|Blue and pink pigments, synthetic resin burnt on cardboard mounted on panel|
"Fifty years. Fifty years now that this painting was created. Memory is otherwise. What remains is certainly more subjective than anything.
Yves had received the cardboards; he carefully had them framed. It was huge and so heavy. The transportation had to be organized, the models hired, Elena, Gilles, the photographers, Pierre Joly and Véra Cardot, the cameraman, the artist Kosta Alex as the fake stage fireman, and some help for the handling. The setting was surrealist, in this industrial warehouse, with the cold, this water and the noise from the blaze of the flame-thrower which Yves would manipulate with apparent ease when it was actually weighing over forty kilos.
Looking back on these pictures, I seem all huddled up in this corner, sat, 4 or 5 month pregnant. The atmosphere is tense; we were all aware we were attending a historical event. And yet, nothing is pure chance, he was striving methodically; his focus was impressive, on the edge of rupture: we were all fascinated. He would go from one panel to the other, positioning the girls differently for every one of them, imagining choreographies and settings beyond our understanding, as it is obvious that a wet body cannot leave any marks before being disclosed by the fire’s magic; just like the image suddenly showing up in the photographer’s lab, to the difference there was no possible cheating. With the short film and the many pictures recounting the event, we become aware of the physical feat demanded by the creation of these works.
“Art is made using love.” That of the mother or the father who, after several months of sleepless nights, are ready, for the umpteenth time, to hold the child in their arms, unaware of their own pains, rapt by the love of the other. For Yves, I think that lots and lots of love was necessary, all through his career. That day was extraordinary, in all respects.
This painting, which is for me THE absolute chef d’oeuvre, was this close not to exist. The session was over, he had exerted all his strength, he was drying himself, seated, trying to catch his breath. I see in the left-hand corner of the studio a panel Yves had not yet revealed. The fire had to be rekindled; the models witnessed, fascinated like all of us, the completion of this major work of Yves, and, I’m convinced, of 20th Century Art. I felt bad about this during years; I thought I shouldn’t have told him. I felt guilty for what happened a few weeks later."
Excerpt from the book "Incandescence" by Frédéric Prot, 5 continents editions, Milan, Italy, 2012
“The deepest thing in man is his skin.” (Valery)
The horizon is the most distant point where earth and sky seem to be welding their depth in order to be one. In the same way, when the skin is squeezed, it bears one off to its buried domain, its reserve of power. Of this feeling, Yves Klein obtained an impossible image of this sensation.
In 1961, in the workshops of the Centre d'Essai de Gaz de France, a naked model, dripping with water, rolled over cardboard, imprinting her flesh. The model left her print, a tiny invisible layer. A flame then came into play. The cardboard darkened. And then a blurred image emerged from this flesh, in its dull ochre light. The tanned shape of the breasts and thighs materialized as a halo. It surfaced. The blurred contours could almost be mistaken for limbs. Beautiful and sensitive image of a diffuse flesh from which a denser flesh barely emerges. Sweet unity of the element. All is the work of color here: a latent, orangey ochre presence washes over a visible, brownish ochre presence.
“This world of color is a latent and mysterious world suspected of concealing a far greater power than that contained in the atom, yet almost incommensurable.” Yves Klein had experienced this feeling of body to body impregnation lying on the beach in Nice, reassessing the uniform sky in his first monochrome. This initiation was to inform all his life, both as painter and man: “I did not like nothingness, and this is how I came to know the void, the deepest void, deep blue! Having arrived at the monochrome adventure . . . I, without the ‘I,’ became one with life itself. All my gestures, movements, activities, and creations were this original, or essential life itself.”
Blue is “the most abstract thing in tangible and visible nature,” wrote Yves Klein. So the only reality he can recall is unabridged infinity, sea and sky. Yves Klein is associated in his being to the imagination of air and fire, which are far rarer than those of water and earth. A brilliant flame in the air of the sky, infinitely fine, “infinite matter holding color in its volume, but without ever being enclosed.” In its vast uniform blue, it is this power with no action we subscribe to, in its translucence and immateriality. The peculiarity of the aerial dream is that its depth is its dimension and all its dimension. Bottomless escape in dripping air promoting flight. The absolute becomes perceptible. And by experiencing it on its flesh, it becomes miraculously tangible.
The flesh of the world is this mysterious element. In the silent orange atmosphere where all light and all noise are deadened, the element central to being is invisible, waiting, “Full of leaden ochre skies and drowned forests, Flowers of flesh blooming in starry woods.” (Rimbaud)