Media Search Reset






  • LARRY POONS I PRESS I LE SOIR I MAD I 07.02.2018.pdf


    United States

    LARRY POONS I PRESS I LE SOIR I MAD I 07.02.2018.pdf









  • 1/25/2018

    United States



  • 1/24/2018






















    TEFAF Maastricht 2017 has 270 exhibitors. Seven of those were invited to participate in the exhibition La Grande Horizontale, curated by Penelope Curtis, Director of the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, former Director of Tate Britain. Roberto Polo Gallery is one of those. It presents eight archival pigment prints on fine art paper by Sadie Murdoch, British visual artist. These works were originally conceived for her exhibition Modelling Charlotte Perriand, curated by Penelope Curtis in 2007, at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. ING bank selected 17 highlights at TEFAF Maastricht 2017. Roberto Polo Gallery's presentation of Sadie Murdoch is one of those.

  • Le contemporain et le "Curated" | by Claude Lorent | La Libre



    The contemporary and the ‘Curated’
    Still a tad hesitatingly, contemporary art is managing to insinuate itself into the ranks of the moderns and even starting to impose itself in a few of the participating galleries at TEFAF.
    The Maastricht fair has been wide open to modern art and to post-war art for quite a while. But contemporary art is starting to impose itself progressively and prudently in the stands of some of the exhibiting galleries specialising in modern art, as well as galleries such as Maruani Mercier, who is at the fair for the first time, and Keitelman, who is a regular, and even—two galleries from Brussels! The former does present some modern pieces: a Delvaux (57), a Brauner (56) an Arp sculpture from 1953 and some works by Man Ray, but mainly contemporary ensembles by Clemente, Sherrie Levine, Gavin Turk, Bleckner, Carl André, as well as two Mangolds (77 and 79), a Peter Halley (2016), a Christopher Wool... The Keitelman Gallery went for Mounir Fatmi (from its current exhibition), Stella, Lee Ufan, Broodthaers, Klein, Hantaï, as well as Calder and Miró. Very high quality indeed!
    The Curtis selection
    For the most part, contemporary art will be concentrated in the ‘Curated’ section, a selection by Penelope Curtis, who after her stint at Tate Britain, is now the Director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. The selected galleries were required to exhibit artists that have never before been shown in this kind of context. The theme was La Grande Horizontale, the reclining nude that, according to the curator, has a connection with sources or fountains, symbols of fertility and other erotic concepts. Of the seven galleries selected and invited by the curator—quite an honour, given the high standards of the fair—two are Belgian! Gallery Nadja Vilenne from Liège will be present with two works by Suchan Kinoshita (°Tokyo 1960, lives in Maastricht), of which the first, Table, is a Japanese-style black-lacquered turning table bearing some slide viewers. It is up to the spectator to check whether any of the slides feature a reclining nude… The second work is called Haïku pour Liège, and takes the shape of 4 vertical levels built from a collection of objects, a composition suggestive of a fountain, with water and time flowing down off it...
    The second Belgian invitee, Roberto Polo Gallery, proposes 8 archival pigment prints on fine art paper by British artist Sadie Murdoch, of, to name but one, inspired by the famous archive image from 1929 featuring modernist designer Charlotte Perriand reclining on the emblematic Chaise longue LC4, which she created in collaboration with Pierre Jeanneret and Le Corbusier in 1928.
    The other selected galleries are: Andriesse Eyck (Charlotte Dumas), Jean Brolly (Tremlett and Michel Verjus), Konrad Fischer (Thomas Schütte), Aurel Scheibler (E.W. Nay) and Vistamare (Spalletti).
    Claude Lorent
    One of the works presented in ‘Curated’ by Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels. Sadie Murdoch, Mirrored Photomontage, Part 1, 2007, archival pigment print on fine art paper mounted on conservation board, image 94 x 116.6 cm.

  • Doublé en pleine puissance picturale by Claude Lorent | La Libre



    Double Bill of Full-Blown Pictorial Power

    Two important solo exhibitions at Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels, one of works by Marc Maet from the 80’s and 90’s, the other of recent, heretofore unseen, work by Michaël de Kok.

    Upon being awarded the 1983 Prix de l’Europe de Peinture in Ostend, before long, Marc Maet enjoyed not just increasing national success, which had been building for a while anyway, but also a surge of international recognition, as he was subsequently invited to the São Paulo biennial and found himself a major gallery in New York.

    Against the tide of all conceptual and installationist tendencies in force at the time, he pursued fundamental pictorial research, questioning modernity, while including it in his work, in a spirit of both critical contemplation and prospective research.

    With him there was no question of post-modernity. Quite the opposite, as he was working on patterns (repetition of images, print, word usage, the use of various materials...) developed in collaboration with a number of renowned contemporary artists, and took it upon himself to pursue research in these creative directions and processes.

    In fact, he maintained his open, experimental approach to his pictorial practice, which was, however, pushed aside by a number of less than perspicacious decision makers who were unresponsive to the deeper reflection and the idiosyncrasy such an approach entailed.

    So, as he had announced earlier, in 1992, Jan Hoet went on to exclude him from Documenta.

    Non-Conformist Pictorial Quality

    The present exhibition at Roberto Polo Gallery focuses precisely on Marc Maet’s works from 1988 to 1995. They reveal the scope and power of a pictorial language that is not content with creating an original, albeit abstract image but also takes advantage of the pictorial potential it generates to conjure up maximal expressivity and power. His own, very expressionist, earlier personal experiences, and his analytic view of the least formal type of modernity have contributed amply to this uncompromising engagement. Besides the idiosyncratic quality of every single one of them and their integration in the progression of an audacious, non-conformist modernity, as a whole the pictures at the exhibition exude a quite touching vigour, a manifest energy, a reflexion on the foundation of pictorial quality and hence a kind of suggestive beauty that shakes up established orthodoxies. What we are facing here is painting at the highest standard.

    Landscapely Emotions

    A very different atmosphere emanates from the paintings by Michaël de Kok, who having presented us two years ago with a series of ethereal landscapes, is back with a series of abstract paintings. We are once more facing all the chromatic subtlety of his earlier landscapes, only this time it is as if he has only allowed impressions onto his canvases, and has erased all reminders of his figurative subject. He is inviting us to experience and feel what he must have perceived emotionally on contact with a generous natural environment. He is translating these perceptions chromatically into stretches of paint that are so subtly treated they hardly materialise. These paintings are like atmospheres, the minute nuances of what may impregnate us in moments of personal and intense harmony with nature. Their dominant features and juxtapositions, and especially the edges, with their floating, mist-like nuances, transpose a range of persistent, even invasive impressions and the magic of these too ephemeral instants. By presenting us with these colour fields, he is inviting us to look, in order to share with us and convince us that painting, like music, can pervade and transport us just as much as would the magnificence of a landscape or the depth of a feeling. Claude Lorent

    “Michaël de Kok does not paint after nature. [...] He relies on memory and his recollections only to refresh a unique past and create a new present”
 Flor Bex, 2014

    Marc Maet, Kristal IV, 1994, acrylic and rose on canvas
(above). Marc Maet, Passion, 1990, acrylic and polyester on canvas, 130 x 100 cm. Courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery.

    Practical info

    Marc Maet I Passion and Michaël De Kok I Light. Roberto Polo Gallery, 8-12 rue Lebeau, 1000 Brussels. Until 19 March. Tuesdays to Fridays 14.00 – 18.00, Saturdays and Sundays 11.00 – 18.00.

    Michaël de Kok, Light 16, 2016, oil on canvas, 150 x 180 cm. Courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery.

    Michaël de Kok. Born in 1958 in Hilvarenbeek, The Netherlands. Lives and works in Tilburg (NL). Has been exhibited regularly since he beginning of the 80’s. Was a guest at the Bertrand Delacroix Gallery in New York in 2012.

    Marc Maet. Born in Schoten (Belgium) in 1955. Studies at the Ghent Royal Academy of Fine Arts and went on to become a teacher. He suffered from physical and psychological troubles and ended his life on 19 June 2000. Exhibited in Belgium, for instance at Ponton Temse (Jan Hoet, 1990), in Athens, São Paulo (biennial) and New York. He was selected by Barbara Rose to participate in Painting After Postmodernism I Belgium - USA. This is his second solo exhibition at Roberto Polo Gallery.



    United States




    Michaël de Kok and Marc Maet at Roberto Polo Gallery


    In his most recent work painter Michaël de Kok has let go of the figurative. His landscapes have become dynamic fields of colour. At Roberto Polo Gallery they are confronted with works by Marc Maet, dating back to about 1990: cosmic spaces, word images and an archaeological quest for the origins of painting.

    by Eric Rinckhout (translated by Raf Erzeel)

    Michaël de Kok (°1958 in Hilversum, The Netherlands) primarily made his name as a landscape painter. At first, his landscapes were constructed schematically, elaborated widely; they were panoramic, still and shadowless. Here and there a motorway and a bridge crossed the vista. Gradually, desolation began to dominate. The painter sprinkled mysterious, angular, abandoned buildings on his landscapes – like obstacles grabbing our attention, like symbols for man’s careless treatment of the landscape.
    But make no mistake: even though Michaël de Kok based his paintings on real landscapes, he was not looking for a topographical or climatological record. He painted from memory: his landscapes have always been recollections and dreams – explorations in paint, odes to the freedom of the mind and of painting.
    Works such as ‘Red Dusk’, ‘Beach’ and ‘Highland 2’, which he exhibited in 2014 at the Roberto Polo Gallery, were, with the benefit of hindsight, overtures to his more recent work. ‘Red Dusk’ showed a hint of a landscape, a composition in rust brown, grey and yellowy green, breathing a mystical peace and infinity. Sometimes a twisting brushstroke is enough to suggest a hill or dip.
    In his most recent 2016 paintings, Michaël de Kok seems to have definitively let go of the figurative. It is as if he has given the landscape a quarter turn, pushing the horizon vertically into an ‘upright’ position. He mostly works with two fields of colour meeting on a border, a ‘vertical horizon’ which is invariably under tension.

    In one of his works, this vertical borderline has been painted on a presumably yellow undercoat, on which the grubby pink and faded blue surfaces meet, leaving a ragged, discoloured edge; call it – from a figurative point of view – a ‘luminescent horizon’. In a number of paintings, the border between the fields of colour is a bold, angrily brushed line. Subtle traces of paint, fanning out, seem to be defying gravity.
    None of those fields of colour are really monochrome; the paint may be spread out evenly, with hardly visible brushstrokes, yet within the colour all sorts of hues bubble up, seeming to suggest leftovers of hills and valleys. The painter adds even more dynamism by applying oblique, differently variegated fields of colour at the edges of some works. In one case, the painter separates two surfaces radically by using two separate canvases and hanging them only about an inch apart.
    Although we are reminded of Barnett Newman’s oeuvre, Michaël de Kok clearly is on more of a personal quest. It seems like the painter is out to gain more freedom, leaving the figurative image behind as much as possible in order to indulge in the medium of paint, which he illuminates masterfully and in all its subtle hues. It can be no coincidence that the entire series is titled ‘Light’.

    Half of the exhibition space at the Roberto Polo Gallery is taken up by monumental work by Marc Maet (1955-2000). Although his work is also about extensive colour surfaces and – at first glance – the abstract, his painting is entirely different from Michaël de Kok’s. Underneath the wide fields of colour, word images often emerge, positioning his work more in the tradition of Magritte and Broodthaers.
    ‘It seems as if the painter is out to gain more freedom, leaving the figurative image behind as much as possible in order to indulge in the medium of paint, which he illuminates masterfully and in all its subtle hues.’
    Marc Maet was more of a searcher, looking for meaning and the hidden sense of life and love, for the purpose and origin of painting. He was an artist who gleaned images and conveyed messages, resigning himself to the utter inadequacy of his quest. Words such as ‘’t niets’ [nothingness] and ‘speak smile fax eat’ glimmer through the paint, as does the Latin verb ‘est’ [he or she is]. At the same time, there are compositions seemingly painting a starry sky, but really picturing a shattered expanse of stardust.
    Both painters have this in common: their subtle and tactile handling of paint. Slow observation is of the essence.



