By Emma Christie – 23rd November 2016

Tate Liverpool are showing the Yves Klein (1928-1962) exhibition, running from 21 October 2016 to 5 March 2017.

The gallery space features masses of recurring blue. Circa 1956, Klein began working on ‘Single colour proposals’. In 1958, he achieved his own unique blue – International Klein Blue (IKB), becoming his main colour use in his works thereafter.  In ‘Blue Sponge Relief’, I was captured by how the use of IKB with a natural sponge’s pitted holes and bumps plays with your mind’s idea of reality.  New tones and hues are discovered in what is actually a single colour painting, and what was once natural, becomes glaringly artificial. An illusion of sorts.

The largest scale pieces are from his Anthropometry series’ c. 1960. These predominately use IKB, and the naked female form as ‘living paintbrushes’. The smeared pieces look mermaid-like, otherworldly. The printed works remind me of Rorschach’s Inkblot tests, and blind-time artist Robert Morris. There’s a video showing the performances behind creating the anthropometry art. At times the women look creaturesque in their actions. At others, they are as graceful and poised as dancers. It is mesmerizing to watch as they place their marks.

Klein then departs from blue to capture elemental phenomena. The fire paintings remind me of chemigrams, with the expressiveness and layering of the marks. The performance videos show an awareness of the camera, that he understands the idea of ‘spectacle.’ One of the films shows him using air to bend the flow of water from a tap. A comment on controlling the uncontrollable, or performing the impossible perhaps.

This leads onto ‘Leap into the Void.’ A shocking staged photo of Klein diving of a building onto the street below. It’s fascinating and puzzling working out artistically and physically how he could have created this piece in the 1960s, knowing that the actual dive isn’t staged. Again, challenging the spectator to push beyond what’s viewed as possible.

Klein intended to change how we see, experience and think about art. This exhibition can certainly start that.