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
monography of the works of Jef Verheyen