"My position in the battle between line and color"
[Parijs, 16 april 1958]
The art of painting consists, in my opinion, of restoring matter to its primordial state. An ordinary picture, as it is generally conceived, seems to me like the window of a prison, where the lines, cintours, forms, and compostion are determined by the bars. The way I see it, lines embody our mortal state, our emotional life, our power of reasoning and even our spirituality. They are our psychological boundaries, our history, our education and skeleton, our flaws and wishes, our powers and our strategems.
Color, onthe other hand is more natural and human, it bathes in cosmic sensitivity. Pictorial sensitivity, unlike what line would tend to make us believe, is not filled with hidden nooks and crannies. It is like the moisture in the air; color is nothing but sensitivity turned into matter, matter in its primordial state.
I can no longer approve of a "legible" picture, my eyes are not made to read a picture, but rather to see it. Painting is COLOR, and van Gogh exclaimed:"I want to be liberated from I don't know what prison." I think he subconsciously suffered from seeing color cut up by line and its consequences.
Colors are the real dwellers of space, whereas lines merely travel through space and streak it. They streak the infinite while color is. Through color I feel a total identification with space; I am truly free!
During my second Parisian exhibit at Colette Allendy's in 1956, I displayed a selection of PROPOSITIONS in varied colors and sizes. What I expected from the public was this "moment of truth" of which Pierre Restany spoke in his text for my exhibit. In feeling free to remove this impure external encumbrance and to achieve that degree of contemplation where art becomes full and pure sensibility. Unfortunately, it became obvious from reactions to this display that many observers, caught in their habitual way of seeing, were far more receptive to the relationship of the PROPOSITIONS to each other and re-created the elements of a decorative and architectural multicolored design.
After this, I was moved to continue my research one step further and to show, this time in Milan in the Gallery Apollinaire, an exhibit dedicated to what I dared to call my "blue period" (in fact, I had been concentrating on the search for the most perfect expression of blue for more than a year). This exhibit consisted of ten blue pictures, dark ultramarine, all of them exactly alike in tone, value, proportion, and size. The impassioned controversy following this exhibit and the deep emotion among open-minded persons who were ready to escape the stifling effects of well-known representations and deep-rooted rules showed me the importance of the phenomenon.
Although I live in the midst of errors, naïvet&eecute;s, and utopias, I am happy to be dealing with a problem that is so much of our time. One must - and this is not an exaggeration - keep in mind that we are living in the atomic age, where everything material and physical could disappear from one day to another, to be replaced by nothing but the ultimate abstraction imaginable. For me there exists a sensitive artistic color material that is intangible.
Thus I have pondered whether even color, in its physical aspect, has become finally for me also a limit and a hindrance to my effort to create perceptible pictorial states.
In order to reach Delacroix's "ind&eecute;finissable", the very essence of painting, I have embarked on the "specialization" of space, which is my ultimate way of treating color. It is no longer a matter of seeing color but of perceiving it.
My recent work with color has led me progressively and unwillingly to search for the realization of matter with some assistance (of the observer, of the translator), and I have decided to end the battle. My paintings are now invisible and these I would like to show in my next Parisian exhibit at Iris Clert's, in a clear and positive manner.
ZERO 1 [Düsseldorf, 1958], herdrukt in: Otto Piene, Heinz Mack en Lawrence Alloway, ZERO, Cambridge/Massachussets 1973, blz.: 10/11.