On Lapis Lazuli

In the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the experience of modern art is pretty intense. Everything (famous) is there in its original material form, mind-boggling example after mind-boggling example. By the time one comes to the end, one’s mind is pretty boggled, unless one hasn’t been paying attention. Then, footsore, frazzled and so on, one comes across the vast void of Yves Klein’s monochrome blue painting.


I sat in front of it for a long time, allowing the magical color to fill me and empty out all the intensities, layer upon layer, that the museum generates. The blue is a visceral, sensual experience but empty of concepts. Ah…

Klein was trained as a gilder, and it was his craftsman’s eye and experience that drew him to the intense colours he used – blue, gold, vermilion – the colours of European sacred art. His achievement seems to have been in the stripping away of the conceptual content, leaving the pure sensual experience of the (conceptual) void.

lapis x 4

Today I got these four square slabs of lapis lazuli – which shares the chemistry of Klein’s pigment. I wonder if my partial colour-blindness has anything to do with the strength of my reaction to this pigment. I have trouble distinguishing subtle shades of red and green, but blue is unambiguous.

  1. Oddly, though i genuinely love the stone, Klein’s use of the colour leaves me quite cold… Then again, although my 3D vision is challenged, i am not in any way colour-blind. Who knows?

  2. mary fitzsimons said:

    its a heavenly colour, of unbodied bliss

  3. Caili'n Pradhan said:

    I love your lapis interpretation. The blue in Kleins work is my favourite blue and conjours thoughts of many things but Afghanistan is one because I read “Blue is the colour of Heaven” and loved it. Caili’n

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