    United States

  • Painting After Postmodernism: a Manifesto Exhibition | by George Stolz | ArtReview


    United States



    United States




    Leo Copers in Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels
    Long live the museum graveyard
    beauty, danger, life, love and death, melancholy, tongue-in-cheek irony and healthy criticism: everything always works wonderfully well in the art of Leo Copers. Things were no different with the cemetery of existing tombstones with the logos of museums which was removed from the Citadelpark in Ghent. But lo and behold, there it is again, in the form of 118 unique prints in 'Museum Graveyard', his first exhibition at Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels.
    Christine VUEGEN
    It was a formidable statement when Leo Copers (°1947, lives in Wetteren) in 2012, during 'Track' in Ghent, came up with 111 tombstones, a graveyard of the romantic type. Albeit one for museums. A variety of vertical and horizontal stones for urns bore the logo of a museum, large and small institutions all over the world. A few blank tombstones predicted the future of all museums. Unfortunately, the work wasn't allowed to stay. As of January 2015 it is in storage and a few stones have been added. Now the installation gets another life. "It is a follow-up. The idea started when someone wanted to buy one of these tombstones, but that's impossible because it is an installation. I thought: maybe I can come up with a solution" says Leo Copers. Not that he has commercial purposes. "Everything that has come into existence, will at one point disappear. That is the case with animals, with human beings, the city of Brussels, earth, the universe. And with museums. That is what the work is about. I didn't think about it, but it is happening now in Syria, in Aleppo." But there are still other examples of museums that have disappeared, and not by the violence of war? "The Brussels Museum of Modern Art for example", he promptly replies.
    'Museum Graveyard' is an installation as well, spread across all spaces of the gallery. Ah, there is M HKA. And there the Guggenheim. There even is a family grave, and you can't identify all the logos. Such a small stone for the British Museum. But the Uffizi got an elegant gravestone. It isn't difficult to imagine the artist slightly chuckling choosing the right stone. But it wasn't always done that way. "I sometimes left it to the experience of the artisans", he says.
    There are 117 tombs and the back of the title tombstone is photographed as well. Thus the exhibition begins with a tree of life. On the front an anagram of a modified Latin sentence by Horace is chiseled, to be translated as: 'Sweet and exemplary it is to die for art.' The museum graveyard is photographed tomb by tomb, in the Citadelpark or elsewhere. The latex paint prints on canvas, a technique from advertising, are hung by two small nails, a bit like sailcloth. Alphabetically, but in different formats - life size as the slab of stone. "It is a kind of sculpture, which is offered to me by unknown collaborators. The logos are graphic designs by others. It is photography; and digital techniques have been used. These are prints on canvas, but unstretched. Paintings for above the sideboard bore the balls off me, you can write that", says the artist in the same gentle tone, but firm.
    The immortality of art, a persistent idea, is trashed and popularisation of museums is questioned. Previously Leo Copers, in his persona of the 'Blind Seer', would raise the problem of superficial viewing habits in mega exhibitions. In 2011, he turned off the lights in the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, a building where earlier he had planted a pirate flag on the roof. One can also think of 'Urne' from 1973, a cenotaph for himself and his wife. The certificate attesting what will happen with their ashes, is deposited in a safe at a notary's office. In addition, he had sparks jump between two meat carving knives by submitting them to a 1000 volts. "If you touch them, you're dead. Life and death, fate: it is a thread in my work. A text in the book analyses this in depth", Copers discloses. This publication, an artist's book, will be launched later.
    Leo Copers, ‘Museum Graveyard’ till 29 January in Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, Brussels. Open Tue-Fri from 2-6 pm, Sat-Sun from 11 am-6 pm and by appointment.
    Leo Copers, ‘IROM ETRA ORP TSE MUROCED TE ECLUD (Musée du Louvre, Paris)’, 2013, latex paint print on canvas, 77 x 131,5 cm. Courtesy Leo Copers and Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels



    United States



    United States




    Peeping at Walls

    Walls from throughout the world are the real threads running through Horizon. The solo exhibition of the Antwerp based photographer Bert Danckaert can be admired for the last time this weekend at Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels. “There is more behind the wall than you would think.”

    Isabelle Van Orshaegen

    No extensive sloping landscapes or endless oceans as the title might suggest. On the contrary, for this series, Danckaert went to nine cities spread over three continents: from Mexico City to Bangkok, to Deurne, or Lodz in Poland. Horizon is an extension to his former series Simple Present. Publisher Lannoo selected eighty images from the exhibition for a book. “Still there is a horizon, though a misleading one. At first sight the images give a sense of depth, but in fact, one just smashes onto a wall”, Danckaert says. One can take this very literally. Danckaert confronts the viewer with colourful walls and intriguing facades. Whether they are in an alley in Budapest, or on a square in Hong Kong is hard to discern. He exposes underlying global issues. “Every city has streets where the cultural and local identity were completely lost. Multinationals took over. Visiting several Ikeas all over the world made this painfully clear. The Swedish meatball tasted the same everywhere.”
    “I travel to the other end of the world in order to find exactly nothing. That is an absurdity that transpires through the images. As a photographer, I use image language to talk about the world’s huge contemporary problems. I withdraw myself, and instead, order colours and shapes. It is a kind of incapacity—our impotence against a world that has become a machine. I sometimes call it ‘comfort of the image’.”
    Through his lens, recognizable fragments of the world and banal streets become abstractions, or like curator Inge Henneman beautifully described: “urban still lifes”. “Some of my images give the impression that someone, in one way or another, staged them. When I have that feeling, everything falls perfectly into place in such a way that it cannot be coincidental—that is the moment when something clicks in me.”

    Bert Danckaert I Horizon, text by Alison Nordström, co-published by Lannoo and Roberto Polo Gallery, Rue Lebeau/Lebeaustraat 8-12, Brussels. €39.99

  • Many strategies for survival: Barbara Rose on painting after Postmodernism | The Art Newspaper


    United States

  • After, Ever After by Tom McGlynn | The Brooklyn Rail


    United States

  • At the Speed of Light: Larry Poons Paintings of the 1960s by David Ebony | The Brooklyn Rail


    United States

  • Un puissant manifeste pictural belgo-américain by Claude Lorent | La Libre - Arts Libre



    Unprecedented “Painting After Postmodernism” exhibition features over 250 major paintings by American and Belgian artists. l On offer: many major discoveries and a number of confirmations of high quality. l The old Vanderborght building, at the heart of Brussels, acquires museum status.

    A strong Belgian-American pictorial manifesto

    An exceptional show highlighting pictorial expression

    It takes courage, exceptional independence of spirit and historic vision these days to mount an exhibition that does not feature a universally established star artist and is devoted exclusively to contemporary Belgian and American painting. The challenge launched by American gallery owner, connoisseur and art collector Roberto Polo, established in Brussels since 2007, has been taken up by American art historian Barbara Rose.

    Their exhibition ‘Painting After Postmodernism’ brings together more than 250 paintings, mainly large formats, by eight Americans and eight Belgians. It presents itself as a manifesto celebrating a generous, open, inventive, expressive, imaginative form of painting that is more alive and powerful than ever. The exhibition calls for a serious reconsideration of the pictorial field, and insists on the importance of painting’s tactile quality.

    Brussels the Daring

    We might have expected one of our museums to take this kind of initiative, yet once again it is the private sector, albeit with substantial support of the city of Brussels and Cinéma Galeries, that steps up to the task. Bypassing the artistic mainstream that is dominated by just a few great painters active in the international art world is a risk few actors in the field are prepared to take. And yet such action is salutary, as it reveals a powerful and as yet by and large ignored part of today’s artistic creation.

    This exhibition demonstrates once again that Brussels is an important hub for art in Europe, where projects that are international in scope, unprecedented, courageous – bold, even, as they resolutely break the ranks of the artistically correct - can be mounted successfully. Of which this project, which is susceptible to elicit polemics and provoke contestation, is a good example.

    Resolute staying power

    In the exhibition catalogue, Barbara Rose retraces the history of the position of painting in the art world and how it has been considered since Marcel Duchamp declared it dead in 1918. Though relegated to the lowest rung, painting nevertheless saw several resurgences, both in the United States and in Europe, but struggled to recover from its eviction, that was planned in the era of the avant-gardes and executed by subsequent movements, qualified as postmodern.

    Though it is only being reconsidered for the last couple of years, the art of painting had never surrendered, but restricted its acts of resistance to the studios, far from the tumultuous spectacle of the accepted contemporary art world. In reality, though it was not readily accredited by the market or by most ministers of art, painting steadfastly kept pursuing its own journey, which ran parallel to commercial contemporary trends. It displayed a quality and an (im)pertinence that it was never credited with. This has now been publicly recognised.

    Let us not forget that some of the artists at this exhibition were born in the 1920s, 30s or 40s, and the youngest sometime during the 1970s! Here we have several generations attesting to a resolute, totally convincing pictorial permanence.

    The body of painting

    This exhibition is a far cry from the art market based on a star system and propelled by insane, exponentially skyrocketing prices. It presents an oblique look, a different way of looking, at a form of painting that holds its own as a time-defying practice and emphasises materiality and tactility. A form of painting that distinguishes itself because it has body and it has meaning, though it does not allow itself to be apprehended at first glance. It is form of painting that stimulates the senses, elicits emotion and titillates neurons to the point of perturbating their achievements and certitudes. This kind of painting is not constrained by the straightjacket of a discourse or of illustration. It is open, sensitive, expressive, and insinuating itself into the interstices of history, art and the pictorial sphere. A form of painting that is of its time, autonomous, independent, intractable, impervious to trends, and enriches those who encounter it. Do not miss this opportunity!

    This exhibition demonstrates once again that Brussels is a major hub for art in Europe, where projects of international scope can lead to extremely worthwhile accomplishments.

    Regenerating painting

    The same goes for the Belgian artists, who deserve a significant upgrade in consideration and appreciation, to equal the respect that has, until now, been reserved for the usual well-known headliners. Their innovative spirit is deeply rooted in the DNA of their painting that, without ever disowning the past and the achievements and contributions of modernity, continues to advance in unprecedented directions, blazing trails, featuring fundamentally original aesthetics. By shrugging off established categorisations, by daring to mix elements and by building on pictorial materiality, these painters compel us to adopt a radically different way of seeing. From the exquisitely sensitive figurations of Jan Vanriet to Marc Maet’s Zen highlights, from the masterful spatial constructions and deconstructions of Bernard Gilbert, Bart Vandevijvere and Mil Ceulemans to the jolting decompartmentalisation of artists like Joris Ghekiere and Werner Mannaers, and the bold paintings of Xavier Noiret-Thomé, all these resolutions are high dosage life-boosters that regenerate painting.

    Practical information

    Where: Vanderborght building, rue de l’Ecuyer 50, 1000 Brussels.

    Cinéma Galeries I The Underground, galerie de la Reine 26, 1000 Brussels.

    When: Until 13 November, Tuesdays to Sundays, 11.00 to 19.00.

    Publication: “Painting After Postmodernism”, 240p., Col. ill., text (Eng.) by Barbara Rose and presentation texts for each of the artists, hardback, co-edited by Lannoo and Roberto Polo Gallery. 45€.

    Larry Poons, “Tantrum 2”, acrylic on canvas, 1979, masterful painting, 165,1 x 419,1 cm. Courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery.

    Bernard Gilbert, “Number 252”, acrylic and oil on panel, 2016, monumental painting, 237 x 1052cm. Courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery.




    Bert Danckaert’s ‘Horizon’ at Roberto Polo in Brussels
    The Archaeology of Absurdity
    Photos by Bert Danckaert show the flipside of globalisation – the often absurd way in which our world is patched up. He shows reality as a palimpsest of human activity. His photos are the result of the primeval battle between order and chaos. And chaos always wins.
    by Marc HOLTHOF [translated by Raf Erzeel]
    At the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels, Bert Danckaert (Antwerp, Belgium, °1965) shows fifty large-format photographs: thirty measuring 60 x 80 cm (24 x 31 in.) and twenty of 110 x 147 cm (43 x 58 in.). They were taken in nine world cities (from Mexico City to Hong Kong) on three continents; as well as occasionally somewhat closer to home: in Deurne and Charleroi, Belgium. All of the pictures reflect the theme that made Danckaert’s name as a photographer: frontal views of often absurd ensembles photographed in back alleys, full of things that are preferably kept ‘out of sight’.
    You would not think so if you just passed by, but the Roberto Polo Gallery is a large exhibition space. No less than eight rooms on three levels are dedicated to the 20 large and 30 slightly less large photos by Bert Danckaert. The exhibition starts overwhelmingly with a room with large-format photos introducing the theme of the exhibition: the everyday chaos ruling on three continents.
    In an adjoining space, four photos are set slightly apart, among which the photo that features on the catalogue and the poster: ‘#017’ (2014). It shows a faded wall, with a grey strip below and some grass further down – a Rothko-like composition but photographed somewhere in Lodz, Poland. There are more of these painting-like photos nearby, like ‘#070’ from Macau. They are seductive. In the press release, they receive quite some attention. Photographs sell better if they look like paintings, probably as a result of the identity crisis, now almost two centuries old, of photography, which does not seem to manage to just be itself, but always tries to be something else.
    These ‘photo-paintings’ may look like other Danckaert photos, but to me they seem to do the opposite. The other photos consistently uncover a facade; photos pretending to be paintings, on the other hand, erect a facade. These four photo-paintings are serious; they imitate abstract painting with elements from reality: colour surfaces, tiles, and a strip of green grass.
    Bert Danckaert’s real photographs, on the other hand, are funny, critical, then again melancholic or a tad pitying about the human condition. They ask why things are as they are – a question that ‘#017’ from Lodz or ‘#070’ from Macau do not ask, as the answer has already been given: because they look like abstract paintings.
    On the back of the catalogue we find ‘#096’ (2015) from Bangkok (the large-format photo can be seen in the basement). The work shows a green checked plastic sheet of the type used to cover buildings during renovation. But the intriguing thing is a small insert at the bottom which does not quite fit in the nicely completed whole above. Behind a small removable patch of the sheet lies some or other utility outlet that needs to be accessible. The effect is awkward. Immediately, other imperfections in the sheet stand out: it is not as nicely tightened as we first thought. This is camouflage that doesn’t camouflage but stands out, and as such betrays itself. The inconspicuous suddenly draws the attention – like a soldier wearing camouflage gear in a shopping street. This kind of revelation constitutes the strength of Danckaert’s photos.
    There are too many photos in this exhibition. Each of them asks too much time to be looked at, to be unravelled. The glut of pictures might even invite us not to do that, and to look at them in a different, superficial way, which also saves a lot of time. That is what those four photo-paintings – sirens of aesthetics – want to seduce us to do: to look at these photos as beautiful compositions. They certainly are that, but according to me, that is not what they are about.
    In contrast with the photo-paintings, ‘#085’ (2015) from Bangkok is not a neat, abstract composition. On the contrary, absurdity rules here. First of all the background: the wall we are looking at, a few meters long, consists of six strips in different materials, from simple tiles to a piece of gilded woodwork. Fixed against the wall is a bright blue water or gas pipe. In the middle of the top part, there is a black ventilation hole. On a strip decorated with red-and-white dots there is the number 188, probably the house number. To the right of the centre, under a mosaic with goldfish, there is a plant in an earthenware pot. And – last but not least – we see, on the left, a bizarre kind of rack made from metal slats. It is not clear what its use may have been; the metal has been twisted by fire. Also the floor shows traces of fire damage. The wooden door, the ventilation hole and the twisted rack make me suspect that this might be the front of a restaurant. But what caused the fire? What was the rack for?
    Not only ‘#085’, ‘#017’, ‘#070’ or ‘#096’, but almost all of Bert Danckaert’s pictures are photos of walls. If there is a door or a gate, it is always tightly shut. We are looking at a blind wall. And since these are photos (and not reality), we cannot look left or right and ask ourselves: what is going on with this decorated wooden door in ‘#085’? What lies behind it? What can be seen outside the frame? Danckaert constructs cul-de-sacs that confront us with the enigma created by his photos.
    As such, it is even more remarkable that the exhibition and the accompanying book are not called ‘alley’ or ‘cul-de-sac’, but ‘Horizon’. That is just as much an enigma, because not a single horizon can be seen in the entire exhibition or in the book. That is no coincidence, as a horizon is becoming an ever-rarer element in our urban jungles, and more or less the privilege of the super-rich: only they can afford a view. The rest of us live in the mazes or murky canyons of the metropolis. Probably in compensation for this, the photos teem with horizontal lines that you could call pseudo-horizons: parallel lines, often in different colours, suggesting a perspective. Yet there is none: our gaze invariably collides with the blind walls on which they are painted.
    And yet the title ‘Horizon’ is fitting for this exhibition, this book, these photographs. By hiding it behind concrete, behind green checked plastic sheeting, behind tiled walls and half-burned metal shelving, Bert Danckaert’s photos indisputably evoke the absence of the horizon. The lost utopia of the panoramic vista.

