JCJ Vanderheyden

’s-Hertogenbosch, 1928-2012


JCJ Vanderheyden (’s-Hertogenbosch, 1928-2012) made abstract paintings until the late 1960s. He then took a ten-year break from painting, which he devoted to audio and video experimentation and research of abstract notions like time, light and space in chambers he had constructed himself. He also took up travelling, visiting places such as Tibet (1979, 1986), China (1989) and the North Pole (1990). On his journeys, he studied time, light and space, exploring the visual possibilities of boundaries, emptiness and reflection.

When he returned to painting, his recurring motifs had come to be landscapes and skies, framed by windows, doors and check patterns. He is always probing the field where painting and photography meet. Or rather: where the camera lens meets the human eye, microscopy meets macroscopy, and the visible meets what we can only guess at. Constantly looking to establish connections – to old masters, in time and space, or even to the transcendental – it’s as if he’s searching for what’s hidden behind or between the things around us. His “portals” and “windows” are particular examples of offering a perspective into a different, more spiritual world. 

The layout of the Norbertine sisters’ Castle Chamber at St. Catharinadal is defined by three doors and a window. Connecting the old castle to a newer building, the chamber is a passageway from the sisters’ monastic cells to the period rooms. The Castle Chamber will indirectly take you to a secluded place or to the chapel. 

For this space, the curators are considering Vanderheyden’s aforementioned portal vistas. The artist, who, barring his travels and studies at Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, lived and worked in ’s-Hertogenbosch for his entire life, is well represented in the collection of Noordbrabants Museum in that city. The museum staff were very enthusiastic about arranging a confrontation between Vanderheyden’s minimal art with the historic surroundings and contemplative atmosphere of the monastery. 

Starting in 1977, Vanderheyden has held numerous solo exhibitions, including those in Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (1983), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (1990 and 2011), and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (2001). In 1982, he participated in the international exhibition “documenta 7” in Kassel (D).