Jan J. Schoonhoven

Zero is not geared to geometry. Although this should be clear in itself, it becomes unmistakable when you compare Zero products with truly geometric objects. Of course, geometry plays a role in the art of Zero – it is just that it is not a central one. Zero doesn’t want geometric action. Geometry serves only as a means of establishing meaning. With Zero, the geometric relation arises from repetition, from sequencing. This order is based on the lack of a preference. The absence of the preference for specifying places and points within the products of art, the absence of a definitive emphasis, this is a basic principle of Zero, and a fundamental requirement for isolating reality. This explains why the geometric aspect remains extremely simple. It is limited to the organisation of mostly uncomplicated forms that are real and derived from reality. First and foremost, Zero brings a new understanding of reality, according to which the artist’s individualism is reduced to a minimum. The Zero artist limits himself to selecting, to extracting pieces of reality (of material reality as well as derived ideas of reality) and to presenting them in a manner that is as uninvolved as possible. The elimination of distracting personal feelings is a core principle of Zero. Zero accepts things as they are, without changing them for artificial reasons, and only makes corrections in order to enhance the appearance of reality. Corrections only serve to extract and condense pieces of reality. Time and space are virtually synonymous. The repetition of a motif, a thing, an object, a piece of detached reality contains not only rhythm and time but also the impression, created through the repetition, that time is limited. This contrast that results from the sequential order, despite the monotony that it brings with it, takes on the greatest possible subliminal tension. Zero refrains from explicitly drawing attention to this fact but instead accepts it as a jarringelement of reality. Presenting the essence of reality is the primary goal of Zero. The reality of materials, of concrete things in isolated clarity. Zero’s method is determined by its starting point. Zero does not seek to create a new form. The form is determined by the concrete reality. Zero sets out to deductively establish reality as art. 


Jan J. Schoonhoven, “Zero” (1964), in de nieuwe stijl, vol. 1, the new style, Amsterdam, 1965, p. 175.


In the exhibition:

Jan J. Schoonhoven
R 74-16, 1974
Cardboard, paper and latex paint on wood
118 × 118 × 5 cm
Private Sammlung / Private collection


Additional information about the artist