“We don’t know how many dimensions there are. That we understand three or four does not mean there are not more. Our intellect is only limited if we limit it.”
– JCJ VANDERHEYDEN
This solo show, in close collaboration with the estate of JCJ VANDERHEYDEN, presents a selection of works spanning a period of 50 years. The work of the dutch artist JCJ VANDERHEYDEN (*1928 ‘s Hertogenbosch, NL | †2012 ‘s Hertogenbosch, NL) is considered continuously conceptually relevant and ever fresh.
“It must have been 1990. I visited JCJ’s studio for the first time. It was one of my first studio visits. I was nervous because I was not sure I understood the work. JCJ greeted me warmly and we proceeded to take a look at the paintings he was working on in his studio. At one point, he stepped back and turned on a camera and a monitor and pointed the camera so that we could see ourselves from the back. We stood together and looked at ourselves looking at the paintings on the wall of his studio. It was impressive; the directness was exciting and a bit awkward. It was an intimate moment while at the same time we were watching ourselves from a distance. It felt doubled. I understood well that this moment together with JCJ – a moment of seeing and of observation – was also part of JCJ’s art. The image on the monitor was vague, and the light changed distinctly as the daylight passed through the room.”
Maurice van Valen, co-founder of April in Paris
JCJ VANDERHEYDEN’s Standing Red (1981), a very large painting, is made up of a white painted canvas with a red pillar centered and resting on the bottom edge of the canvas. There is a lemon yellow line tracing the edge between the white and the bright red center. The image forms a pillar or a gate, past which an infinite space stretches. VANDERHEYDEN’s work concerns observation and reflection upon observation. The central question is of how the human mind imagines time and space, and how the artist can translate the endlessness of space and the passing of time into an image. In Standing Red, VANDERHEYDEN manages to insinuate the endlessness with the simplest of tools. The gate is not only an opening, but also an obstacle, a door both open and closed with which the artist pulls the viewer into the picture. Without this paradox, the endlessness is difficult to understand.
A similar approach to space can be found in Yellow Square (1975), a life sized rectangular painting. It displays a bright yellow, palm width line on a white background, which follows the shape of the canvas. At first sight the brushstroke seems to be exactly executed but looking closer one can see that the edges of the line are fading into the white. The yellow structure appears as a frame that marks a screen at which our gaze is automatically directed. The supposed emptiness of the painting comes into focus and creates an open space. At the same time the frame like form becomes the painting’s subject. With a simple gesture VANDERHEYDEN opens up the boundaries of the two dimensional space of the painting and creates an object to perceive as well as a momentum of perception.
Another work, Long Horizon (2009), is a horizontal painting about two and a half times as wide as it is tall. On the left there is a small vertical slice of the canvas painted black, again lined with a bright yellow, and to the right the picture plane is separated in half: the top half a clear cobalt and underneath a white sea of brushstrokes resulting in a tilting horizon. The right edge of the painting is painted bright yellow. The horizon, a fluid concept, a word for an indefinite yet omnipresent line between heaven and earth is an illusion that moves with us as we move. It is a way for us to understand the incomprehensible. By calling the line a horizon, we have a modus of speaking about it. Just as with Standing Red, the horizon forms an end, but also an entrance to the infinity of the universe. The concept of the gate and the horizon were motives JCJ VANDERHEYDEN would revisit throughout his oeuvre.
VANDERHEYDEN’s research into observation is no isolated subject. It is important to see his work in the context of European artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Edward Krasinski, or Blinky Palermo. Essential to the understanding of his oeuvre is the way in which he conceptualized the painting process. The core is not that the paint comes to a flat surface, but that the painting is a screen that reflects the world and how the world is seen. With the magical ability to catch the elusive sublime, VANDERHEYDEN demonstrates that painting has no bounds but those we ascribe to it.
To see more of JCJ VANDERHEYDEN, check out our digital viewing rooms or our artist’s page.