvas Vervoordt Foundation
Spectra Veneziana. Nacht in Venetië (diptych) 1977 180 x 90 cm (2x) Matte paint on canvas Private collection, Belgium
Aurora II 1970 180 x 180 cm Matte paint on canvas Collection of the Axel Vervoordt Company
Hommage aux amis 1961 130 x 95 cm Oil on canvas Private collection, Germany Espace O 1961 98 x 80 cm Oil on canvas Rira Collection
Nacht-Maan (pair) 1977 150 x 150 cm (2x) Matte paint on canvas Collection of the Axel Vervoordt Company
Blauwe Lichtstroom 1970 180 x 180 cm Matte paint on canvas Collection of the Axel Vervoordt Company
Urbino. L’espace idéal 1978 110 x 177 cm Matte paint on canvas Vervoordt Foundation
Lichtstrom. Dialogos Heraklithe 1962 100 x 66 cm Oil on canvas Collection of Hubertus Schoeller
La Flèche de Zénon 1971 180 x 180 cm Matte paint on canvas S.M.A.K., Ghent
Venus saphira 1978/1983 200 x 320 cm Matte paint on canvas Private collection, Belgium
L’air 1e st. (Serie 4 Elemente) 1962 130 x 90 cm Oil on canvas Lenz Schönberg Collection
Ici commence l’infini 1973 160 x 160 cm Matte paint on canvas Private collection, Belgium
Zomer 1979 179,5 x 296,5 cm Matte paint on canvas Collection of Mu.ZEE, Ostend
Untitled 1962 Ø 120 cm Matte paint on wood fibre board Private collection, Belgium
Untitled (unfinished) Ca. 1973 130 x 130 cm, framed 159 x 159 cm Matte paint on canvas, painted frame Collection of Günther Uecker
Abysses 1979 180 x 286 cm Matte paint on canvas Collection of Mu.ZEE, Ostend
Untitled 1959 89 x 116 cm Oil on canvas Collection of the Axel Vervoordt Company
Nul part ailleurs 1964/65 140 x 140 cm, Ø 114 cm Matte paint on wood fibre board Private collection, Belgium
Cathédrale de la lumière 1960 97 x 130 cm Matte paint on canvas Vervoordt Foundation
Zonnebogen 1/4 1965 65 x 65 cm Synthetic resin on canvas Lenz Schönberg Collection
Untitled (unfinished) Ca. 1973 125 x 125 cm, framed 159 x 159 cm Matte paint on canvas, painted frame Collection of Günther Uecker
Pan 1979 200 x 320 cm Matte paint on canvas Musée d’art et d’histoire, Musée Rath, Geneva Magische diabolische Spiegel 1980/81 65 x 65 cm Synthetic resin on canvas Lenz Schönberg Collection
Rêve Saturnien 1980/81 160 x 160 cm Synthetic resin on canvas Lenz Schönberg Collection Th. (Thème) le grand œuvre 1980/81 160 x 160 cm Synthetic resin on canvas Lenz Schönberg Collection Megaron. Dialogos Heraklithe 1981 110 x 110 cm Matte paint on canvas Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Stiftung Hubertus Schoeller, Düren De Woestijn 1983 109 x 109 cm Matte paint on canvas Private collection, Belgium Diamant 1 1984 71 x 71 cm Matte paint on canvas Private collection, Belgium Collaborations ___ with: Lucio Fontana and Hermann Goepfert Untitled 1963 116 x 144 x 30 cm Oil on perforated canvas, aluminium strips, angle irons, steel springs Estate of Goepfert with: Lucio Fontana Rêve de Möbius 1962 100 x 150 cm Synthetic paint on perforated canvas Private collection, Belgium
with: Dominique Stroobant The two suns 1977 – 1979 85 x 60 x 6,6 cm Matte paint on serpentino vittoria stone, hinge Private collection, Belgium with: Englebert Van Anderlecht L’un et l’autre no. 8 1960 81 x 100 cm Oil on canvas Collection of the Axel Vervoordt Company
Lucio Fontana Concetto spaziale N 19 1958 100 x 80 cm Oil, collage and tusche on canvas Collection of Viktor and Marianne Langen
Otto Piene Akkumulation 1962/63 120 x 170 cm Oil and smoke on canvas Collection of Viktor and Marianne Langen Günther Uecker Reihung 1972 160 x 160 x 15 cm Nails on canvas and wood Lenz Schönberg Collection
Henk Peeters Pyrografie 1959 (2006) 80 x 100 cm Smoke on plastic film Tijs Visser
Yves Klein MP 17 (Red Monochrome) 1960 50 x 35 cm Pigment on canvas Collection of Viktor and Marianne Langen
