‘I seek to individualise colour for I have reached the conclusion that each colour expresses a living world and I express these worlds in my painting’
(Y. Klein, quoted in K. Ottman, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Paris 2007, p. 12).
Yves Klein's brilliant IKB 182, 1961, is one of the artist’s influential and celebrated blue monochromes. The intimate scale of IKB 182 draws the viewer into the depths of monochromatic colour, ostensibly transmuting the material substance of the painting into an incorporeal quality, tranquil and serene. Nowhere can the eye settle on a fixed point, leaving space for the viewer to truly experience the pure colour, free to instil his or her own meaning into the work. These meditative surfaces suffused with the deepest hue of the sky rapidly propelled Klein to international fame as ‘Yves le Monochrome’ far beyond the borders of France. Forming the backbone of his oeuvre, Klein’s monochromes are the purest expression of his concept of what he termed the ‘zone of immateriality’ that resided outside the earthly realms of conventional time and space.
Klein’s profound relationship with colour stemmed from what he considered its ‘infinite presence’ and the emotive reaction it had the power to evoke. He sustained the belief that pure colour represented something in itself, with no need for additional pictorial elements. Klein was deeply drawn to the powerfully saturated nature of the colour blue that recalled for him the transcendental experience he felt when staring into the vast Mediterranean Sea and sky. This reaction to such intense colour, coupled with the profound metaphysical conversations he had with friends such as Claude Pascal and Armand Fernandez, led Klein to attempt to formulate a way to manifest the blue purity of the sea and sky as the embodiment of the human condition of existence. He developed the purest and most intense ultramarine he could, a blue he called International Klein Blue. With this blue, Klein felt at last able to express his personal sense of life, as an autonomous realm whose twin poles were infinite distance and immediate presence. IBK 182 is an exquisite example of Klein’s concept of the ‘infinite presence’. The rich blue pigment sits on the surface of the canvas, simply existing to exist as living and tangible material, imbued with the power to transfer the viewer to this unearthly plane of being.
It was vital that Klein’s monochromes retained their intense purity of colour. He found that by using synthetic resin he could bind pigments without altering their intense purity. The result is a matte, unreflecting paint that saturates the surface of the canvas, creating an effect that Klein termed as poetic energy, or pure energy, imbuing the canvas with a life of its own. ‘For me’ he said 'each nuance of colour is, in some way, an individual, a being that is of the same race as the basic colour but clearly possesses a unique character and a distinct, personal soul’ (Y. Klein, quoted in K. Ottman, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Paris 2007, p. 12).