Monochrome Paper Reliefs – Jan Schoonhoven
I just couldn’t resist to pay homage to Jan Schoonhoven (1914 – 1994), and not because there is a beautiful exhibition of his work in Delft, The Netherlands or because he mainly worked with paper (cardboard and papier-mâché). It is for the simple reason that I utterly adore his bare, minimalistic, timelessness, abstract reliefs!
Schoonhoven is considered one of the most active and influential Dutch minimal artist of the late twentieth century. He is recognized for his usage of monochrome white color and serialized abstract reliefs. Born in Delft and being very much a local guy, Schoonhoven worked most of his life as a postal clerk and enjoyed the position’s daily structure. He was only able to create art during the late hours of the day and on weekends.
In 1960, Schoonhoven co-founded the avant-garde Nul-Group, the Dutch branch of the international Zero Movement, and befriended other European Zero-Group artists (like Piero Manzoni and Lucio Fontana) that sought to reduce art to a zero degree by simplifying compositions and using everyday materials. Schoonhoven’s turning point came in 1962, when he participated in and curated a Zero-Group exhibition at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Musuem. In 1967, upon winning the second prize at the Sao Paulo Art Biennial, Schoonhoven gained international recognition and fame.
Most of Schoonhoven’s reliefs are cardboard line sculpts in repetitive forms and strict schemes, free of any subject matter or highlights, with meaningless titles like “R71-36”. His works don’t convey emotions or political ideas, but rather attempt to reveal the beauty of the modern world without further analysis. Though Schoonhoven himself never said much about his own work, his everyday surroundings, such as the Delft pavements, rooftop tiles, stones and Dutch windows, were reflected in his art. At a closer glance, his reliefs miraculously change under different light conditions and you find that some of them are compiled from hundreds of hand-stacked labor pieces. In art circles, Schoonhoven is known as one of the most advanced artists of his generation and a great influence to fellow abstract artists of the late 60’s and 70’s.
For my Dutch paper art-lovers, if you wish to see an overview of Jan Schoonhoven’s artworks including his sketchbooks, drawings and reliefs, there is a highly recommended exhibition until the 14th of February 2016, at the Museum Prinsenhof in Delft, The Netherlands. Enjoy!