In October 1960 one of the most remarkable photographs in the history of post-war art was made: “Leap into the Void”. The artist Yves Klein is jumping off a roof edge and seems to be floating in space. Yves Klein (1928-1962) is considered one of the most important artists of what is now known as the ZERO movement. Besides being an artist, Klein was also an active and enthusiastic – black belt, 4th dan - judoka. During the fifties he lives in Japan for a while and writes a book on his favourite sport: ”Les Fondements du Judo”.

On a recent visit to Koen Vermeule's studio, I am shown a rare first edition of this handbook. Koen is likewise a keen judoka, 3rd dan, who hopes next year to match Klein's level, and who, like Yves Klein in his own day, immerses himself in the origins of judo, the ‘Kata’. The book comprises (action) photographs of Yves Klein and his Japanese instructor in hundreds of judo positions. They seem to be - no, they are - moments of action frozen in time, sometimes illustrated by sketches of posture and foot movements, almost like the choreography for a dance. The action, the momentum of a throw, frozen by a photograph into an aesthetic pose. In his essay on the work of Koen Vermeule, High Above Ground, (Zwolle 2012), Cornel Bierens makes reference to this relationship. 
Judo is, in fact, the discovery by the human body of a spiritual space (Y. Klein, 1958)

In several of Vermeule's paintings in the MIRROR ME exhibition, we see one or more figures that the artist has 'stilled' into their place in the setting of a street or a building, landscape or square. Vermeule is an accurate observer. He seems to be always searching for a particular moment, a shadow or a specific pose by a person.
In Vermeule’s paintings there are no photographic representations of a realistic situation. They are the studies and observations of an artist for whom “the discovery by the human body of a spiritual place” – to speak in terms of Klein – is a recurring theme. Just like the judo positions in the book, the movements are frozen, as in a film still. They are preceded by a movement and one will follow, but at the (snapshot) moment itself there is inertia. Rather than linear, however, Vermeule’s development has been cyclic. New subjects present themselves, old ones sometimes return. He believes in the Japanese Do: achieving control and perfection through immersion. Elements from judo that have shaped him recur in the work: strength, balance, elegance, lightness, beauty.

'Mirror Me' is the title of one of Koen Vermeule’s paintings in this exhibition. Mirror Me possibly displays yet more of the metaphysical aspect to his art: the imagination that surpasses the reality and acts as the "Leap into the Void”.

Paul van Rosmalen, October 2013