Delineated verticals cross attenuated horizontals to form Jan Schoonhoven’s R74-18, a mesmerising grid of light and shade. At their crossing, perpendicular against perpendicular, they define some two hundred and eighty-nine interstices, each one a white cell, an isolated chamber, a shadowed recess. Within the multi-celled grid, light rebounds, illuminating planes, edges and vertexes and setting in motion a dynamic, rhythmic sequence. Seeking an objective, rational art, Schoonhoven, together with Armando, Jan Henderikse and Henk Peeters, was the founder of Nul, the Dutch branch of Zero: ‘Zero’s primary task is to reveal the essence of reality, the true reality of materials, of localized things in isolated clarity,’ Schoonhoven wrote in the new movement’s manifesto. ‘Its aim is to establish reality as art in an impersonal way’. Seeking the compromise between this essential, conceptual purity, and the need to give his art a physical, material form, Schoonhoven arrived at the idea of the third dimension, beginning to make wall-hanging reliefs in the late 1950s. Using papier-mâché and cardboard, and washing them in layers of white paint, Schoonhoven increasingly sought to eliminate the hand of the artist from his reliefs: ‘the individual role of the artist is kept to a minimum. The Zero artist only chooses, isolates parts of reality (materials as well as ideas taken from reality) and shows these in the most neutral manner.’ By the early 1970s, Schoonhoven was able to produce works of increasing complexity and scale, moving away from the limiting constraints which a domestic setting had previously placed on him. In this work, whose title functions as an index, ‘R’ indicating that the work is a relief, ‘74’ representing the year of its creation and ‘18’ denoting it was the eighteenth relief the artist produced during this year, these ideas reach their exquisite formal clarity. ‘The geometric aspect of Zero is created by the element of repetition, the placement in rows,’ Schoonhoven elaborated. ‘This order emerges from the need to avoid preference. The absence of preference for particular places and points in the work of art is essential to Zero and necessary to provide an isolated reality. The geometric side of Zero is consequently geared to extreme simplicity, an organization of very simple forms, a reality derived from that which actually exists’ (J. Schoonhoven, quoted in Armando et al., De nieuwe stijl, werk van de internationale avant-garde, deel 1, Amsterdam 1965, pp. 118-123).