More of nothing in Paris – no more

When Mona Lisa was stolen from it’s Louvre wall in 1911 people queued to stare at the empty space left behind. Supposedly more people came to visit then before, when she could still follow the onlookers with her gaze. The lady of course was found in 1913 and is now very well protected, so we won’t be seeing that particular empty space any time soon.

Earlier this year the Centre Pompidou had nine whole empty rooms on display in Voids, a retrospective. The rooms referred to famous empty spaces from modern art history. Besides small texts on the walls describing the original empty spaces there were also still little objects like power outlets, thermostats, exit signs. At the moment the empty walls are hung with surrealist photography and we will have to experience the void elsewhere. What’s it like to visit an empty space when you intend to? And what’s it like to be caught off guard, like I was when I visited the Pompidou and was confronted with Yves Klein? Back then I was prepared…. but not quite, caught off guard after all.

Nothing matters

I felt only night within me and it was then that I conceived the new art, which I called Suprematism.

I felt only night within me and it was then that I conceived the new art, which I called Suprematism (Kazimir Malevich)

Kazimir Malevich strongly believed in the supremacy of pure feelings in art. Had he been a writer, his book would probably have been gathering dust for decades by now. But he was a painter and he expressed his ideas in oils on canvas, causing a revolution in art by painting the first monochrome, aptly called Black Square, in 1915. From that moment on it was no longer necessary to paint a recognizable image.

Monochromes being the subject of last week’s LAB class at Dogtime I delved into the subject and discovered an amazing amount of artists had followed in Malevich’ footsteps. I knew many of them, but I was not aware they had also lingered in the void for a while, like for instance Robert Rauschenberg, who said “A canvas is never empty”. Likewise, we Dogtime students have to pass this stage, because we will be making our own monochromes. Let’s see how we emerge from the experience. As Matthew Collings put it, in modern art ‘nothing’ matters.

Rauschenberg - White Painting

Rauschenberg - White Painting

I’m glad Rauschenberg resurfaced from the void and gave the world his Combines.

Monogram, 1955-59. Freestanding combine

Rauschenberg famously erased a De Kooning, bringing drawing into the all-whites.

Out of the blue – not quite

In 2006 my art teacher Mariëtte Renssen was very enthusiastic when I told her I was going to Paris. I had to go see the Yves Klein exhibition in the Centre Pompidou. I had never heard of the guy, but who was I to doubt her? Did the google thing and found out the man was pretty big in monochrome painting, mostly blue. He even developed his own special brand of blue: YKB.

Definitely blue

Definitely blue

So… I went. Wasn’t blown away immediately, stunned may be a better word. Being surrounded by all YKB canvasses was a mind blowing experience that for some reason keeps coming back to me. Maybe the time to find out why has come. Yesterday our teacher Manel Esparbé i Gasca asked us take the plunge into monochrome painting. His class is called LAB and we’re supposed to do research, in books, on the internet and by trying our own hand at painting, taking photographs or making video’s. All this has to be logged to serve as a personal record, source of information and to share with others.

I’m used to sharing. For the past year I’ve been showing documentaries about art in my private salon for a small band of art-loving women. Of particular interest for the subject of monochromes is the fourth episode in the series “This Is Modern Art” by artist and art critic Matthew Collings, named “Nothing Matters”. It used to be on Youtube, some of the other episodes in the series still are and well worth taking a peek. Fellow students: you will be able to see the movie this week, just watch your inbox.