Nanda Vigo Cronotopo 1963 60 x 60 x 20 cm Metal, glass, wire ZERO foundation
Enrico Castellani Superficie nera 1959 88 x 68 cm Canvas, wood, wadding, nails Lenz Schönberg Collection
List of works by ZERO & Friends ___
Otto Piene Bronze by Gold 1957 60 x 80 cm Oil on hardboard Lenz Schönberg Collection
Yves Klein IKB 112 (Monochrome Bleu) 1961 48 x 49 cm Pigment on canvas Stiftung Insel Hombroich
Lucio Fontana Concetto spaziale 1959 50 x 65 cm Mixed media on slashed canvas Collection of the Axel Vervoordt Company Piero Manzoni Achrome 1958/59 18 x 24 cm Kaolin and folded canvas Private collection
Enrico Castellani Superficie bianca 1965 200 x 250 cm Wooden grid, nails covered with canvas, painted white Stiftung museum kunst palast Gotthard Graubner Kissenbild 1964 – 1968 80 x 80 x 5 cm Mixed media on canvas, foam Privatsammlung Belgien Otto Piene Schwarze Sonne 1962/63 151 x 151 cm Oil and smoke on canvas Vervoordt Foundation
Heinz Mack Falt-Relief (Honisch 482) 1958 150 x 75 x 17 cm Aluminium on wood ZERO foundation
Christian Megert Struktur grau-rot-weiss 1956 145 x 117 cm Caparol paint on jute Collection of Christian and Franziska Megert
Jan Henderikse Untitled 2007 100 x 140 cm Cork on canvas Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Stiftung Hubertus Schoeller, Düren
Bram Bogart Ohne Titel (Monochroom zwart-wit) 1955 150 x 90 cm Mixed media on canvas Private Collection, USA
Jan J. Schoonhoven Grijs schilderij 1958 67 x 55 cm Mixed media on canvas Collection of Henk Peeters Günther Uecker Himmelsbogen für Jef Verheyen 1987 200 x 153 cm Stone, wire, nails, ink, on canvas on wood Collection of Günther Uecker Piero Manzoni Achrome 1959/60 146 x 114 cm Stitched cloth Collection of the Axel Vervoordt Company Günther Uecker Objekt Weiss 1961 100 x 100 cm Oil and nails on canvas, back reinforced with plaster Collection of Viktor and Marianne Langen Hermann Goepfert Weissbild W70/61 1961 66 x 100 cm Oil on canvas Collection of the Axel Vervoordt Company Bernard Aubertin Clous 63 No. 350 1963 82 x 58 cm Nails, red paint on wood Sammlung Hubertus Schoeller Heinz Mack Untitled 1958 125 x 109 cm Oil on canvas Collection of Viktor and Marianne Langen
Lenders Gertrud Bartels Gino and Rika DeraedtVerheyden Estate of Goepfert, Frankfurt am Main Gilberte Jacobs Collection Dora Janssen Collection Josi & co Sammlung Lenz Schönberg Peter and Christa Malt Christian and Franziska Megert John and Hilde Muller Musées d’art et d’histoire/ Musée Rath, Genève Mu.ZEE Ostend Joris and Suz Onzea Henk and Truus Peeters Sammlung Rira Bernd Schoeller Hubertus Schoeller Stiftung, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren Stiftung Insel Hombroich Stiftung museum kunst palast Christine and Günther Uecker Philippe and Griet Vande Vyvere Jan and Christine Van Hool Laurent and Mouche Descheemaecker-Van Hool Léonore Verheyen Axel Vervoordt Vervoordt Foundation edith wahlandt galerie, Stuttgart ZERO foundation
Walter Leblanc 100C X 18 (Twisted Strings CR 775) 1967 100 x 100 cm Cotton string, latex on canvas Bernd Schoeller Walter Leblanc 15F X 126 (Twisted Strings, CR 602) 1964/1965 65 x 54 cm Cotton strings, latex on canvas Private collection, Essen Hermann Goepfert Aluminiumreflektor d III 1964 155 x 81,5 x 20 cm Kinetic reflector / wood (black), aluminium back (brushed), aluminium strip (buckled), round metal rod, balance springs, nylon strings Estate of Goepfert Christian Megert Ohne Titel (Spiegelobjekt, quadratisch, No. 111304) 1969 120 x 120 x 13 cm Mirror glass, wood, plastic, glass Lenz Schönberg Collection Heinz Mack Weißer Rotor 1958 100,5 x 101 x 31,5 cm Wood, Paper, corrugated glass, electrical motor Private collection
Our gratitude also goes to all private lenders who did not wish to be named.
