It takes a very specific type of man to create an art exhibit of eleven identical blue squares, and perhaps an even more specific type to create nearly two hundred of these monochrome paintings.
I discovered the work of Yves Klein, a French painter 1928-1962, through his exhibition in the Tate Liverpool museum, an exhibition running until 5th March and I would recommend a visit if you can. Personally, I enjoyed looking at his work so much I purchased a book on him by Fausto Gilberti from the gift shop, which reads like a delightful children’s story and I will probably quote in this review.
The thing most captivating about Klein is how he created his own shade of blue, International Klein Blue (IKB). From the gallery description of one of his blue rectangles I learned he described it as “a Blue in itself, disengaged from all functional justification.” A sentence that somehow sounds both nonsensical and yet a perfect description of the colour and the motivations behind it.
Klein believed his blue to be the closest capture of pure space and it was beyond what could be seen or touched. In the aforementioned book I purchased it describes the motivations behind making his blue being “he dreamt of writing his signature in the sky, as if it was one of his paintings.” He may have never got to the level of literally writing his name in the sky, but, instead he brought the sky down in making the colour that reminded him of both the sky and the sea.
Love for his work is very clear, especially his blue in how much he used it. He coloured blue things from canvases to the urine of gusts to his show by giving them a blue cocktail to drink. My favourite of his work read about was when he released 1001 balloons into the sky, it reads to me like he almost wanted to then put a piece of the sky as a match of how he brought a piece of the sky down to us.
His blue is not his only form of art and I think it would be a discredit to him to not mention some of his work too. For instance, fire paintings. Yes, fire paintings. That is paintings made with flame throwers. Additionally, he has done work in music, the Gilberti book telling me of how he once made a symphony consisting only of one note and twenty minutes of silence. Personality, creativity, and boldness are clearly the defining traits of Klein.
Sadly, Klein died young of a heart attack being only 34. The telegraph described him as “The Peter Pan of conceptual art” which I believed accurately described his career while he was alive. He was an innovator always wanting to see what he could do and he was the man who managed to write his name in the sky.
It takes a specific type of man to create an art exhibit of eleven identical blue squares. Even more specifically, it is a type of man that this world needs more of.