'My paintings represent poetic events,' Yves Klein boldly proclaimed (Yves Klein cited by S. Stich, Yves Klein, 1994, p. 67). Indeed, Klein's artworks were conceived not simply as aesthetic objects, but as spiritual catalysts that could expand one's perceptions and experiences of the world, and were seamlessly connected to his diverse performance-based endeavours through which he articulated his unique vision of art. Colour was central to his enterprise, as Klein seized upon the ability of pure fields of colour to immerse the viewer and engender a sense of freedom through both a somatic and emotional response. Part of Klein's series of sponge reliefs, Fourmillement rose (RE 35) is a vibrant celebration of the reddish pink hue that Klein strongly associated with the force of life.
As Klein explained, 'I did not like colours ground with oil. They seemed dead. What pleased me above all was pure pigments in powder like the ones I often saw at the wholesale colour dealers. They had a burst of natural and extraordinarily autonomous life. It was truly colour in itself. Living and tangible colour material.I was quite charmed by the possibility of leaving the grains of pigment in total freedom, as they exist in powder' (ibid.,p. 59). To this end, Klein developed a method for affixing powdered pigment directly to various surfaces using a unique blend of binders that preserved the colours' granular texture and brilliance. Fourmillement rose beautifully captures the feeling of colour bursting from the canvas that Klein avidly sought. The title, which can be translated as 'Swarming Rose,' conveys Klein's sense of the canvas teeming with grains of pigment that are virtually alive. In keeping with his preference for colour suffusing the viewer's field of vision and able even to 'impregnate' the viewer's mind, (which Klein believed could absorb it like a sponge), the colour becomes a complete environment wrapping around the edge of the canvas.
Although Klein is typically associated with the ultramarine pigment that he named International Klein Blue, shades of 'rose' were also important to him. Klein claimed that, 'Red, in its combinations with other colours, occupies a place of dominance' (Yves Klein cited by J.-P. Ledeur, Yves Klein, 1999, p. 128). As blue's double, it alludes to the flesh while blue refers to soul. This contrast of the carnal versus the spiritual is tied to his interest in both Christianity and the mystic principles of Rosicrucianism.
Klein's sponge reliefs are significant as they wed Klein's practices in both painting and sculpture. Attaching dried sponges saturated with pigment to the canvas allowed Klein to create a dynamic composition without using line, as he felt that line encroached on the total sense of freedom that he wanted to achieve. The visually evocative composition of Fourmillement rose telescopes a gamut of organic forms - from a lunar landscape to the ocean floor to a microcosm of cells - in a series of poetic correspondences.