Executed circa 1961, F65 is one of Yves Kleins celebrated fire paintings. A revolutionary artist and a mystical visionary, Klein has here used fire as some other artists might use oil paints, yet the medium is also the message: fire is as much the subject as it is the means by which Klein has created F65. He seems to have trapped that natural element on the surface, containing not only the traces of combustion, but seemingly the process itself. By dowsing the cardboard support with water in varying amounts, he managed to control the extent to which the surface charred, resulting in the abstract forms visible here. Kleins technique also meant that the surface itself appears to glow with warmth, as though he had managed to capture the fire within the very substance of F65.
In formal terms, F65 reveals an artist exploring pioneering new modes of pictorial expression. At the same time, it relates to Kleins artistic vision, his quest to expose his viewers to the wonders of the universe, to invoke and inspire awe by revealing the boundless, the infinite, the Immaterial. 'The void has always been my major concern', he explained, 'and I take it for certain that in the heart of the void, as well as in the heart of man, there are burning fires' (Klein, quoted in P. Restany, Yves Klein, New York 1985, p. 227). Fire is one of the great fundamental elements, alongside earth and wind, and therefore an important underlying aspect of existence. Klein, who was fascinated by various mystical systems of belief and especially Rosicrucianism, himself used fire in a range of works, including sculptures in which the flames themselves were his intangible work. Fire appealed to Klein in part because it is so insubstantial and yet has the power to create or destroy. It was the gift of fire, according to classical mythology, that led to mans superiority over the animals. And it is mesmerising too. 'Fire is the ultra living element', Klein himself explained. 'It is intimate and universal. It lives in our heart. It lives in the sky... Among all phenomena, it is really the only one to which there can be so definitely attributed the opposing values of good and evil. It shines in Paradise, it burns in hell. It is gentleness and torture... It is a tutelary and a terrible divinity, both good and bad. It can contradict itself, thus, it is one of the principles of universal explanation' (Klein, quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Stuttgart 1994, p. 227).