Jan Schoonhoven's work came to prominence with the formation of the Dutch-based Informal Group in 1957, later to become the NUL Group. Around the same time German artists Otto Piene, Heinz Mack founded the Group ZERO in Düsseldorf, a year later followed by Günther Uecker. Advocating the integration of light and movement into a two-dimensional painted surface, they wanted to emphasize expression by means of monolithic planes and repetitive forms. The first major exhibition of this international group, called NUL, took place in 1962 in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
By the end of the 1960s, the system in Schoonhoven's work became more and more important, the personal touch of the artist less and less. Even though Schoonhoven had strict limitations for himself, he thought the hand of the artist always needed to be visible. A mission in which he would succeed. His art echoes various Post-War art movements, though never losing any of its own identity. Gradually the idea of reliefs carried out by assistants started to grow on Schoonhoven in the contrary to his earlier feelings about the matter. It would become possible to increase production, which the market also demanded, and to keep working on new ideas at the same time. Larger reliefs could now be realized without the artist losing time, or with chances he would leave a work unfinished. Thus the artist started to experiment with the size of his reliefs in the 1970s.
"Bigger" not just had an aesthetic meaning to Schoonhoven. He linked the larger simple arrangements of horizontals and verticals with the subtle aesthetics based on sobriety and regularity to his vision of an anti-hierarchal society, relating to the masses. Schoonhoven spent his whole life studying the French and Russian revolutions. He had a strong tendency towards anonymity. By increasing the size of his reliefs he could make these ideas even more visual than they already were. His career at the PTT post office is a perfect example of how these ideas were already incorporated in his daily life. Daily routine, strict working hours, the same tasks for years and years defined his career. He was not interested in the hierarchy and its inherent promotion system at the PTT. He was perfectly happy with the way things were, day in day out and by not standing out. 'It's nice to not be noticed, to fit into things. Every individual is a bit special. But he is also part of a group, a class, and this is also agreeable. You're never alone.' (see: J. Bernlef and K. Schippers, 'Gesprek met J.J. Schoonhoven', De Gids, vol. 131, no. 2/3, 1968, pp. 130-140.)
The present large lot from 1974 was made during the period Schoonhoven's wife Anita was severely ill, an enervating event that did not affect his orderly life apart from the fact he stayed sober during these years. As always, the play of light is key to the work.