Middle of the ocean

In 1971, Ger van Elk sailed with a block of beech wood to a spot in the middle of the ocean, somewhere between Ireland and Newfoundland, at the intersection of two ocean winds, where he painted the block white. He chose this location because the air is so pure that no dust can settle on the wet paint.

Purity and beauty

With this method, he refers to the Chinese tradition of imperial lacquerware, which was also often painted on the open sea, so that not a single speck of dust could settle on the wet paint and spoil the perfectly flat surface of the paintwork. Due to this connection, and the colour white, the small work refers to concepts such as purity and beauty.

‘European answer’

Moreover, La Pièce is a ‘European answer’ to the huge dimensions of the sculptures made by several American minimal and land art artists at that time, such as Richard Serra, Robert Smithson and Walter de Maria. Van Elk described his small beech wood artwork as ‘the maximum effort for a minimal result’.