    Photographs sell better if they look like paintings, probably as a result of the identity crisis, now almost two centuries old, of photography, which does not seem to manage to just be itself, but always tries to be something else.
    ‘Horizon’ by Bert Danckaert – until 20 November in the Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, 1000 Brussels.
    The book with the same title is published by Lannoo.




    Painting, a phoenix out of glowing embers

    At the Vanderborght, Roberto Polo and Barbara Rose immerse us in a colossal exhibition that demonstrates the vitality of contemporary painting on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Larry Poons, « Tantrum 2 », 1979, acrylic on canvas. © CHRISTOPHER BURKE

    Werner Mannaers, « The Lolita Series (Chapter 7) », 2015, mixed media on canvas. © DR

    Karen Gunderson, « Rounding the Cape », 2004, oil on canvas. © DR

    Joris Ghekiere, untitled, 2016, oil on canvas. © DR

    Ed Moses, « Ranken 1 », 1992, oil, acrylic and shellac on canvas.© ALAN SHAFFER 2016


    The genesis of this exhibition, which was organised jointly by gallery owner Roberto Polo and art historian Barbara Rose, must have required an enormous amount of time and effort. Its preparation was a matter of transatlantic exchanges, studio visits and instinctive complicity.

    The two comrades present a rich dialogue between Belgian and American painting, in the form of an exhibition in the grand manner entitled « Painting After Postmodernism » consisting of 256 paintings, displayed as 16 solo shows – a manifesto of the art form, accompanied by a rich catalog published by Lannoo. The curator's ambition? To present new currents that reconstruct rather than destruct the fundamentals of painting, free from any dogma or theoretical reduction.

    Such an event requires adequate surroundings, which were found at the Vanderborght building, where the exhibition occupies six floors, and in the cisterns of Cinéma Galeries, where, for the duration of the exhibition, a series of films will be shown, selected by Dominique Païni, former Director of the Cinémathèque française. Painting from the United States is represented by Walter Darby Bannard, Karen Gunderson, Martin Kline, Melissa Kretschmer, Lois Lane, Paul Manes, Ed Moses and Larry Poons; Belgian painting by Mil Ceulemans, Joris Ghekiere, Bernard Gilbert, Marc Maet, Werner Mannaers, Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Bart Vandevijvere and Jan Vanriet.


    How did Marcel Duchamp amass so many followers after he declared painting dead and buried in 1918? Picasso, Matisse, Miró and the painters of the New York School unabashedly kept producing monumental paintings of a quality that brings to mind that of an art form at its peak. Nevertheless, in the radical political context of the 1960s and 1970s, it was trendy to sound the death knell of painting, because it was considered a product of bourgeois culture. Painting was reduced to the status of an unremarkable postmodern phenomenon.

    “Duchamp’s declaration has for a long time deceived us into believing that painting was dead, but a new form of painting definitely does exist – and whether it is figurative or not is immaterial. For 60 years now, people have been talking about Postmodernism, and everything and anything has been tagged with this label. Yet painting has evolved, new forms of expression have come into existence which have not yet been given any name, which the critics have not yet identified as such,” declares Roberto Polo, adding: “It is these new coherences between Belgian and American painters that we wish to show to the public. Painting is well and alive, and it has returned with a vengeance, even more powerful than before.”

    According to Barbara Rose, this new art of painting meets two easily identifiable criteria: it affects the tactile surface, the pictorial matter, and it creates new, illusionist spaces that the American art historian qualifies as « cosmic ». The artists represented here aspire to render tactility, to redefine drawing as part of painting, and to go beyond Postmodernism, to regain the plenitude of painting that defines it as a major art form. This is easy to identify in the works of Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Mil Ceulemans’ kaleidoscopes or the silky black on black paintings by Karen Gunderson. We also loved Martin Kline’s encaustic-covered canvases and Bart Vandevijvere’s geometric lyricism.

    These innovative elements are at the core of the exhibition theme: “This is not about a movement, because they all work in the solitude of their studios and don’t know one another, though they do have a number of common interests, such as country music and Dixie jazz rhythms”, Roberto Polo explains.

    Another characteristic shared by the artists selected by the curator is the weight accorded to a form of narrative: a “storyline”, countering what the famous art critic Clement Greenberg extolled after the war. An example of this approach are the sumptuous paintings by the American artist Lois Lane, whose visual enigmas are not that far removed from the Old Masters of the Flemish pictorial tradition.

    Though infinitely more minimalist in her approach, Melissa Kretschmer is no less sublime: she hovers around the boundary between painting and the three-dimensional object, as she creates rhythmical bas-reliefs in which the spectator’s gaze wanders and loses itself into the abyss of contemplation. “We have long abandoned the practice of teaching painting in American art schools, concentrating instead on conceptual art, photography and video. This is also a mercantile choice, as it is easier and cheaper to display and transport the latter art forms. Painting has wrongly been brandished as a by-product of bourgeois culture”, Roberto Polo says regretfully.

    The two criteria of Postmodernism are recycling images and directly quoting art from the past. “This was a necessary transitional movement, as were Historicism and Eclecticism in the 19th century – a kind of cocktail of bygone styles that preceded the creation of new ones”, Roberto Polo summarises.


    Art historians, avid for these transitional eras, these lost styles in which struggle and urgency are particularly palpable, will admit to their interest in this nervous activity and imperfection in art. But as this art form is also bereft of originality and first hand experience, Postmodern painting has finally clashed with the aspiration of a number of artists to conserve the integrity of the aesthetic experience that was always provided by Old Master paintings.

    The artists exhibited here do not figure on any of the habitual “lists” of what any self-respecting collector should possess: “These are not followers of fashion, nor are they brand names, even though they are all present in major museum collections”, Roberto Polo affirms. Citing art dealer Alexandre Iolas’ role in promoting René Magritte or his own past experience as a promoter of Léon Spilliaert, Polo concludes: “Belgium tends to wait for its artists to be consecrated by the rest of the world, and only then recognises the importance of its home-grown talent. Belgians don’t like to boast, which is a charming quality that is not very helpful to what we are trying to achieve here.”

    This project, the fruit of private enterprise in the American sense, born of passion and conviction, required gigantic logistic efforts to arrive at a selection of the paintings at the source, in the artists’ studios, and transport them to Brussels. “Barbara and I have known one another for little time and we exchange lots of email messages about artists whom we discover, who seem to share pictorial concerns, to breathe the same oxygen”, Roberto Polo explains. We both hail from Columbia University, where we were taught by Meyer Schapiro and bathed in post-war German analytic theory. By mounting this exhibition, we wanted to create something new that is accessible to anyone and most certainly not elitist.”

    This objective has been achieved, even if one might regret that it was not mounted in a museum, which might have provided the necessary mediation to ensure its exposure to a broader audience. On the other hand, according to Roberto Polo, that which is new should not originate from an institution. He is convinced that this exhibition will put Brussels on the map as a new European capital for contemporary art...


    ▶ « Painting After Postmodernism. Belgium – USA », until 13 November at Vanderborght, 50 rue de l’Ecuyer, 1000 Brussels and at Cinéma Galeries, 26 Galerie de la Reine, 1000 Brussels,

  • Photographies de Bert Danckaert by Alison Nordström & Bert Danckaert | TK-21 La Revue, n°62



  • Pap goes the easel: Painting After Postmodernism, Belgium - USA by Paul Levy | Arts Journal


    United States

  • Painting After Postmodernism | Belgium - USA : Exposition manifeste de Barbara Rose à Bruxelles by Christine Vuegen | H Art



  • I now realise, finally, that I shouldn’t be so modest by Rudi Collier | Gazet Van Antwerpen



    Interview Mega-exhibition in Brussels brings American and Belgian painters together.
    Jan Vanriet
    “I now realise, finally, that I shouldn’t be so modest.”
    The Antwerp painter Jan Vanriet (68) is hot. On 14 September, the Belgian Foreign Secretary Didier Reynders opened a giant exhibition in Brussels, showing no less than 256 paintings. Eight American and eight Belgian painters, among others Vanriet, prove that the art of painting is in vibrant health. That is exactly the message of the prestigious exposition Painting After Postmodernism | Belgium - USA: the painter is not dead, certainly not Jan Vanriet.
    Curator of the exhibition is Barbara Rose, the undisputed ‘grand lady’ of American art criticism. She wrote a sensational text on the resurrection of painting, resulting in this exhibition and its catalogue. The paintings take up six floors of the historic Vanderborght building, plus the exhibition space The Underground at the Cinéma Galeries in the Royal Galleries Saint-Hubert of Brussels.
    The least you can say is that Jan Vanriet has been doing well recently. His riveting series of eighty-odd portraits of Jewish victims of the concentration camps has gone on to a prestigious follow-up in Moscow after its presentation at the Dossin barracks in Mechelen, Belgium. In the space of eighteen months, three other museum exhibitions have followed, including this one in Brussels.
    It has been no let-up. Vanriet is now stirring international interest with the full support of American art dealer Roberto Polo, who first created a sensation in New York, counting the elite among his clients. He then moved first to Paris and then to Brussels. For fifteen years, he has been a staunch promotor of Belgian art. In 2012, he opened his prestigious gallery in Brussels with an exhibition by Jan Vanriet. Ever since, the two have not let go of each other.
    We met Vanriet in his huge, brand-new studio in the trendy Zuid (south district) of Antwerp, where dozens of his paintings have—finally—been catalogued and stored. “That is for posterity. I have always continued to paint and have never thrown anything away. Not even when things were difficult.”
    That was not his fault, but simply due to the spirit of the time. He knows that times are better for him now. The exhibition in Brussels supports the vision he has championed for years. “Put simply: the art of painting was deemed old-fashioned and declared dead in the seventies. It could only become extinct. video, conceptual art, mixed media installations, those were the future. Even in the eighties, this trend continued. Figurative painting was condemned to death—just as books were. Anything tangible had to go. Narrative painting was discredited.
    “I have always kept going. I did go through periods of doubt, I was derided, even brutally and aggressively. There were periods when I hardly painted, when I only made a few little drawings. Now the pendulum has swung back completely. The Belgian painters fit perfectly into this reversal. We have always been telling a story. Not explicitly, often suggestively, but always distinctly. It is a tradition that can be traced back to the Flemish Primitives.”
    There will now be about twenty huge paintings of his on show in Brussels, almost all of them recent work, the one more poignant than the other. Sometimes simply obvious, sometimes mysterious, often pensive. But all of them carry a message, even if it is not always an explicit one. Jan Vanriet: “I realise that the message is there, and different suggestions are possible, that is true."
    “For me, it is often about man and his helplessness, about repression also. Call it the human condition. I am no stranger to commitment, but I refuse to state the obvious. I don’t like to browbeat. I don’t think I have ever worked without commitment. I’m not claiming that art can save the world, but it can certainly enlighten mankind and maybe inspire hope."
    “I started out as a journalist, and you never lose that attitude. I see what has happened in the world and is still happening. But sometimes simple things are a starting point. One of the paintings at the exhibition is called Horse. It came into being when I saw one of those classic circus films, with two clowns pretending to be a horse, one behind the other. I then painted such a man, bending over and holding on to a woman. I was in doubt for a long time: who is in front? Shouldn’t it be the other way around... Does it matter? It matters an awful lot, believe me."
    “I don’t know whether I am pessimistic in my work. As a person I am a bit of a hedonist, but I do worry a lot, about anything and everything. I’m struggling with that as a person, looking for a balance.”
    Is that maybe why he often creates series around one theme? “If I write, I can revise existing versions again and again. I often experience that, but something new keeps cropping up—a different angle, another colour or a sudden ray of light, another angle of interest—and that drives you. The original idea is often only really integrated in a much later version. Then you get a series in which the one can’t exist without the other. It happens. And I end up with around 25 drawings that need to keep together.”
    Vanriet is 68 now. “As long as my mind is clear, I will continue. What ageing has taught me? I notice more than ever that I have become more self-confident, that I know that I am skilled in my trade. I now realise—finally you might say—that I shouldn’t be so modest.”
    The Antwerp boom
    Jan Vanriet is a citizen of the world, but his love for Antwerp is immense. “I have a great historical awareness and this city exudes history, even though many of its inhabitants are not aware of it."
    “But there is something else: Antwerp has never been as creative as it is now as far as painting is concerned. What is happening here is inconceivable—the amount of talent developing here. It really is a new scene, comparable with the Golden Age of the city. We are doing as well as Rubens and Jordaens in their days, and the art world abroad is starting to understand that. As far as painting is concerned, Antwerp is experiencing a period like the Golden Age, and I’m not exaggerating."
    “Also the Antwerp artists Werner Mannaers and Mil Ceulemans are featured in Painting After Postmodernism | Belgium - USA. But there are many more. There is a kind of Antwerp movement that has contributed to the new view of painting. Tuymans, Rinus Van de Velde, Fabre, you name them. It is an explosion of new talent, in the whole of Flanders, but especially in Antwerp. I can’t give you an explanation, but it is happening. It is not really a school; there are no laws laid down like in the time of Rubens. What gives me most satisfaction is that painting is no longer considered old-fashioned.”
    Rudi Collier (translation: Raf Erzeel)
    “Antwerp has never been as creative as it is now as far as painting is concerned. We are doing as well as Rubens and Jordaens in their days.”
    “I have always continued to paint and have never thrown anything away. Not even when things were difficult.”

