An elegant arrangement of amorphous forms in shades of black and gray, this 1957 painted relief conjures a sense of a magical world of natural growth through the unforced harmony of its composition. Highlighted by a single yellow painted shape, the composition is defined by the radiance of this near fluorescent color and the shadows cast by the form's volume onto the pure white background.
Arp determined early in his career that he did not wish to work from nature, as so many artists had before him, but rather endeavored to "be natural...I remember a discussion with Mondrian in which he distinguished between art and nature, saying that art is artificial and nature natural. I do not share his opinion. I believe that nature is not in opposition to art. Art is of natural origin and is sublimated and spiritualized" ("Hans Arp: 'Art is a fruit'," 1948, in M. Jean, ed., Jean (Hans) Arp: Collected French writings, Poems, Essays, Memories, London, 1963, p. 241). As nature never stops producing, he continually searched for new constellations of form through the example of stars, clouds, plants, animals and man.
Discussing the way in which he allowed the unconscious laws of chance to determine the form and outcome of his work, Arp explained:
I allow myself to be guided by the work at the time of its birth, I have confidence in it. I don't reflect. The forms come, pleasing or strange, hostile, inexplicable, dumb or drowsy. They are born of themselves. It seems to me that I only have to move my hands. These lights, these shadows, that "chance" sends us, should be welcomed by us with astonishment and gratitude. The "chance," for example, that guides our fingers...[and]...the forms that then take shape, give us access to mysteries, reveal to us the profound sources of life...Very often, the colour which one selects blindly becomes the vibrant heart of the picture...It is sufficient to close one's eyes for the inner rhythm to pass into the hands with more purity. This transfer, this flux is still easier to control, to guide in a dark room. A great artist of the Stone Age knew how to conduct the thousands of voices that sang in him; he drew with his eyes turned inward (quoted in ibid., pp. 435-436).