• Writings on fire

Article, 1959

Writings on fire

Yves Klein

"Fire for me is the future without forgetting the past. It is the memory of nature. (...) It is gentleness: [Fire] is gentleness and torture. It is cookery and it is apocalypse. It is a pleasure for the good child sitting prudently by the hearth; yet it punishes any disobedience when the child wishes to play too close to its flames. It is well-being and it is respect. It is a tutelary and a terrible divinity, both good and bad. It can contradict itself; thus it is one of the principles of universal explanation. On the other hand, one can, I believe, discuss the quality of fire from the point of view of aesthetic perfection. Fire is beautiful in itself, regardless."
Yves Klein, excerpt from « Lecture at The Sorbonne », 1959

"Some of my latest works have been tombs and coffins. Within the same span of time, I have succeeded in painting with fire, using very powerful and searing gas flames, some ten to twelve feet in height, to lick the surface of a painting in order to record the spontaneous trace of fire.
In sum, my goal is twofold: first of all, to register the trace of human sentimentality in present-day civilization; secondly, to register the trace of fire which has engendered this very same civilization. And this because the void has always been my con- stant preoccupation; and I hold that in the heart of the void as well as in the heart of man, fires are burning.
All facts that are contradictory are genuine principles of universal explanation. Fire is truly one of these genuine principles that are essentially self-contradictory, being at the same time mildness and torture in the heart and origin of our civilization. What provokes my search for the trace of sentimentality through the fabrication of super-graves and super-coffins, what provokes my search for the trace of fire, why should I search for the Trace itself?
Because every work of creation, regardless of its cosmic order, is the representation of a pure phenomenology – All that is phenomena manifests itself. This manifestation is always distinct from form and is the essence of the immediate, the trace of the Immediate."
Yves Klein, excerpt from « Chelsea Hotel Manifesto», 1961

“ Fire is clearly to be included in this. I must have its imprint!”
Yves Klein, “Truth Becomes Reality or Why Not!”