  • Après le postmodernisme, Peintres belges et américains, by Davina Macario | l'Eventail | September 2016



    After Postmodernism
    Belgian and American painters
    The old Vanderborght stores, inaugurated in the 1930’s, now the property of the city of Brussels, are an ideal location for exhibitions of contemporary art. On September 15th, the art on show there will be exclusively pictorial. This bright, luminous exhibition space, spanning over 6000 m2 on 6 levels, will provide the public with a unique exhibition experience, under the aegis of Her Majesty Mathilde, Queen of the Belgians.
    by Davina Macario
    Barbara Rose. © Roberto Polo
    This exhibition, entitled Painting after Postmodernism | Belgium- USA, is an initiative of the city of Brussels, Cinéma Galeries and Roberto Polo Gallery, whose Director, the collector and theoretician known as “The Eye”, has been promoting Belgian Modern and Contemporary art since 1995. He is, incidentally, of the opinion that the honour of having been the first artist to create abstract art should go to Henry van de Velde—long before Kandinsky. Curator of this event is the eminent New York art historian Barbara Rose, known amongst other things for having served as Chief Curator at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. She has written many reference publications on American painting, of which the most frequently cited is ABC Art—an essay published in 1965 in Art in America, which has contributed to Minimal Art becoming a movement, but she is an expert on Old Masters just as well. Whereas she wrote mainly about Jackson Pollock, Ellsworth Kelly, Barnett Newman, Claes Oldenburg, and Europeans such as Joan Miró and Fernand Léger, she now tends to publish on Mozarabic manuscripts.
    The two creators of the concept for this exhibition are promising us an artistic sensation that will be a landmark event, that will consist of an encounter of two individuals, a meeting of two cultures—or more, given both their well-furnished, cosmopolitan biographies. On the one hand Roberto Polo, who was born in Cuba, holds an American passport, is currently residing in Belgium, has had close ties with France and still has close ties with Italy, and on the other hand Barbara Rose, a multilingual American who loves Italy, where she used to live, and Spain, where a Fulbright grant allowed her to study.
    Both are in the first place of people who observe. Their eagerness to announce the return of painting, which was declared dead and buried by the 1960s and the 1970s, and replaced by video, mixed media, installations, performance art, and mainly conceptual art, which blatantly opposes aestheticism and tactility, stemmed from the many similarities they noticed between paintings from several different countries—while the painters themselves seldom left their studios. These painters produced works that were clearly quite similar, in which pictorial matter and spatial depth prevailed. Like Picasso or Matisse, who once the period of the avant-gardes was behind them, just ignored all fashions and stuck to their own style, pursuing their inner conviction and applying craftsmanship to their art.
    The exhibition will consist of 256 paintings by eight painters who were either born in Belgium or migrated to Belgium—seven living artists (Jan Vanriet, Werner Mannaers, Joris Ghekiere, Bart Vandevijvere, Bernard Gilbert, Xavier Noiret-Thomé—who is French—Mil Ceulemans, and Marc Maet—who died in 2000), and eight Americans (Ed Moses, Walter Darby Bannard, Larry Poons, Karen Gunderson, Lois Lane, Paul Manes, Martin Kline, and Melissa Kretschmer). It will not be a group show, but rather a total of 16 individual exhibitions by artists from various generations. While the Belgians do know one another, for the Americans this will be a mutual discovery…
    Our “pioneers” Barbara Rose and Roberto Polo, guardians of an artistic landscape that is evolving, too often still muffled by the sirens of Postmodernism in all its diverse, attractive, but weakening forms, expressing disillusion translated into a rejection of what is new, are not scared of any potential detractors. Contrary to the avant-gardes, they are engaging in reconstruction rather than deconstruction, in the vein of the artists presented here. At Cinéma Galeries, a number of movies will be shown—several of which were directed by Barbara Rose—selected by Dominique Païni, the great film historian, former Director of the Cinémathèque française, the Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, and the Fondation Maeght. These movies will compel us to review our art history with regard to the second half of the 20th century, which was like a waltz of successive movements (Minimal Art, Colour Field Painting, Hard-Edge, Conceptual Art, Pop Art…).
    L’Eventail – How did you come up with the idea of this exhibition?
    Barbara Rose – I met Roberto through Gladys Fabre, curator of the recent Theo van Doesburg exhibition in Bozar and a long-standing friend. One day I sent Roberto an image of a painting by Paul Manes, a Texan artist. He showed me a painting by Werner Mannaers. That was a key moment. I asked him to show me some more of his works. Because of his capacity to innovate, I saw the genius in this artist! His work belongs in the category of painting, an ancestral medium, yet reveals great originality and uniqueness also.
    Roberto Polo – My exchanges with Barbara were very fruitful. We share a conception of art history as seen in a global context, in accordance with the views of Meyer Schapiro, Professor at Columbia University, who taught us both. We could have met there, but as it happens, she left New York on the day I arrived! Life arranged for us to meet in Brussels. Barbara is like a soul sister to me. I showed her the Belgian artists I represent. She was deeply impressed by their heritage and the fact that they keep renewing themselves.
    What is the state of painting today and why?
    Barbara Rose – There are a great number of very interesting painters, like these Belgians whom I discovered thanks to Roberto, whereas I only knew the most “commercial” ones, those who had made a name for themselves in the world. This being said, we are facing a perilous situation, in which painting is at risk of dying. Marketing and branding have established themselves in the world of the arts. Artists who tend to shun worldliness do not get much coverage. Also, in art schools in the US—unlike those in Europe—technique is no longer part of the curriculum. Post-disciplinary is the word. Just about anything gets stuck with the qualifier “post”, to the extent that we have reached a “post-art” era! The MOMA’s acquisitions policy favours the promotion of “avant-garde”, which makes no sense, as the avant-garde disappeared when the bourgeoisie started buying art. In museums, so-called experts rule, who are paid by so-called collectors, who are in fact investors. Art has now reached the same dead end as politics. There is still this kind of energy, but it dates from the Renaissance and what ensued, including the moderns: Courbet, Ensor and Munch... Though Conceptual Art suits the market marvellously—no storage is required, nor transportation, so it is very low cost!—it is not pictorial in any sense at all. Nor has Postmodernism anything to do with painting. It is a recycling of tradition, consisting of pastiches. This was preceded by Minimal Art, which was based on geometry and no longer pictorial, either. It was a reaction to Willem De Kooning’s gestural painting. Larry Poons and Walter Darby Bannard, whom we are exhibiting here today, belonged to this group, but Minimal Art lasted only from 1959 until 1966. Afterwards, the minimal artists endured a period of crisis. The art we are presenting bears witness to a new vision of space. These artists all share a respect for the unforeseen and for rhythm. I have noticed that they listen to exactly the same music, American jazz from the 1920’s. We are not about to give this production a name; it is too soon for that. For now, we have only identified a group of artists. So this event will be an experience, an occasion to see whether it may awaken energies.
    Roberto Polo – Minimalism made sense at the time. It wasn’t nihilistic and, to the contrary, allowed artists to get to the essence of things. We are now looking into some other phenomena and noting the connection between these painters. Paul Manes and Werner Mannaers clearly breathed the same oxygen, though their expressions differed. They have an identical conception of light, geometry and space—which happens to be distorted (warped space) and deployed in depth, thus reconciling the linear and the pictorial. Of the eight Belgian artists, I already represented five. The others have recently joined my gallery. I have also decided to represent the Americans Larry Poons, Walter Darby Bannard, and Paul Manes. Several of them are both figurative and abstract artists, whose works are deeply imbued with pictorial narrative. They are breaking down barriers. That is how art should be. For that reason, despite the fact that we had the chance to conceive an institutional exhibition in collaboration with the establishment, we preferred to mount an experimental one.
    How has the decline of painting affected post-war American artists?
    Barbara Rose – To my mind, painting has been in trouble since 1951, when Jackson Pollock stopped painting drippings and felt unable to come up with another solution. Maybe painting was not dead, but progress certainly was. Other paths had to be found. Duchamp, who was living in New York at the time, had an enormous influence, but it was Warhol, who denigrated painting as an art form associated with bourgeois values, who ensured its decline. The Minimalists on the other hand were supported by young critics at the time, but I think—with hindsight—that Minimal Art really set off because two of its artists, Donald Judd and Robert Morris, who wrote articles for Artforum, started propagating their own production. Donald was a great intellectual. He could have rivalled the highly influential art critic Clement Greenberg, but the dialogue faltered. When the latter died, there was no one left to tell with any authority what was valuable and what was going to stand the test of time. That has remained true until this day. I do not, for that matter, think that there are no movements or trends anymore. To the contrary, since globalisation and the new modes of communication, the doors are open to anything! Though it is obvious that American art is no longer triumphant in the sense that nobody is talking about it, there is, however, a lot of energy out there, particularly among Afro-Americans. I am representing Western painting, as it is an expression of the civilisation I belong to, but I am interested in influences from other cultures. We will keep on watching out for any new creations!
    Left: Mil Ceulemans, MRCS807 residual memory (yonder), 2015-2016, mixed media on canvas. © Roberto Polo Gallery
    Below: Paul Manes, Notte di Fiori, 2016, oil on canvas. © Paul Jean Manes
    Above: Jan Vanriet, Women in the Forest, Red, 2015, oil on canvas. © 2015 D. Provost
    Above: Larry Poons, Tantrum 2, 1979, acrylic on canvas. © Christopher Burke
    Below: Bernard Gilbert, Number 134, 2011. © Roberto Polo Gallery

  • EEUU - BELGICA el fascinante poder de la pintura by Fernando Castro | Capital Arte



  • Painters strike back by Alexey Tarkhanov | Kommersant Daily



    Painters strike back

    Alexey Tarkhanov on the Painting After Postmodernism exhibition in Brussels

    The Belgian capital is hosting an exhibition titled Painting After Postmodernism | Belgium – USA, which may have the same kind of impact on art as did the famous 20th century exhibitions that gave names to new movements in art and called the public’s attention to trends that had existed for years but had gone largely unnoticed
    The curator of the exhibition, the American Barbara Rose, has not only seen but has also discussed and organised such exhibitions in the past. An art historian, curator, critic, and professor, she has a rare gift for explaining art, which allows her to address any and all audiences from the readers of Vogue to those of Art in America and Artforum. But there’s another quality she has that is even more important.
    There are different kinds of art critics: some condemn and judge, some are co-conspirators. Barbara Rose clearly belongs to the latter group. Like many art scholars who are close to artists (she was once married to Frank Stella, now regarded as a classic of Modern American Art), Barbara Rose is always on their side.
    This exhibition is an attempt to show the world that artists (and in this case, American and Belgian artists are used as an example) have never ceased panting, learning more about form and colour, and experimenting with plastic arts. Having visited hundreds of studios, she found that both countries (and in fact, everywhere in the world) had artists that shared the same pictorial concerns and remain true to the rich Western European artistic heritage. And it is not just the older artists who have chosen not to change with the market, there are many young artists who have preferred to focus on painting, an art form that’s been away from the spotlight for many years now.
    She says that the rumours about the death of painting are greatly exaggerated and that when people remind her about how Marcel Duchamp first predicted the demise of painting as an art form in the dim and distant future, she cites the recent Duchamp exhibition at the Pompidou centre, which clearly showed the master was not a particularly good painter and that this was probably the main reason why he was so eager to see it disappear.
    Barbara Rose is not jumping to conclusions though, "This exhibition does not try to present a new movement, some kind of a new wave in art, or what would be even worse, to set a new trend, it simply intends to show that painting in the grand manner is alive and kicking, and that new artists are picking up where their predecessors left off", she says.
    The exhibition’s organiser is the connoisseur, gallerist, and art collector Roberto Polo. When people in the know about art hear his name, it brings to mind, among other things, the fact that it was Roberto Polo who importantly opened the 18th century to museums in France. He started promoting Fragonard and then gave the Louvre his 'Adoration of the Shepherds'. Mr. Polo is famous as someone with an uncanny ability to identify emerging trends dismissed by others. If he is betting on painting, that means it is far from being dead.
    "This exhibition clearly shows that there is a new painting today whether figurative or abstract", Roberto Polo says. "Unlike postmodernist paintings, in these, you will not find direct quotations to past art. These artists depict a new notion of space that could best be described as phenomenological or cosmic. This exhibition focuses on tactile pictorial surfaces and cosmic spaces."
    Painting After Postmodernism is not just at attempt to inquire why the public lost interest in painting and instead focus on video, multi media, conceptual art, and minimalism (ironically, a movement identified and defended by Dr. Rose). It is also a catalogue of what is happening in the world of painting today, an area that contemporary art critics and magazines largely ignore. It is a heroic exhibition of 256 paintings by 16 painters, eight Americans and eight Belgians, which is in fact presented as 16 solo shows that introduce the visitors to each artist and their personal evolution.
    It is still unclear whether this will be the last attempt to open the public's eyes to painting as an art form, or whether its curator and organiser will go down in history as those who opened the cell doors and liberated artists who had been unfairly condemned to oblivion.
    Brussels, Vanderborght и Cinema Galeries, September 15 through November 13
    Bart Vandevijvere, Cubes for Joachim Kuhn, 2006 Photo: courtesy of the artist
    Jan Vanriet. The Refuge, 2015 Photo: courtesy of the artist

