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).
monography of the works of Jef Verheyen