'The gold of the ancient alchemists can actually be extracted from everything. But what is difficult is to discover the gift that is the philosophers stone and that exists in each of us (Y. Klein quoted in Yves Klein: A Retrospective, Nice, 2000).
Gold was part of Yves Klein's sacred triumvirate of colours, along with blue and pink. Of these, Klein explained that, 'All three live in one and the same state each impregnated in the other, all being perfectly independent, one from the other (Klein quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Stuttgart, 1994, p. 194). In 1959, the year MG 41 (Lâge dor) was created, Klein extended his monochrome painting to include gold panels. This was not just a change of colour but an expansion of Kleins ideas concerning the immaterial. Whereas blue was for Klein a colour of deep spiritual resonance immersed in a sense of the infinite and evocative of the Void, gold was a symbol of timeless purity, of both materiality and its opposite-- the immaterial.
This strange balance of the material and the immaterial in gold was perhaps best embodied in Kleins The Rutual for a Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility. This was a ritual as well as an artwork and was first enacted in 1959, he year that MG 41 (Lâge dor) was created. In it, Klein sold 'invisible paintings for a specified amount of gold leaf, half of which was scattered by the artist himself into the Seine. Klein often incorporated any remaining gold leaf into his Monogold works. His fascination with the metal had begun almost a decade earlier, when he had worked briefly in a picture framers workshop in London and been fascinated by the way that this substance moved and swayed in the slightest breeze. That contrast between its ephemerality and its role as a currency is one that Klein imbued with a near-mystical significance, also paying tribute to the gold leaf that adorned so many of the temples in Japan, where he had spent time as a student of judo and learnt to appreciate the beauty of rituals.
Klein was well aware of the philosophical implication of gold for the alchemists and exploited the affinity between alchemys belief in the transmutability of all material and his own aesthetic by adopting gold as a potent symbol of the ability of an element to cross the boundary between the material and immaterial worlds. Gold for Klein was the element and the colour that best asserted this principle of a material transforming itself into something spiritual. The highly ephemeral nature of gold leaf along with the intense resonance of its colour is combined in Kleins Monogold panels to create works that evoke a strong sense of the spiritual significance of both the colour and the material. Here, the texture of the applied gold leaf results in a surface that constantly shimmers and fluctuates in the light, perfectly demonstrating that tantalising and entrancing combination of the metals emphatically material character and its intangible, ephemeral, glowing immateriality, making MG 41 (Lâge) a perfect vision of the Void.