  • Roberto Polo | Capital Arte International Patronage Award | Madrid



    When, sometime in 1986, Roberto Polo told me he wished to meet me, he wanted to tell me about a decision he had taken: he was going to present the people of France with the spectacular Sèvres porcelain vase Napoléon Bonaparte gave to his mother on the occasion of the birth of his son, the King of Rome.
    It was a spontaneous gesture on Roberto Polo’s part, his first gift to the Musée du Louvre as a Maecenas. Some time later, he heard about the Musée du Louvre’s intention to buy another heritage piece: Empress Eugenie’s crown, and immediately offered his assistance.
    Around the same time, Roberto Polo donated an extremely large wood and stone sculptural group representing Leonardo da Vinci's painting 'The Last Supper', by the Venezuelan artist Marisol, to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has never ceased donating to museums ever since, at a regular pace, either to the Musée du Louvre or to Belgian, Polish or American museums, right up to the present day. Yet Roberto Polo's patronage is not confined to museums.
    To my mind, three qualities characterise a true Maecenas: his knowledge, curiosity, and generosity. Because he is a learned scholar, Roberto Polo, who is also an artist, has always had great interest in many cultural domains: fine and decorative arts, music… as he is sensitive to many forms of artistic expressions, and encourages each in turn. Roberto Polo is also fundamentally curious: he is an eternal discoverer, open to anything he encounters, who keeps investigating new fields of interest, rare techniques, artists he deems to be underestimated – and subsequently goes on to promote them. Whereas initially he mainly admired 18th century art, he went on to open others' eyes to 19th century art and to promote contemporary artists in whose work he possesses conviction.
    Surely, his generosity must be congenital. Roberto Polo simply loves to help and sustain anything that seems valuable to him, and selects his causes with great discernment. He not only supports a number of institutions, whether important or modest, but also lends his support to temporary manifestations – exhibitions, concerts, publications – and to artists – musicians, painters – with whom he has a natural rapport and to whom he always lends a sympathetic ear.
    As an exemplary Maecenas, who has happily bestowed very diverse, spontaneous, and disinterested contributions throughout two continents, favouring various countries, periods and disciplines, Roberto Polo should rightly be proud of his achievements. Numerous are his debtors, who will be sincerely happy to see him honoured with the Premio Capital Arte de Mecenazgo Internacional.
    Daniel Alcouffe
    Honorary Chief Curator
    Musée du Louvre

    Recipients of Capital Arte Patronage Awards:

    1) National Patronage Award: Fundación AXA, for patronage of Museo Nacional del Prado's exhibition program;
    2) National Patronage Award: Fundación Banco de Santander, for patronage of Museo Reina Sofía's education program;
    3) National Patronage Award: MasterCard, for facilitating free entry to Museo Thyssen every Monday of the year;
    4) National Patronage Award: Fundación BBVA, for patronage of Museo Guggenheim Bilbao's exhibition program;
    5) National Patronage Award: Fundación Mapfre, for development of photography exhibition program;
    6) National Patronage Award: Fundación Telefónica, for cultural innovation;
    7) National Patronage Award: DKV Seguros, for implementing Arteria Program in hospitals;
    8) National Patronage Award: Adolfo Autric and Rosario Tamayo, for financial support of Museo de Artes decorativas; and
    9) International Patronage Award: Roberto Polo, for donations to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Musée du Louvre.

  • RECENT PAINTINGS | 7 x la peinture by Claude Lorent | La Libre | 03.06.2016



    7 x painting

    By devoting his summer exhibition solely to paintings, Roberto Polo affirms the main interest of his gallery, which also stages photography shows. The group exhibition presented this summer reveals work by several artists to whom the gallery intends to devote solo exhibitions in the near future. In all its diversity, this exhibition provides ample proof – to whomever might still doubt this – that the art of painting is, now more than ever, alive and kicking. Painting has lost none of its impact and is developing in a range of quite diverse and decidedly contemporary directions, allowing itself the freedom to become fiercely independent. In this respect, abstraction and figuration join together in demonstrating considerable overall quality.

    Faithful visitors of the gallery will be happy to encounter a portrait and a series of paintings by Jan Vanriet, in which the strange attitude of the figures and the repetition of the subject unerringly attract attention to their painterly rendering. In the field of figurative painting, Bernard Gaube distinguishes himself with several portraits displaying a graphic and chromatic treatment that insists on the impossibility of capturing physical and psychological identity in just one painting, as each subject is multiple. Vladimir Moszowski’s two large paintings of light effects on water transcend the status of representations by evoking an ephemeral temporality – viewers feel like they are part of the pictorial instant and its unique magic.

    In the field of abstraction, Bernard Gilbert, whose work is exhibited at the gallery for the first time, shatters all limits between categories and genres by relentlessly exploring techniques, images and materials. Mil Ceulemans pursues his spatial progressions, moving between geometry, construction and lyricism, while Joris Ghekiere exploits the infinite potential of colours with great sensitivity. Werner Mannaers, on the other hand, is a seeker who stops at nothing and whose pictorial solutions catch viewers by surprise with their boundless inventiveness. (C.L.)

    Recent Paintings. Roberto Polo Gallery, rue Lebeau 8¬12, 1000 Brussels. Until 17 July and from 17 August until 18 September.

  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba: The Big Change by Alma Guillermoprieto | The New York Review of Books


    United States

  • Carl De Keyzer | Meta-commentary on Cuban clichés, by Sofie Crabbé | H Art



    Carl De Keyzer at Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels

    Meta-commentary on Cuban clichés

    If there is any photographer in Belgium who in his career has combined foresight with an uncannily perfect timing, it is Carl De Keyzer. The presentation of his debut work Homo Sovieticus on 9 November 1989 coincided exactly with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The preview of his latest series Cuba, la lucha at Roberto Polo Gallery took place three days before the historic state visit to Cuba by Barack Obama – the first American president on Cuban soil since 1928. "I try to make appointments with history", says the Magnum photographer.

    by Sofie CRABBÉ [translated by Raf Erzeel]

    How do you record a country without slipping back into the stereotypes of Cuba's heritage (i.e. posters and banners with Che Guevara or Fidel Castro, hand-made cigars, American classic cars, beaches and palm trees)? With a wink and cool irony, it seems. Consciously highlighting unfeigned chauvinism and painful stereotypes can lead to interesting series of images. Many of De Keyzer's images are meta-comments on a string of clichés. He offers his vision, keeping sufficient distance. He questions relations in reality. You can taste the illusion of the workers' paradise and the decay of a system on its last legs in almost every picture.

    “At first I wanted to avoid a repetition of platitudes about Cuba by only taking photos inside. The inhumanity and sadness I met there was so enormous that I had to change my strategy in order not to revert to empathetic pictures of poverty, sickness and victims", De Keyzer says. "I went back out onto the streets and squares, photographing among alley cats, looking at worn facades propped up by wooden scaffolding." De Keyzer's work may never be 'in your face', but doesn't he flirt with a certain arrogance in putting Cuba (and earlier also India) so explicitly in the title, and by openly criticising countries he is not really an expert on? Carl De Keyzer counters this remark with a positive suggestion: "Wouldn't it be wonderful and enriching if Indian, Cuban or other foreign photographers were to come and record our country?"


    The ingenious use of symbolism is characteristic of De Keyzer's imagery. We know the visual effects from many previous series, such as Homo Sovieticus – in preparation for which the Magnum photographer is rumoured to have gone through more than fifty books. "Being well-read also has its drawbacks", De Keyzer says. "You will take pictures on the basis of your knowledge, and you expect a similar erudition from your audience. I left for the Congo (resulting in Congo Belge en images, SC) with a minimum of preconceptions. It led to more direct, less layered images. To my surprise, they had more success."

    For Cuba, la lucha, De Keyzer did a fair bit of research. "More often than not, my reading tempered the 'canonisation' of Che and Castro. In the 1970s, all artists and intellectuals enthused over Communism and Marxism. Back then, I was a confirmed supporter of Amada [far-left Maoist party in Belgium]. Afterwards, certainly after my travels in the Soviet Union in 1988/89, I realised how utterly naive and blind this conviction had been." A repressed threat of a strict, Communist dictatorship is undeniable in the images, both implicitly and explicitly. A case in point is the photograph in which, at first sight, we only see tents, a huge fortress and ads for Cristal and Bucanero beer. Nothing special, if it weren't for the fact that this is where the annual book festival takes place; Cubans will queue for miles to get their hands on one book. But this place is anything but innocent: in the background the high walls of the state tower against the sky, in the form of a gigantic barracks. But the venom is also there invisibly: Che Guevara left a trail of executions here.


    Every series by De Keyzer is a supplement or a contradiction to previous work. With an imagery that is undeniably his own, he experiments with a new style, fitting the subject, time and again. For his previous project, Moments Before the Flood, he went looking for hyper-realistic images of Europe's coastline and the real fear for floods, in the tradition of marine painting, equipped with an 80-million pixel camera mounted on a tripod. "Technical quality has always been my criterion", De Keyzer says. "For Cuba, la lucha I worked hand-held and without flash. I armed myself with a 55-million pixel Pentax. With such a high resolution I could also ensure enough detail in shadow areas."

    "Wouldn't it be wonderfuland enriching if Indian, Cuban or other foreign photographers were to come and record our country?"

    Cuba, La Lucha is a unique record of a country in transition, risking a change from a Communist regime to a Capitalist one promising a blinding economic growth. Cuba is losing part of its soul because of tourism, but it can also look ahead positively because of the relaxation of the 56-year-old American embargo of the Communist island. In spite of an uncertain future we leave the exhibition with some hope, in the light of the survival instinct 'la lucha' (the struggle) of the Cubans.

    ‘Carl De Keyzer | Cuba, la lucha’, until 15 May at Roberto Polo Gallery, Rue Lebeau 8-12 Lebeaustraat, Brussels. Open Tue-Fri 2 p.m.-6 p.m., Sat-Sun 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and by appointment.
    Publication ‘Carl De Keyzer | Cuba, la lucha’, Tielt, Lannoo publishers, in co-edition with Roberto Polo Gallery, 2016.

  • Carl De Keyzer | Melancholy displays of artificial happiness, by Gabriela Salgado | Capital Arte






    After decades of political immobility, Cuba is now becoming the focus of international attention. Those who once were charismatic young leaders guiding the nation toward progressive changes have remained in power until today, despite a lengthy economic crisis. According to reports from human rights organisations, thousands of opponents have been incarcerated since the start of the Castro regime and a large part of the Cuban population has gone into exile, either for political or for economic reasons.

    La lucha, the struggle, is the most common Cuban expression to denote its permanent state of being since the collapse of the economy in the nineties.
    Coined by the people to define their struggle for survival, and common currency since the crisis, this term is still being used even today. Carl De Keyzer 's eponymous latest work on Cuba, which echoes this fighting spirit, presents his observation of the changes the island is undergoing in this day and age.

    Carl De Keyzer has published books on themes as widely varied as religion (God, Inc., 1992), colonisation (Congo (Belge) – Congo Belge en images, 2009), the ecology (Moments Before the Flood, 2012), the prison system (Zona, 2003) and political change (Homo Sovieticus, 1989, and East of Eden, 1996).

    Basically, the central focus of his projects resides in his observation of systems invented to organise mankind. Internal control mechanisms and their effects on society fascinate him. His work manages to avoid any obvious criticisms and to focus on the subtlety of humour, the surprises and vulnerability emerging from daily life. This is how he presents the effects of change, decoding its impact in countless poetical, intimate moments that defy scepticism. Unlike most photographers working as reporters, his photographs are not documentary, as his endeavour is not aiming for realism. At the start of his persistent exploration of the collapse of Socialism, the photographer focused on Armenia, Uzbekistan, Russia and Lithuania, finally covering all fifteen Soviet Republics, always determining his concept beforehand and planning ahead, as he is well aware that the opportunity to capture an instant is always fleeting. His use of the flash and slow shutter speed to intensify the contrast and illuminate key elements of the image has become his aesthetic mark. As in neorealist Italian movies, reality reveals itself as simultaneously crude and poetic.

    Carl De Keyzer has now embarked on another photographic quest to witness what seems to be the end of Socialism. He went to Cuba in January 2015, after President Obama's much publicised announcement of his intention to re-establish relations between Cuba and the United States. In his historic speech, Obama proclaimed an end to the sanctions that have weighed heavily on the Cuban people, and, making a memorable political gesture, publicly acknowledged that the embargo benefited neither state, while at the same time also imposing one condition: "We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities." The intention was clear: both sides in a battle, sustained for fifty six years, now have to actively pursue this rapprochement, on the purported condition that the ruling Socialist system on the island ceases to exist. In Cuba, la lucha, scenes of people afflicted by material shortages, framed by deteriorated houses, seem inevitable. We have grown accustomed to the visual repertory of Cuba, as represented in the media, characterised by the material decline of the city, and the nostalgic images of antiquated American cars gliding toward the Malecón esplanade. Even when the photographer is making a conscious effort to avoid these clichés, this cannot be entirely successful in a nation that, while trying to shake off these old stereotypes, is also conspicuously keen to exploit them to promote its tourist industry. In contrast with this iconography, some of Carl De Keyzer's shots look like melancholy displays of artificial happiness, for instance the scene, simultaneously kitschy and full of despair, of a wedding, calling to mind Martin Parr's nightmares in Technicolor depicting suburban Britain. Less saturated and ever familiar, the effigies of Che Guevara adorning an obsolete bank branch, or inserted in the pages of an atlas of Cuba, yield a sarcastic comment on indoctrination. In general terms, looking at these images, we can feel like intruders in the private, social spaces Cubans are nonetheless prepared to share with us, the curious visitors from abroad. This feeling derives as much from the ambivalence of a present shaken up by internal changes and the enormous, proverbial curiosity of the rest of the world about the particular nature of Cuba.

