The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
'Groot kwadratenreliëf' by the Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven is made of papier-mâché. It consists of hundreds of small squares which are all slightly different because they have been made by hand. The relief has been attached to a piece of chipboard and painted white. The light which falls onto this emphasizes the irregularities in the composition, which has a very rigid structure.
In 1960, the artists Schoonhoven, Armando, Henderikse and Peeters founded the Nul movement. The members of Nul thought that art should come from and be linked to everyday reality and they rejected everything that was personal and expressive which characterized art in the 1950s. They felt a relationship with the Zero artists in Germany, who were looking for an art that reflected reality in an objective way. Space, light and movement were important themes in the Zero movement. Schoonhoven explained: “We wanted an art which everyone could understand. No hierarchy, we opted for order, very objective, art as a product. The aim was to create the foundations of reality in an impersonal way as art.”
In order to express his ideas Schoonhoven opted for repeated geometric forms, creating structures in which no single element is emphasized. For Schoonhoven it was essential to prevent any preferences, and for this reason he did not isolate any fragments of reality as Armando and Peeters did, but worked with geometric elements and therefore neutral elements which he made himself. He did not wish to present concrete material facts, but show “the essence” of reality. For him, reality was structure and he banned colour: “Combining colours creates a subjective illusion.” The Nul artists were actually aiming for objectivity. Despite the use of neutral forms, a neutral composition and neutral use of colour, Schoonhoven’s reliefs are not sterile. The small irregularities resulting from the fact that the work is made by hand, emphasized by the way light falls on it, gives the work vitality.
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