On February 27 2012, the artist JCJ Vanderheyden (Jacques van der Heijden) died at the age of 83. To commemorate him, the Van Abbemuseum now shows his work Curved Skyline (1990).
The relationship between the museum and Vanderheyden dates from 1957 when he participated in the exhibition Artists in Brabant. This relationship deepened over time with the artist having solo exhibitions in 1967, 1981, 1983, 2003 and 2009. In addition, during this time, a large number of works were acquired for the collection. In 2004 the artist generously donated a number of works to the museum.
The work of JCJ Vanderheyden centres around observation and a deep reflection on the nature of perception. His work articulated the choices we make when we perceive and interpret what is around us – a process that is needed to filter the multitude of information we receive.
Vanderheyden tried to capture the complexity of reality into a simple image – a theme that fascinated him since the early sixties. Until 1966 he explored this through painting yet in 1967 his focus shifted, like many of his contemporaries, to the new media of film, video, television and sound in which time, space and light played an important role. Later he would return to painting, employing these characteristics into his works. Until his dead Vanderheyden was always innovative, always looking for the ultimate combination of elements.
His fascination with the horizon began about forty years ago. In particular Vanderheyden looked closely at the power of the line, which becomes visible when two different colored surfaces sit next to one other. Through a simple line a wealth of images could be recalled. Depending on its place in Vanderheyden’s compositions infinity was made palpable, a delicate balance depicted or a composition wonderfully poised. The horizon of Vanderheyden’s is never straight – he works with spheres, verticals or diagonals. The perspective changes constantly, including in the photographs he took from the airplane window on his travels to India, Nepal, China and Japan. In his studio in 's-Hertogenbosch, located almost next to the Gothic St. James Cathedral, the worlds came together. His studio was the laboratory and figured repeatedly in his work. It thus became an archetypal symbol for the work – and the 'thinking room' of the artist.
His oeuvre is a growing universe, in which small and large scale, complexity and simplicity coexist. It made an indelible impression on many of us. Nobody sees a horizon as a straight line anymore. A photo from an airplane window will never be taken again without bringing forth the image that he managed to tackle in countless photographs, screen prints and paintings. Vanderheydens attention to the macro and the micro, the ordinary and the extraordinary have made possible an astounding beautiful body of work. More than that, however, it has alerted us to the power and importance of examining the world around us.