“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)
Excerpt from the book "Incandescence" by Frédéric Prot, 5 continents editions, Milan, Italy, 2012