Yves Klein-MG17- 1960

There is an anecdote about the young Yves Klein (see Dreams of Desire 48 (Blue) lying on a beach in the South of France with his friends, the artist Arman and the poet Claude Pascal, where they decided to divide up the universe between themselves.  Arman wanted the riches of the earth and tangible, material things, while Pascal claimed words and language itself. Klein chose ‘le vide’, the void, ethereal space empty of all matter.

Klein spent his career, cut short by his early death at 34, giving pictorial representation to the void, most famously in his blue monochromes using his own patented colour International Klein Blue, but also in the fire paintings, painted in his last years. Klein was something of an esotericist and was familiar with Rosicrucian and alchemical doctrine. As he noted ‘…fires burn in the heart of the void as well as in the heart of man.

The above golden monochrome is part of a triptych (the other colours are blue and pink) that represents the colours seen in the heart of a flame. In a lecture given at the Sorbonne, Klein further elaborated on the transformative and unifying  nature of fire . ‘Fire is both intimate and universal. It resides in our hearts; it resides in a candle. It rises up from the depths of matter, and it conceals itself, latent, contained, like hate or patience. Of all phenomena it is the only one that so obviously embodies two opposite values: good and evil. It shines in paradise, and burns in hell. It can contradict itself, and therefore it is one of the universal principles.’  Such comments are reminiscent of the patron philosopher of occultists, the gnomic Heraclitus who remarked that ‘everything is fire.’

Klein made his fire paintings using a flame thrower on specially treated cardboard. Supplementary techniques were also involved to evoke a synthesis of the four classic elements, for example a nude model would be moistened with water and directed to leave an imprint on the surface before Klein applied the flame.

73 thoughts on “Fire

  1. Dead at 34. What a shame. This is a really interesting effect on the cardboard. I especially like the more intricate patterns: the first one and the third from last in the series. Fires burn in the heart of the void? That doesn’t quite work though does it. Fire cannot burn without fuel, fuel implies matter, matter negates the void.

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      1. Thanks Roger I do like this post and I like Yves Klein a lot. I have been rather unproductive, I only managed one new poem and nothing else at all last week.i have been fighting a cold and busy with my paying job. Ah well I can always re-release my back catalogue. I have been collaborating with La Aquileana and that we be posted on her site tomorrow. You know what I think about fire, just like Heraclitus I think everything is fire. I hope the workshops were productive.

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      2. The weekend was great and the workshops were so much fun. I hope the participants enjoyed them as much as I did. I know they did: we all ended the second one in song: it was crazy … so much fun. Now, this from Octavio Paz:

        At the Edge of Obsidian (my book, intro)

        “todo se quema, el universo es llama,
        arde la misma nada que no es nada
        sino un pensar en llamas, al fin humo:”

        Piedra de sol
        Octavio Paz

        “everything burns, the universe flames,
        nothingness burns itself into nothing
        but a thought in flames: nothing but smoke”

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  2. Wow. Some of these look like fire was used but most don’t at all. What a unique technique. The body outlines esp. reminds me of the other ones with the body outlines. It’s pretty cool to look for pictures in the pictures.

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    1. Thank you… I have a particularly fondness for Klein. I will send you a link to my previous post and also my short story A Promise of Paradise which I think you will enjoy.


      1. Part three I somehow missed, I’m hoping there is a turn in this tale…one I’ve been hoping for, Sir. Off to read it now.
        To me, Mister, you do in the loveliest way possible have the best of practical talent. And I wish I could employ you to write for me…that is if I were in the position to do so. Maybe in another life I did so, because I yearn for it so sincerely with talented writers.

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      2. You are far too kind and you do yourself a disservice. I try to make my recondite and obscure knowledge entertaining and not too dry, hopefully it isn’t a snooze fest.

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      1. How very true and thank you for the reassurance. I suppose it is more the inanities of the art market, Klein is considered a starter artist for those dipping their toes. Still cost you a couple of million.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As in starter home…the art market is ludicrous. Regardless of the market’s opinion Klein will always have a special place in my heart. Now if only I can scratch together a couple of million…


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