Boers-Li Gallery New York presents “Across the Himalayas”, the gallery’s first collaboration with the estate of JCJ Vanderheyden (Netherlands, 1928-2012).
One of the most consequential and unconventional artists of his time, Vanderheyden dedicated his life to investigating the dimensions of visual perspectives by using a broad range of media, and procedures to observe the nature of the aesthetics of perception. Spending most of his life working from his studio in ’s-Hertogenbosch, his interest in chance and emptiness led to his extensive travel in Asia from the late 1970s through the 1980s. In this way, Vanderheyden has brought together a comprehensive series of fascinating artworks which are, from today’s point of view, as aesthetically appealing in a global sense as they are curiously distinctive in terms of their subjects, such as “Horizon”, “Gate”, and “Checkerboard”.
Educated as a painter, JCJ Vanderheyden furthers the tradition of Mondrian in the sense that his visual vocabulary is minimal and yet immanently powerful – a wide yellow strip doubling the contour of a painting, three black bars embracing a white picture plane (or three equal white planes embracing a black plane), partitions of blue and white or white against natural linen – black, white, red, yellow and blue are the dominant colors; squares, rectangles and idiosyncratically curved canvases are the elements of his composition.
After his first substantial solo exhibition in the late 1960s with an overview of his paintings, Vanderheyden decided to devote several years of his career to research and experimentations with what was then “New Media” (television, film, and video), which had a decisive influence on his artistic practice. Treating painting as an instrumental procedure, Vanderheyden often realized his later works by exploring photography, printing, sound and video together with surveillance technology like cameras and mirrors. With his unique sense of reduction and lucidity he knew how to integrate these strategies of observation, distribution and presentation into an artwork, of which a painting was the ultimate result, essentially examining the phenomena of light, time and space.
Vanderheyden never stopped thinking of himself as a painter. He had an abiding love for Vermeer, who was one of the first painters using the new discovery of pinhole photography. From the seventies onwards Vanderheyden scrutinized even more than before how we experience the physical world, the connections between seeing and knowing, and the source and reach of our awareness. Vanderheyden said: “If we had different minds, we would have a different universe; there is no perception except that which we possess.” Vanderheyden’s recurring visual refrains can be seen as representations of how we are aware of that which we cannot perceive; but the works emanate as well a powerful, mysterious aesthetic and emotional appeal. In the paintings, the juxtaposition of the seeker and the infinite is always palpable.
Vanderheyden’s curiosity for the visual qualities of spatial perception brought him in the late 1970s to undertake several trips to unlimited aerial spaces around the Himalayas and later the countries around them. The exhibition will include the artist’s travel log documenting these trips, especially the one he made in 1989, which gave him the opportunity to visit the legendary China Avant-Garde exhibition at the National Museum and meet with artists who were involved in the protests that ended tragically at the Tiananmen Square that spring. As he made several expeditions to Asia, the experience of majestic horizons as seen from an airplane affected him in such a way that spatial and temporal relations appear fluid in his later art making.
Considered an artist’s artist, JCJ Vanderheyden has made profound influences on the later generations of artists in the Netherlands and beyond. Resonating with the artistic discourse on relations, Vanderheyden’s works produce a cosmological sense of self through the implication of the relationship between the viewer and the universe. The works imply the vastness and motion of sky and space, and humanity’s distinct place within it. Promoting an understanding of time as cyclical rather than linear, Vanderheyden sees repetition and blankness as visual analogies between space and time.
Born in 1928 in ’s-Hertogenbosch, JCJ Vanderheyden is considered one of the most significant post-war painters in the Netherlands. After participating in dOCUMENTA in Kassel in 1982, he held retrospective exhibitions at Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and other prominent venues in Europe. His works are in numerous public and private collections worldwide.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)