    In Cuba, la lucha, the questions remain unanswered, open like gaping wounds or burgeoning fresh flowers, given the fact that the central theme of this series is the change, which is, for that matter, not only painful but also unfathomable. This uncertainty is apparent from his oblique portraits of individuals, their bodies in contact with buildings in ruins, immersed in garish colour fields, engaging in their daily routines.

  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba, la lucha | Shoot



    Carl De Keyzer - CUBA, LA LUCHA

    Belgian photographer Carl De Keyzer went on a three-month trip to Cuba. He returned with unique images of a country in transition from Communist to Capitalist systems. • E.D

    This was close to my hotel. A glance at an old car, a portrait of Che, the logo of the SuperStar talent show on German television – and then this SuperMario walked into the frame. I just could not miss this.

    The Belgian photographer Carl De Keyzer has been a member of Magnum photography agency since 1994. Earlier trips brought him to India, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the United States and the Congo. For Moments Before the Flood (2012), he travelled along the coastline of the European continent, under threat of rising sea levels.

    We are visiting Carl De Keyzer at his home, in the peace and quiet of the East-Flanders village, where he settled two years ago. The proofs of the new book have been approved, the prints for the exhibition in Roberto Polo Gallery are ready: the photographer is visibly enjoying the calm after a hectic period.

    Carl De Keyzer: After Moments Before the Flood, I was really fed up. I even considered giving up photography. I had been travelling for eighteen months, and looking at the results of the exhibitions and the book, I considered these somewhat meagre in comparison with my efforts. I didn't want to do this kind of big project anymore. My age was certainly a factor: I'm no longer this stripling who went backpacking in India for six months. I just wanted to teach a bit, and for the rest start taking it easy.

    And yet, suddenly there was this inner drive again. I still had a few projects lying around that I could carry out in the short term without being away from home for a year. Cuba was one of them.

    Shoot: But why Cuba?

    C.D.K.: Cuba was actually a piece of cake. It is like my Congo project, in which I also show a lot of ruins and decay. With the end of the Soviet Union, Cuba had suddenly lost its major sponsor. Now everybody thinks it will just be a matter of time before the system collapses. Every day a house literally collapses in Havana, because there are no materials to maintain the buildings. Yet, miraculously, they manage to keep the system going – also because Fidel refuses to die [laughs]. In the end, it took quite a while before I could leave for Cuba. I intended to stay for three months, even though as a tourist, you are normally only granted a one-month visa. In December 2014, there was Obama's speech in which he announced that he wanted to ease the trade restrictions. At that moment, I really thought I had left it too long. Finally, I was able to set off in January of last year, and it proved to be the perfect moment. Obama's speech had quite an impact: there is hope among the Cubans once more. Such timing is crucial. I can't predict the future, but I try to take it into account. I had just finished my book Homo Sovieticus, for instance, when the Berlin Wall came down.

    Shoot: What did you shoot in Cuba?

    C.D.K.: Obviously, Cuba is a huge cliché. I didn't want to take those typical pictures with beautiful old-timers and derelict buildings. That has been done often enough. My first idea was to only take pictures inside – in principle, Cuba is more interesting inside than outside. During the first week, I shot inside people's homes. Inside you see poverty, sadness, people who are just, like the Communist state, waiting for the end. But I just couldn't bear to keep that up. On principle, I do not photograph victims, sick people, corpses: I find that too easy. So after that, it became a kind of road trip through Cuba, with more symbolic images. The combination of a Communist regime with a Central-American country does provide thrilling images.

    Shoot: As you said, Cuba has been photographed quite often. How did you avoid the stereotypes?

    C.D.K.: It's too easy just to shoot beautiful pictures. Aesthetics cannot be an aim in itself. I think beauty is important, but content – to use a big word – is just as important. The series Moments Before the Flood consists of nice images, but they do announce disaster. This element is also present in Cuba, la lucha. They are not just nice photos of derelict houses or old factory buildings, the ones you can find in abundance on the internet. I tried to add something extra; that is my style: in between, ecstasy, irony and criticism – with a hint of the surreal.

    That is also why my images are meant to be viewed in large format; every detail has a role to play. But you also have to stop at a certain point, because an image that is too complex, doesn't work anymore.

    Shoot: Does such an approach still work in this fleeting Instagram era?

    C.D.K.: If I wanted to score on Instagram, I'd have shot beautiful girls or old taxis. Instagram is not the right medium for my work. I've built up a certain oeuvre; I have my own way of looking, my own way of thinking. And today, there are more people than ever before who appreciate that, who are really interested in photography. When I look at the numbers of people that come to exhibitions, the numbers of people buying photo books – they just keep increasing. I will continue to make this kind of work. They are not ready-made, not fast food. People are not going to buy this book because they had a wonderful holiday on Cuba. They might do that by mistake, but then they are in for a shock [laughs].

    ABOVE: At first I only wanted to take pictures inside people's homes. But it was so pitiful that I couldn't keep it up. - ©Carl De Keyzer

    BELOW: Recently, Cubans have been allowed to set up their own company. Photoshoots on the occasion of a girl's fifteenth birthday, when she becomes an adult, are very popular. They really are like wedding photoshoots at home. - ©Carl De Keyzer

    If I wanted to score on Instagram, I'd have shot beautiful girls or old taxis.

    Shoot: What is the meaning of the title of the book?

    C.D.K.: La lucha means 'struggle', and the word has multiple meanings in Cuba. It refers to the daily struggle to survive; Cubans are not well off, with an average monthly income of $30, and everything is rationed. There is a constant search for food, parts and materials. La lucha also refers to the struggle for Socialism, the struggle to keep believing in Socialist ideals, in spite of the embargo and the opposition abroad. When I was 18, I had leftist leanings, like everyone of my age then. But my first travels to the Soviet Union quickly cured me of those: that was not the ideal world. In Cuba, the system still controls the population; every neighbourhood has its 'revolutionary committee' keeping an eye on the inhabitants. But also that is slowly disintegrating; mostly the committee consists of a granny behind a desk. There is also a third, more ironic meaning: la lucha is the name of a chain of co-operative DIY stores.

    Shoot: Could you tell us something about the technical aspects?

    C.D.K.: The style is similar to the one in my earlier books, but this time I worked without a flash. Today's digital cameras don't require a flash anymore. Flash lighting was characteristic of my style, but also a mere necessity. In India and the Soviet Union, I was often working in large halls with many people, and using 400 ASA film rolls required the use of flash.

    For Moments Before the Flood, I used a Phase One digital medium-format camera, but that was slow going, with a tripod, at ISO 100 or 200. For this book, I shot everything with a medium-format Pentax 645Z – with Pentax also sponsoring the project. The 645Z is a bit cumbersome, but the autofocus is fast enough for reporting purposes. I worked with sensitivities between 800 and 12,500 ISO and even in large-format prints there is hardly any noise. I still prefer the medium format – I'm not a 35 mm photographer. Even when I was using a Nikon D800E, I was cropping the images to end up with a 6 x 7 or 6 x 4.5 image ratio. I love the painting-like serenity of that format.

    Shoot: The theme of this issue of Shoot is children and adolescents. What is the impression you receive from your young students?

    C.D.K.: They are more professional than we were. In our final year, we went to Normandy for a week, and we thought that was a big adventure. Now they're off to Japan or Alaska, or present projects on the drug trade in Colombia. Their scope is the world, they have much more information and they use it. I consider it an honour to be able to teach and experience that. The speed with which they spot things, evolve, make links, is sometimes mind-blowing.

    Because of digitalization, photography has become much more accessible, much cheaper. It is also much faster. After a three-month trip I would spend another three months in the darkroom. Nowadays my students show me on Monday the two hundred photos they shot over the weekend. I do tell them: please come back when you have selected the top ten of those [laughs]. With a digital camera hardly anything can go wrong anymore. You end up with more technically usable images; the danger is that you're too easily satisfied. In a manner of speaking, I could come back from a trip and have a book and an exhibition ready within a week. But you do need time to let it all sink in. I don't show more photos than I used to.

    The downside of this accessibility is that there are many more photographers today, making it more difficult to earn a living. But I find photography an extremely valuable study, even if you can't turn professional; it enriches everyone.

    Shoot: After looking at OdysSea, the documentary that Jimmy Kets made about your work, a friend of mine said: "Doesn't this guy have the best job in the world?" Would you agree?

    C.D.K.: The best thing in life is to be able to determine what you do with your own time, and I do have that luxury. I don't have to teach – I do it because I like it. Two or three times a year, I take on a big commission. For the rest I choose my own subjects, and I decide myself how much time I want to spend on something. Even though my photography is not the most accessible, I can make a living without having to compromise. In that respect, I am one of the luckiest photographers of this country. There is not much more I could wish for.

    I still prefer the medium format. I love the painting-like serenity of that format.

    ABOVE: Boxing is the most popular sport in Cuba. - ©Carl De Keyzer

    BELOW: I remember this kind of funfair attractions from my trips to the Soviet Union. The operator has fallen asleep, so maybe this ride will just keep going round and round. - ©Carl De Keyzer

    LEFT: Cuba is now on the itinerary of the giant cruise ships in the Caribbean. - ©Carl De Keyzer

    BELOW: Every year there is a book fair where mainly Russian books and old novels such as Dickens' works are sold. There is a festive atmosphere, but everything is strictly regulated. - ©Carl De Keyzer

    RIGHT: This is another of those symbolic images. I had seen the American and Cuban flags. The sun was just perfectly aligned with the Cuban one. Then the blind man walked by, with a dollar sign on his cap. I quickly rang the doorbell and asked if I could take a picture from the balcony – the presence of a half-naked woman sunbathing there was of no interest to me. I was just in time to press the shutter. - ©Carl De Keyzer

  • Carl De Keyzer | Che, Fidel and the last iPhone, by Sam Steverlynck | Agenda



    Che, Fidel and the last iPhone

    There is no doubt that Cuba is at a turning point. No better moment for Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer to point his camera at the early signs of a regime change. SAM STEVERLYNCK (translation by Raf Erzeel)

    After having portrayed 'homo sovieticus' just before the fall of the USSR, Carl De Keyzer now records the equally fascinating process of the communist 'chachacha' regime in Cuba slowly but surely opening up in the direction of a free-market economy. De Keyzer shows the last paroxysms of a country where time has stood still, even though the system has serious cracks. Though the combative slogans and the portraits of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are ubiquitous, they are also literally fading. One of the most powerful images of the exhibition at Roberto Polo Gallery is the one of a blind man tapping his way across a chalk street painting, praising the reconciliation between Cuba and the U.S. – an image that tells it all. One omen of this nearly inevitable revolution is the invasion of (American) tourists. De Keyzer ruthlessly records this 'homo turisticus', basking by the pool, while merely a few feet away, on the other side of a high fence, dreary blocks of flats are languishing. Another tourist is enjoying the sunshine in a rocking chair on the patio of a colonial villa, with a display of postcards of a cigar-smoking Fidel and Che behind her – or how the propaganda machine of the regime and the capitalist tourist industry seem to go together surprisingly well. This friction, this paradigm change, is what De Keyzer is able to capture, often with a wry irony and not without humour. Vintage cars still trundle through Havana, even though one driver has put a tv-screen in his battered old-timer. Also the iPhone has found its way in; a seller of charming paintings is languidly playing on his phone, with the same apathy we find in the capitalist West. The population seems to long for liberalization, but is mentally stuck in the system, as is clearly shown in a picture of an attendant in a rusty funfair, sleeping in her booth. One thing is clear: the struggle is not over yet.

  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba, la lucha | L'Eventail



    Carl De Keyzer. Cuba, la lucha

    GALLERIES | BRUSSELS & Luxembourg

    Carl De Keyzer's solo exhibition consisting of a series of photographic images created in 2015 is both documentary and conceptual. It is a study of the transition ongoing in Cuba from a communist regime to a capitalist system and its consequences for the population. De Keyzer captures key moments in contemporary history by photographing intimate moments, always through the through a prism always tinted with poetry, often with irony and transcendental humour. His powerful, carnal images capture the dignity and charisma of Cubans struggling to survive. His photographs of buildings in ruins evoke the splendour of a past era. Remarkably, he had planned for the Cuba, la lucha series before the American president Barak Obama’s speech in 2014 announcing the relaxation of the embargo imposed on the island decades earlier.

    Carl De Keyzer, Camagüey, Cuba, 2015 (detail),

    Photograph mounted on DiBond, limited edition of 5.




  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba Just Before Coca Cola, by Jean-Marie Binst | Brussel Deze Week



    Cuba just before Coca Cola

    Havana, the Sleeping Beauty, after over half a century of economic stranglehold by the U.S.

    Brussels – The writing on the wall says that Havana, like Sleeping Beauty, will soon wake up after over half a century of economic stranglehold by the U.S.; Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer went there just in time to load his camera with images. He has hung the premises of the Roberto Polo Gallery with around sixty large-format photos. His exhibition is called Cuba, la lucha, after the struggle for survival that the Cubans had to go through after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    In the middle of August last year, the U.S. Embassy in Havana opened its doors. In September, a first limited load of American tourists was allowed in. The distance between Miami Beach and the artificial Varadero – not open to most Cubans – is about the same as the distance between Brussels and Paris.

