6 Jef Verheyen, “Essentialismus = 0+1”, exhibition catalogue for “Kreislauf der Farben” (Colour Circle), Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf 1973, 30. 7 Dieter Schwarz, exhibition catalogue for “Antwerpen/ Bruxelles ’60: Bram Bogert, Engelbert van Anderlecht, Jef Verheyen” (Antwerp / Brussels ’60, Bram Bogert, Engelbert van Anderlecht, Jef Verheyen) Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Richter, Düsseldorf 2002. 33. 8 Freddy de Vree: “Jef Verheyen auteur flamand”, Retrospektive Jef Verheyen 1932 – 1984, Stiching Kunstboek, Bruges 1994, German edition, 16-17.
ditional colour theory and contemporary art manifestos remain completely unexplored. Instead, this essay will attempt to provide a preliminary insight into Verheyen’s painting techniques and how he developed them. Any attempt to achieve a deeper understanding of his theories must begin with the question of how Verheyen used colour. There has so far been no research into the techniques and materials used in his painting, which can only be hinted at in this essay. To compound matters further, even when closely examined by experts in the technical aspects of art, Verheyen’s paintings do not always reveal the secret of his technique. Nevertheless, his endeavours to produce painted works of art that transcended their own materiality formed a significant part of his aesthetic agenda. He was constantly in search of ways to transcend materiality using material means. Verheyen employed a sophisticated technique in which he built up paint in translucent layers, or glazes, to produce subtle gradations of colour. In adopting this method, Verheyen placed himself in the old-masterly tradition of Jan van Eyck, who perfected this same use of glazes in the fifteenth century. While the early Netherlandish artist used the glazing technique to create the illusion of depth and reproduce the reality of things in the painting with mimetic precision, Verheyen only represented the colours themselves, but his use of glazes disguised their materiality. The colours became visible by making invisible the fact that they consisted of tangible material, thereby allowing their intangible “essence”, to have its effect on the viewer.6 The extreme smoothness of the painting surface also contributed to this dematerialisation. To apply paint, Verheyen used a wide bristle brush or, according to Nic van Bruggen, “shredded nylon stockings”.7 He even avoided using brushstrokes and only when the painting was lit from the side was it possible to detect that the paint had been applied “mechanically”, namely with a brush or other implement. He avoided any brushstrokes, since the brushstrokes were only visible under a spotlight. The even application of colour created a dematerialising effect. Not a trace remained of the working process. The artist stayed in the background to create space for the colours to take effect. At the same time, Verheyen’s choice of support for his painting showed his desire to downplay the material he used. At first, in the 1950s, he painted on chipboard and jute fabric for financial reasons.8 Later, he moved over to fine linen. He spread the canvas with primer and then applied the paint in 83
monography of the works of Jef Verheyen