Karl Prantl Stein zur Meditation 1984 – 86 190 x 38 x 26,5 cm Swedish black granite Lenz Schönberg Collection
Book published at the occasion of the exhibition: Jef Verheyen and Friends Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany 11 September 2010 — 16 January 2011
Exhibition Concept Tijs Visser, ZERO foundation Curator Dirk Pörschmann, ZERO foundation Project coordination Kathrin Böschen, Langen Foundation Anne-Sophie Dusselier, Vervoordt Foundation International Media Relations Maria Finders with Bendetta Roux, Brunswick Arts LLP, London, GB Book Publisher ASA Publishers, Brussels Concept Dirk Pörschmann, Tijs Visser Editing Dirk Pörschmann Copy-editor Dutch Aletta Stevens Copy-editor Italian Emanuela Guastella Translations from the Dutch Helen Robertson Lee Preedy (biography) Petra Serwe from the Italian Simon Knight from the German Isabel Varea, Paul Aston Copy-editor Anne Newman Translation co-ordinators, Copy-editors Ros Schwartz, Ros Schwartz Translations Ltd, London Emiliano Battista Book Design Bart Hebben, Luc Derycke, Studio Luc Derycke Printing Vestagraphics, Vosselaar
Exhibition organised by
© 2010 ASA Publishers All rights reserved
Publication sponsored by
We should like to thank the following for their support: Madeleine Amsler Bostyn Brecht Marcel and Lili Van Hool Beate Kemfert Sabine Langen-Crasemann Anna und Gerhard Lenz George Lenz Ute und Heinz Mack Franziska und Christian Megert Ulrike Schmitt Hubertus Schoeller Albert-Udo Stappert Dominique Stroobant Christine Uecker-Steinfeld Günther Uecker Léonore Verheyen Axel Vervoordt Karla Zeressen
ISBN: 978 94 6117 006 4 Legal Deposit: D/2010/12.230/007
Photo credits ___ Maurice Aeschimann 48 Baschang & Herrmann, München 96, 108, 110, 225 Ole Bjørndal Bagger 146 Jan van der Borght 72 The Bridgeman Art Library, London 189 Gerald Dauphin 4, 11, 12, 65, 66, 80, 84, 87, 184, 198-207, 214, 218, 229, 230, 241 Fabrizio Garghetti 208 günzel.rademacher, Offenbach 56, 108 Jürgen Graaf 8 Peter von Gunten 8 Barbara Klemm, Frankfurt 222 Horst Kolberg, Düsseldorf 16, 19, 25, 38, 39, 92, 103, 107 Andreas Pohlmann, Köln 90, 92, 95, 105, 106 Anna Lenz 74, 225 Archiv Lenz Schönberg 91 Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren 27, 52, 98, 106, 107 Heinz Mack 97, 109 Franziska Megert 102 Ugo Mulas 210 Mu.ZEE Ostende 46, 47
Ad Peetersen 167 Frank Philippi 1, 6, 11, 60, 70, 77, 84, 116, 140, 162, 210, 213, 217, 229 Karl Prantl 222 Dietmar Schneider 182 Philipp Schönborn 28, 31, 32, 49, 50, 51, 93, 189 Stiftung Insel Hombroich 94 Stiftung museum kunst palast 23, 99 Dominique Stroobant 8, 112, 232, 234, 239 Filip Tas 12 Manfred Tischer, www.tischer.org 178, 226 Axel Vervoordt, ’s-Gravenwezel 15, 17, 20-22, 24, 26, 29, 30, 33-37, 40-45, 53, 54, 57-59, 96, 100-102, 104, 105, 236 Edith Wahlandt Galerie 18 Erhard Wehrmann 212 ZERO foundation 99, 187
We wish to thank the museums, private collections and photographers for their generous support in the preparation of the catalogue and for permitting the use of third-party artworks. Unless indicated otherwise, works appearing in the illustrations are from the archives of the lenders, the authors, the Verheyen Archive, or the ZERO Foundation. Despite extensive inquiries, it has not been possible in every case to trace the copyright owners. We apologise for this. Bona fide claims will be met subject to the usual arrangements. Cover image: Brazilië, 1968, 160 x 160 cm, Matte paint on canvas, Vervoordt Foundation Back-cover image: Untitled, 1962, Ø 120 cm, Matte paint on wood fibre board, Private collection, Belgium Image first page: Jef Verheyen painting in his studio on Lange Noordstraat, Antwerp, 16 April 1960. Photo: Frank Philippi, Fotomuseum Antwerp Image p. 241 Opening “Vlaamse Landschappen”, 0:00 h, 23 June 1967, Mullem. Photo: Gerald Dauphin, Verheyen Archive