    A new era has begun. After the Cuba Libre, no coke was available for half a century. The mentirita – the 'lying drink' as the Cubans call it, will return tomorrow, as Coca-Cola conquers its one-but-last market in the world. Together with iPhones, fashion brands, fridges, IKEA furniture and cars, "we will get two Chinese cars for every gas-guzzling American old-timer", is what they hope. It will push the still picture of Cuba towards 'big capital vs. bigger poverty', just like in Russia, De Keyzer already shows with his witness photos.

    Petrol station

    As for now, time has been undermining the carcass that is left of Havana. A lack of building materials and cash in most of the population means that the amazing pre-1950s residences, palaces, hotels and restaurants have never been restored.

    The exhibition can be read as a final tribute to an era, captured in time in a motionless image. It is also a tribute to the resilience of a people, who, in the shadow of American brio, practically outpaced Europeans in the first half of the 20th century. The accelerated modernisation of the car pool in the fifties bears witness to that.

    De Keyzer cannot help but capture these scenes with wrecks of wonderful car models. The dashboard of a taxi, not revealing that the cabdriver is an educated man – architect, engineer – in daily life. A petrol station that could have served as the background for James Dean or Saturday Night Fever, with an ad stating that the new Ford '58 is an automobile that compels admiration. And then the real communists, those who still visit the Che Guevara memorial and have a framed poster of the man above their beds.


    But there are also the young. An amalgam of well-educated people dreaming of America. Indeed, education is apparently free, as are medical and social care. However, young people do not get the training they desire; enrolment systems lead to courses that are quickly full up. Moreover, medical training does cost a lot of money, as uniforms and materials have to be bought by the students. In other words: most of them do not get any chances. The photographer shows the disillusionment in a picture of a girl drawing her hopes from a laptop in the midst of a tangle of old printers that would be on the scrapheap in Europe. Or people who find solace in a wedding, their only chance to show some glamour and wealth to the outside world. It looks beautiful among the other images, those of faded grandeur. De Keyzer finds a lick of paint in Caribbean colours on the facade of crumbling houses reflected in clothing. It is the only thing, apart from the seriously pollut ed natural environment, that puts some spirit into the island.

    Only one feeling dominates the entire around sixty-picture photographic circuit: diffidence. Diffidence of the Cubans because of the restraints on their urge to better themselves; our diffidence because of our tacit consent of fifty years of stranglehold.

    by Jean-Marie Binst (translated by Raf Erzeel)

    ‘Cuba, la lucha’ is on until 15 May in Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, Brussels,, 02.502.56.50. Open Tue-Fri 2 - 6 p.m., Sat-Sun 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Publication Cuba, la lucha, published by Lannoo, 176 pp., € 49.99.




    When the article below was written, the working title of Bert Danckaert's series Horizon was i.e.
    The pointless journey
    On Bert Danckaert's pictures
    Photography exists by the grace of light. Light is a conditio sine qua non for photographers, and the same condition applies for painters. Some of the latter consider the light in their part of the world so unsuitable that they consciously move to brighter surroundings, where they can capture more nuances of light on canvas. Light makes their work glow, as if the canvas they paint on is backlit by a lightbulb.
    Surgical precision
    Like any other photographer, Bert Danckaert paints with light. For his photos, he prefers it "strong and without shadows, like an invisible presence, true and absolutely democratic. Indeed, that kind of light does not select what is or is not important. It just 'exposes'. Anything and everything is equal in its eyes. No ambience, nothing happening in the shadowy margins. Light of equality and diffusion." (Bert Danckaert, De extra's, p. 44-45) Yet it is not for the light in particular that Danckaert has been travelling to dozens of countries on five continents for years now. He could use the light in his own back yard just as well. Then why does the photographer go to those faraway regions? In order to shoot walls, facades and car parks that he might just as well capture in his home town. Danckaert has photographed, for instance, car parks of IKEA branches all over the world. So why does he take the plane to do that, instead of just hopping on a bus to go to his local IKEA, just a few stops down the road? Moreover, the car parks of the different outlets of the Swedish furniture multinational hardly differ from country to country, and Danckaert's photos of urban spaces – he calls them "thoughtless spaces" – do not feature people. In that sense he takes anonymous photos. The facial features and skin colour of people in his pictures might otherwise have made the observers of his work remark that picture was taken in an IKEA car park in Japan, and the other one in an Eastern European country, for instance. Now they can only guess.
    "A photographer can never work non-figuratively, but possibly abstractly; whereas a painter, without referring to anything at all, can work non-figuratively."
    The reason why Bert Danckaert takes anonymous pictures is to be found in his fascination with the concepts of 'cultural identity', 'globalisation' and 'construction of the image' – concepts and problems forming the basis of his PhD in arts, which he completed at the end of 2014. His books De extra's and Simple Present are, respectively, the textual and visual consolidations of those concepts: "At first, I started this project from the astonishing realisation that many places look the same the world over, as if there is no more room in this globalised world for cultural identity. So I went to take pictures in the Beijing IKEA car park because it looked exactly the same as the IKEA car park in Ghent or Paris. The pointless journey: in order to find over there what we can also find right here, around the corner. The impossibility of exoticism and the relativity of the concepts of 'distance' and 'space' in this overpopulated and virtual-reality-dominated world. I photographed traces and patterns of human activity." (De extra's, p. 31)
    Bert Danckaert, Simple Present #703 (Guangzhou), 2013.
    Bert Danckaert, War (from the series Oriëntaties), 1991. (© Bert Danckaert)
    "Abbreviations are always more or less cryptic. To a certain extent, this also goes for Danckaert's photos, which only reveal their 'secrets' minimally."
    It did not take long, however, for Danckaert to realise that his tenet about the impossibility of exoticism did not completely conform to reality. He recognized that it was a naive construction and that the story behind the advancing globalisation and uniformisation of the world around us was much subtler. Some outlets of multinationals and many commercialized roads in cities all over the world might look more or less the same, but the soul of a city or a country is much harder to describe. Danckaert says: "I discovered that some places were indeed completely interchangeable and that there is an image of a city that may be read as the result of years of multiculturalism and Capitalist dominance [...] But there were also aspects of cities that were so explicitly individual that they were no longer interchangeable; some spots in Havana were so Cuban and some parts of Shanghai were so Chinese that my construction was only partly true. It appeared that my hypothesis was too one-sided, that some measure of differentiation was necessary." (De extra's, p. 31-32)
    The traces and patterns of human activity in Danckaert's work cannot only be admired in his series Simple Present, but also in the new work that he collects under the title i.e. and to which this artist's issue is dedicated. Please look for yourself: colourful facades, whose monotone monochrome is interrupted by vertical and horizontal lines in the shape of, for example, electric cables, (bricked-up) doors and windows, iron shutters, air vents and fences. Tight formalism, pictured rigorously by means of a grid. This framing grid in the viewfinder of his camera enables Danckaert to compose or frame his subject almost mathematically, and as such to achieve absolute accuracy on a few square feet of a facade. An example of this is the photo i.e. #46 (Macau), 2014. In this, we see a facade on which work is being done. At the extreme left and right of the picture, there are three rows of horizontally layered black bricks with white pointing. Of the third row of bricks, on each side, up against the edge of the frame, however, we only see less than half. The remarkable thing is that, of either row, we get to see just as much 'half'. That is surgical precision.
    However tight Danckaert's compositions may look in terms of division of spaces, there are also frivolous elements that squarely go against the first impression of a dogmatically Constructivist approach. On the photo mentioned above, two thick black cables can be seen, snaking across the rigid face of the image and crossing each other almost voluptuously. Also diagonals frequently occur in Danckaert's photos. Just look at photo i.e. #42 (Macau), 2014 and judge for yourself.
    Another interesting feature of Danckaert's pictures is the fact that they sometimes look like abstract paintings (cf. i.e. #5 (Lodz), 2014). Just ignore the square plate – a light switch? – and with a bit of imagination you are looking straight at a painting by Mark Rothko. The photo could then be a reproduction of one of his works, if it were not for the strip of pavement at the bottom of the picture... Yet the comparison with an abstract canvas is not far-fetched, as Danckaert himself explains when he lectures on his work. On that occasion he always shows the audience two slides next to each other: one of an abstract painting by Mark Rothko (Number 207, 1961) and one of a colour photo by Saul Leiter (Through Boards, 1957). The Leiter photo shows an abstract-like image consisting of a black and a red surface, with a few people and a car visible in between; the picture seems to have been taken from behind a closed fence with a slit-like gap in it. Rothko's painting has a similar composition and consists of a red and a dark blue surface that almost, but not entirely, touch each other. In between there is a 'void' that the viewers can fill in as they please. Danckaert says: "This is a good example of the difference between abstraction and non-figuration. A photographer can never work non-figuratively, but possibly abstractly; whereas a painter, without referring to anything at all, can work non-figuratively. In other words: a photographer is always tied to reality; however abstractly he works, it will always be the light that is reflected by objects and that makes the image. In photography, briefly, there is always the matter of a reference, while the painter can start from pure form, without necessarily referring to reality or abstracting reality." (From a conversation with the author on 30 December 2015).
    The photo as theatre box
    We have already touched on the aspects of 'cultural identity' and 'globalisation' in Bert Danckaert's work, but we have not yet (or only summarily) discussed the construction of his images. The rectangular viewfinder of a camera allows photographers to make artificial cuts of our surroundings: people, animals and things. As a picture is a two-dimensional rendering of a three-dimensional situation, the illusion of a theatre box is created. This consists of a horizontal stage and a vertical background. Viewed in this way, the setting of a photo – and in particular Danckaert's seemingly stern and formalistic photos – is reminiscent of a theatre stage; this interpretation is helped along by the mostly frontal character of Danckaert's photos, which do not feature people or animals. Indeed, the pictures that helped Danckaert's breakthrough, viz. the series Simple Present on which he worked for seven years, look like stages waiting for the actors to walk on, or having just been cleared. One example is a photo in this article, Simple Present #701 (Guangzhou), 2013. You expect someone to come out of the doors any moment now. But waiting for that to happen would be like waiting for Godot (as in Samuel Beckett's play of that name), which brings us straight back to the world of the theatre. It should not come as a surprise that Danckaert's graduation project at the Nationaal Hoger Instituut voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen [National Higher Institute of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium] was called Coulissen [Wings]. He took the pictures shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in a number of former Eastern Bloc countries, more specifically in the transitional areas between city and countryside, between city and industry.
    An example of this early work is a black-and-white picture of a high brick wall, reaching beyond the upper limits of the frame. On the wall, in big, white capitals, the word 'WAR' has been painted (from the series Oriëntaties, 1991). In the foreground, we can see a neglected strip of grass with a few scrawny little beech trees; in between the trees and the wall is a sturdy steel-wire fence. Instinctively, we get an uncomfortable feeling on viewing this scene. The word 'WAR' in itself already makes you shudder, and also the wall and the fence do not bode well. Until the photographer tells you that the writing on the wall actually spells 'IJZERWAREN' [HARDWARE], which obviously charges the picture with an entirely different meaning. By zooming in on the letters 'WAR', Danckaert tricks the viewer. For him, photos are not mere reproductions of reality. "As photos always refer to the real world without being reality", he explains, "photos are always constructs – models of the world in which we live. The magic of photography lies in the process leading to that construct."
    Taking into account the previous paragraphs, it should not surprise the reader that Danckaert comes from a theatre family. His parents worked in that environment and his brother Wim is an actor of both stage and screen. At first, also Bert Danckaert considered a career as an actor. After one year at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp, however, he had to put a stop to his studies. Yet according to himself, he learnt more during that year than in the subsequent seven years of his photography training. Especially his professor Luc Perceval proved to be an inspiration. Perceval taught Danckaert at a young age the concept of 'artistic responsibility', and being 'lethally consistent' in your work. In other words: as an artist, you need to take full responsibility for anything that you create through your work.
    Bert Danckaert, Simple Present #700 (Shenzhen), 2013. (© Bert Danckaert)
    Bert Danckaert, Oost-Berlijn [East Berlin] (from the series Coulissen), 1991. (© Bert Danckaert)
    Until this day, Bert Danckaert has kept Perceval's wise words in mind as a motto. As a freshly graduated photographer, he not only began to teach immediately, but he also started taking pictures related to the ones he takes now. In those days he only photographed in black-and-white and with analogue cameras, though. Later on, he switched to digital equipment and chose to work in colour. Between his graduation and the start of his project Simple Present, he started to experiment with all kinds of techniques, under the influence of photographer Dirk Braeckman. He photographed television pictures, for instance, and blew up the images by projecting them onto photo paper with a slide projector. In 1977, he took part in the Prijs Jonge Belgische Schilderkunst [Young Belgian Painting Prize] with a series of photos referring to surveillance images, and he was selected. During that period, his main theme was the mass media and how those images reached us, among others through the internet. Only around 1999 did he change his focus to concentrate on making pictures of reality, be it a reality that poses as a set.
    Danckaert's reasoned approach to photography, especially concerning composition, leads to aesthetic images that are far from sterile – he allows too much intuition into his work for that. He is constantly searching for sites, viz. (mega-) cities, which somehow or other attract him by their socio-political meaning and history. His method is invariably as follows: he stays in city somewhere on this planet for two weeks, and every day wanders aimlessly through the streets, without a preconceived plan, but focused on the everyday space in a stern and concentrated approach. Or he just takes the underground and gets off somewhere, anywhere. Sometimes he walks the streets hours at a stretch without taking a single picture. In his own words: "There is always an interaction between the surprises that reality presents me with and the patterns and structures that I have in mind. Most definitely, my method includes something like a preconception, even a concept; yet at the same time there is always something unpredictable – compare it to free-jazz musicians who find each other while they are playing, and take leads from the others. In that sense, my work is musical. Don't forget that music is essentially abstract, whereas photography is exactly the opposite. Photography is probably the most concrete of art forms, because it always creates photos of things in a particular location. In music, however, that question is not asked; music is about rhythms and colours and forms."
    On Friday 4 March 2016 the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (ARIA) makes itself heard. The brand new institute of the University of Antwerp and the three Schools of Arts (KASKA, KCA and St.-Lucas) suspend business as usual for a while at the Stadsfeestzaal. Artists, students and scientists intervene in a typical urban hub: the shopping mall.
    They show what research in, with and about the arts means for our society.
    With artistic interventions, lectures, debates, laboratory demonstrations and a major festive event we throw ARIA into the midst of urban life on 4, 5 and 6 March 2016. What is art capable of in this commercial hub; what can art do in the city and in society?
    On Saturday 5 March the artist's issue 'Bert Danckaert: i.e.' of Kunsttijdschrift Vlaanderen will be presented to the press and public. On this occasion, Bert Danckaert will give a speech. A selection from his work will be on show during the three-day event. Further information, including the time of the presentation, will follow. Please keep an eye on our website and Facebook account:
    The programme of the ARIA-event is as follows:
    Opening event | Happy Hour | Party 4 March at 6 p.m.
    Expo | Performances | Music | Pop-up Bookshop 4 March from 4.30 until 10 p.m.
    5 & 6 March events all day between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
    Location: Stadsfeestzaal Antwerpen, Meir 78 – Hopland 31, 2000 Antwerp

    Bert Danckaert (°Antwerp, Belgium, 1965) studied photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the National Higher Institute of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Since the mid-nineties he has practised as a photographer and he has exhibited, both solo and in group exhibitions in Belgium and elsewhere. In 1997 he was nominated for the Prijs Jonge Belgische Schilderkunst [Young Belgian Painting Prize]. In 2006, his first book, Make Sense! was published, with texts by Jean-Louis Poitevin and Lynne Cohen. Bert Danckaert is a member of POC (Piece of Cake), an international collective of European photographers.

