The Dutch Zero or Nul movement never had a common ideological starting point. Nul never revolted against abuse or inhumanities, like the members of Cobra, who were deeply disappointed by postwar society. Moreover, Nul was an optimistic movement.
The members of Nul, (Schoonhoven, Peeters, Armando and Henderikse), aimed to unveil the beauties of modern reality, and not to comment on it, or even moralize it. They were of the opinion that a bridge should be built between art and society in an impersonal way, without involving any emotion. Ready mades, monochromes, seriality and repetition would become important sources of inspiration, expressed with unconventional means like barbed wire, coins, cotton wool, wall paper, artificial fur or cork. The artists never cared too much about art, but sought to reproduce detached visual information.
Jan Schoonhoven was to become the artist that would work most consistently in this manner. Schoonhoven concentrated on his famous oeuvre of white papier-mâché compositions, only after five o'clock in the afternoon. Until his retirement he had a full position with the PTT (the Dutch post). Similar as in his art, he had a compulsory need for regularity and order in his life and out of sheer necessity he hung on to it for such a long time.
He found his definitive handwriting or style at the beginning of the 1960s: the varied white papier-mâché reliefs next to drawings filled with systematic repetitions he produced in the evenings and during the weekends.
It was never Schoonhoven's goal to create new kinds of forms. His reliefs can for example consist of deductions from wall grills, or Venetian blinds. In the spirit of Nul he wished to show us the beauties of modern life.
The present lot is constructed of dozens of white painted pieces of cardboard and shows us the true power and genius of Schoonhoven: a cool and objective reproduction of a facet of reality combined with the strong presence of warmth, poetry and a very personal hand. It is a human abstraction at its best.
"The principal task of Zero is to show the truth in its essence, the true reality of materials, of localised objects in an isolated clarity. Zero's method is determined by its starting-point." (Jan Schoonhoven, quoted in: exh. cat. Antwerp, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Zero Internationaal Antwerpen, 24 November 1979-24 February 1980 (unpaged))