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
monography of the works of Jef Verheyen