Strange. I don't remember much. Some stories mention a boat, but considering the strong current of the Rhine, that would have been impossible. One day in the autumn, artist and friend Hans Peter Avermann and I took a bucket of whitewash and a big brush and signed the bridge. He would have been able to remember it, too. Unfortunately he's no longer with us. The Rhine was extremely low, by the piers you could get to the left bank (Oberkassel). The Rhine began to rise rapidly and the signature was underwater and the pier washed clean. No, we didn't take a photo. Stupid and a shame, but that's how it was then. The bridge, an American Bailey bridge, has disappeared, too. I'm the only one left. Regards, Jan. (email to PvR, 28 april 2015)

In 1960 Jan Henderikse signs the Oberkasseler Brücke in his new hometown of Düsseldorf. This act marks an artistic departure in his life. He had left the Netherlands and his native city of Delft the previous year. He had also left painting permanently behind him. With his great friend and mentor Jan Schoonhoven – ‘the old master’, as Henderikse continues to call him to this day – he founds the NUL group together with Armando and Henk Peeters. herman de vries also joins them. Interesting developments are afoot in Düsseldorf. ZERO is founded there by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene and Uecker joins them. There are a couple of avant-garde galleries, Gunar and Schmela, where the new art is exhibited.

ZERO in Germany, NUL in the Netherlands, AZIMUTH in Italy and NOUVEAU RÉALISME in France: movements with parallel ways of thinking and objectives and with mutual, friendly connections. What they have in common is the rejection of the art of painting and of colour in general. It has to be monochrome and preferably white. Further important characteristics are seriality (mass-production-style manufacture of works of art) and repetition (repeating the same pattern).

For Henderikse art is not so much an object but rather an idea. He starts with objects that already exist and that were not produced as art. Corks, license plates, coins, odds and ends: Henderikse assembles them into reliefs. He is the ‘ready-mades’ man. Creating art by not making it yourself is actually his ultimate challenge. Sculptures with neon designs are something he has often made, or had made. In Antwerp, six months ago, he wrote the words ‘nul’ and ‘ZERO’ a number of times on a sheet of paper. A glassblower and neon technician will execute these in neon. Jan is enthusiastic about the blocks, at the same time transformers, on which the neon letters will have to be mounted. He has already signed and numbered them, two series of six. The fact that some of it has yet to be made is of no importance. The signature precedes the artwork itself.

After all, for Jan Henderikse art is more an idea rather than an object.

Paul van Rosmalen