Bodies of light and dialectics of the immaterial Spazialismo, Essentialisme, Achrome Francesca Pola
Art is such a mysterious thing, and all our lives we pursue this mystery and are only too pleased not to discover it, because otherwise it would be the end of art. It is the mystery of human intelligence. Lucio Fontana to Jef Verheyen, 19611
1 Letter from Fontana to Verheyen, Milan, 4 July 1961, in Paolo Campiglio (ed.), Lucio Fontana. Lettere 1919 — 1968, Skira, Milan, 1999, p. 181.
This essay will focus on a decisive moment for the birth of a new European artistic vision: the late 1950s and early 1960s which witnessed a general abandonment of the expressive space of the subject associated with the post-war Art Informel movement and the advent of a new and free relationship with global space and with the vastness of an expanding universe. I intend to reconstruct and document a series of episodes, relationships and influences that linked the personality, thinking and work of Jef Verheyen with the Italian art scene — a scene which at that time, thanks to the seminal figures of Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni, played a key role in the germination and direction of this new artistic identity. I shall concentrate on this decisive moment, when a formal “return to ZERO” and expressive reduction were seen as offering a constructive way of reformulating visual language, once the historical and cultural disappointments that followed the Second World War had been shed. The result was the development of a positive vision: not a sterile eradication of the past, but the focusing of new issues more closely attuned to the changed human dimension, as humans began physically to explore the cosmos. An examination of this network of exchanges and associations will give us a clearer grasp of the origins of Verheyen’s mature artistic style, and set it against a backdrop of relationships that would have an indelible influence 141
monography of the works of Jef Verheyen