    Besides his artistic activities, Bert Danckaert also reports on photography for several newspapers and magazines. He is lecturer in photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. In 2008, his second book, Simple Present – Beijing was published, and in 2009, his third, Cape Town Notes. In 2013, on the occasion of his first solo exhibition at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels, the complete work Simple Present (Lannoo) was published, covering 18 cities in 5 continents. Simultaneously, the prose book De extra's was published by EPO. Both publications were the end result of the PhD in arts that Danckaert obtained from the University of Tilburg, The Netherlands, in 2014. Bert Danckaert is now exclusively represented by Roberto Polo Gallery.
    In contrast with photographers such as Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall, Bert Danckaert has until now presented his photos in fairly small formats, for two reasons. Firstly, he has chosen to refer to a documentary tradition in his work; that type of photos is usually fairly small. Secondly, he considers it important for viewers to build a physical relationship with his work, according to Danckaert "in order to almost attain the intimacy of a book. You have to approach those images to be able to see them. In works by Wall and Gursky, on the other hand, the show value is immense. I really love their work, but I think that the subdued, reduced and abstract character of my work would not be served well by spectacular formats."
    His latest work, however, titled i.e., is presented in formats larger than usual for Danckaert. The smaller photos are printed in 60 x 80 cm [about 25 x 30 in.] format, the larger ones measure 110 x 150 cm [about 45 x 60 in.]. i.e. (abbreviation of the Latin 'id est') is used in its normal meaning of 'namely'. For Danckaert, it refers to the interpretation of reality in which photography speaks 'in other words'. But i.e. also stands for 'informal encounters', referring to the ironic idea that whereas his work is quite formal and stern, his encounters with the places where he takes his pictures are instead quite informal. Indeed, he shoots them as a casual passer-by. Yet these encounters do lead to compelling, aesthetic images. Abbreviations are always more or less cryptic. To a certain extent, this also goes for Danckaert's photos, which only reveal their 'secrets' minimally. They are, as it were, visual abbreviations of a larger reality that can be captured in a small frame. Without the probing look necessary to read them on a multi-interpretable level, they remain unambiguous. With that look, they rise to become meta-photography, which is what makes them so unique.
    Bert Danckaert, De extra's, EPO, Berchem, 2013, 117 p.
    Bert Danckaert, Simple Present, Lannoo, Tielt, 2013, 179 p.
    # Patrick Auwelaert is editor of Kunsttijdschrift Vlaanderen, editor of Passage. Tijdschrift voor Europese literatuur en cultuur and is on the editorial staff of Jazzmozaïek. Furthermore he is a member of the Association Internationale des Critiques d'Art (AICA) and the Belgische Vereniging van Kunstcritici (BVKC) [Belgian association of art critics]. He writes review, articles and essays on literature, music, visual arts, film and graphic design.

  • Carl De Keyzer | Carl in Cuba by Wim Denolf |





    In 1989, almost simultaneously with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Carl De Keyzer presented Homo Sovieticus: a book in which the Belgian photographer recorded the end of the Soviet Union. That earned him a nomination to membership of the distinguished Magnum Photo agency. Almost thirty years on, he again documents political revolution, the breakdown of a social utopia and its impact on ordinary people in Cuba. La Lucha is a book (Lannoo & Roberto Polo Gallery, € 49.99) and an exhibition at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels. Also this time around, the timing is meticulous: just before De Keyzer arrived on the Caribbean island in January 2014, President Obama had announced an improvement in American-Cuban relations. The result is a sometimes disturbing portrait of a country in transition, hesitating between the promise of economic growth, the temptations of Capitalism, and the fear of losing its identity as well as its traditions.

    by Wim Denolf [translation by Raf Erzeel]

    Exhibition from 18 March until 15 May. Info:

  • Carl De Keyzer | Visionary of History, Carl De Keyzer Photographs Document Cuba's Struggle to Survive, by Ana Moriarty |



  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba, the struggle, through the lens of photographer Carl de Keyzer, by Rik Van Puymbroeck | De Morgen



    Cuba, the struggle, through the lens of photographer Carl de Keyzer

    Just before the island becomes an ordinary country: 'Cuba, la lucha'.

    "History repeats itself", says Carl De Keyzer. The photographer gladly records this repetitive history of collapsing systems. After, among others, the Soviet Union and China, De Keyzer travelled to Cuba, just before Obama and the Stones will.

    De Morgen, 12 March 2016 - Rik Van Puymbroeck (translation by Raf Erzeel)

    He was driving along the Carretera Central, "a bit like the M1 of Cuba", which connects La Fé with Baracoa; a 777-mile-long, empty road, sometimes six lanes wide, in the Soviet manner. "For the tanks to be moved quickly." Suddenly, after having driven for an hour without seeing anyone, there was this family picnicking in the middle of the road. "My guide thought that was perfectly normal", says the Magnum photographer. " 'There's room to spare', he said."

    What is normal in Cuba? De Keyzer recognised the long queue for almost free Coppelia ice cream from the old Soviet Union where he was in 1988 and 1989. "The people need their sugar, and for 5 pesos or 1/5 CUC, the currency which you have to use as a tourist, you get a Coupe Hélène with banana. But that is really Soviet-like, and you can see that the whole system has been exported to Cuba. Fidel did not have much of a say in that."

    "You can also use metaphors to show how the system has failed." CARL DE KEYZER

    It is typical for De Keyzer to look at such a system. He recognises how people fend off things, and defend themselves; how the country evolves and how the leader might be embarrassed. First there was the Soviet Union. Then God, Inc. – in America: "Also religion is a system." He travelled to the emaciated Congo, and in Moments Before the Flood captured Europe's coastal line before it crumbles due to rising waters.

    Cuba, la lucha may be another 'moment before the flood'. There were tourists already, but Belgian consul Benoît Standaert advised them to go to the end of Varadero, where a new yachting harbour was being built. "There is room for 1,200 yachts – there are only four now – and next to it there is an American-style village with shops full of Dior and Swarovski and the prettiest girls. But no customers. The picture I took there is not my best, but just look at that tattooed Neanderthal hanging around. 'What the fuck', you see him think. But I think Obama's speech did not come out of the blue. You do not build something like this in a year; they knew."

    Havana, 2015. ©Carl de Keyzer


    Cuba had been in De Keyzer's drawer for a long time; from a distance, he saw the gradual revolution, like in China. "People are fed up and tired, but they lack the strength for the counter-revolution. But when Obama spoke his words 'Todos somos Americanos', I thought for a moment: shit, I've missed my chance. It is a frozen country. The Soviet Union was in better shape in 1988 than Cuba is now. It is a weather-beaten country, as is Communism."

    Pinar del Rio, 2015. ©Carl De Keyzer

    "I could not get access to any hospital. The standard of education is high, though. But accommodation is horrible. Che did not know the first thing about economy." CARL DE KEYZER

    But he got there just in time, and also that is historical. On 9 November 1989, Homo Sovieticus was presented in Amsterdam, and the Berlin Wall came down exactly that evening. Now there is this book. Next week Barack Obama will go to Cuba and one week later the Rolling Stones will perform in Havana. "History also repeats itself in that: after the fall of the Soviet Union, Paul McCartney gave a concert there."

    Cuba and Havana have been photographed to death, and De Keyzer says he did not avoid the clichés. But la lucha ("also the name of a chain of DIY stores where you can buy wallpaper and cement") does not just show old-timers. Actually he only wanted to look inside. "But after one week I had fifteen portraits and poverty is so pervasive that I was in danger of making a book full of misery – whereas I prefer metaphors."

    A photographer without scruples would show all that, but De Keyzer remembered the criticism on the photos he took in the Congo. He did not want anything too 'in-your-face'. "You can also use metaphors to show how the system has failed. And it has, certainly in health care. I could not get access to any hospital. The standard of education is high, though. But accommodation is horrible. Che did not know the first thing about economy." Cuba abounds with skeletons: fancy haciendas and palaces that were hastily abandoned after the revolution. The rich occupants left the keys with the drivers and caretakers and shouted: "We'll be back in six months!" Those six months turned into 56 years. "Literally every day, some house or other collapses in Havana. But on markets you can now see women offering houses for $800,000. If you invest, you will get a new Venice there. Sadly, people only make $50 a month."

    Varadero, 2015. ©Carl De Keyzer

    Failed idea

    He had a good look around, and Cuba, la lucha, a phrase that was mainly used after Russia left the island to its own devices in 1994, offers a stifling image of a failed idea. Three months were enough for the following idea: "It was a crime to introduce Communism in Cuba. Although I am aware of the advantages of the system, this should be a splendid island, and now, after 56 years, it needs to be rebuilt completely. I am against dictators and Batista was corrupt and needed to go. But sometimes, like now in the case of the Middle East, you may wonder if it might not have been better to suffer Mubarak just a bit longer and to have a smoother transition without a revolution. That also goes for Cuba."

    Havana, 2015. ©Carl De Keyzer

    Before De Keyzer, other Magnum photographers (Steve McCurry, David Alan Harvey and Nikos Economopoulos) went to Cuba. There are wonderful books about the campo by Ernesto Bazan. But nobody saw the man playing the piano in a hacienda, against a background of threadbare chairs, the cruise ship in the harbour and the book market at the Havana fort where you can find a Dostoyevsky novel for 1 peso. For that, we needed De Keyzer's eyes in Cuba.

    Cuba, la lucha, Lannoo, 176 p., €49.99

    Between 18 March and 15 May the exhibition of Carl De Keyzer's photos can be seen at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels.
    Havana, 2015. ©Carl de Keyzer


    Cubaanse 'Sigarenman van het jaar' is een Belgische vrouw
    [Cuban 'cigar man of the year' is a Belgian woman]

    Zal Obama ook iets betekenen voor de mensenrechteren op Cuba? [Will Obama mean anything for human rights in Cuba?]

    photography Carl De Keyzer Cuba

  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba, la lucha, by Jozefien Van Beek | Humo



  • Stephen Snoddy | Looking Out | L'Eventail



  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba - Museum of the Revolution, by Anna Luyten | Vrij Nederland





    Photos: Carl De KeyzerText: Anna Luyten – translation: Raf Erzeel

    Vrij Nederland – 12 March 2016

    CARL DE KEYZER PHOTOGRAPHS PEOPLE WAKING UP FROM IDEOLOGICAL NARCOSIS. He did that in the Soviet Union, in the Congo, in the Eastern Bloc, in religious communities. Now it is Cuba's turn, at the pivotal moment between Communism and western Capitalism.

    "I had been waiting for a few years for the right moment to record the last convulsions of the Communist system in Cuba", says Belgian Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer. On 17 December 2014, the American President Barack Obama announced in a speech that, after 55 years of enmity, he wanted to reach out a hand to Cuba, rather than push it over the edge. "Somod todos Americanos" – "We are all Americans" – said the President. A few days later, De Keyzer landed in Havana; he stayed for three months. He captured the country at the pivotal moment between Communism and western Capitalism. Indeed, when political restraints are relaxed, the resilience of citizens really becomes clear.

    Now, a few days before Obama's historical visit to Cuba, and the first public performance of The Rolling Stones in Havana, his photo book is published.


    Carl De Keyzer has always been fascinated by what happens 'on the way', both in people, and in political systems. He is an eyewitness of the course of history. He does not just want to shoot beautiful images. "When I look at something, I always wonder: can I do something with this beauty?" His images are a reflection on what was and what is about to happen. He does not make moral judgements; he does not want to be cynical, but photographs the mores of an era. He records the adaptability of people. "Cubans have to jump through all kinds of hoops. The signs of a society in transition are not necessarily obvious; mostly they are hardly noticeable. That combination of threat and decay, the beauty of the country and the warmth of people ensures the right balance."

    De Keyzer allows situations to speak for themselves. He dislodges deeply rooted images. He looks for the fringes. "There are enough clichés in Cuba: the vintage cars, taxis, pastel colours, portraits of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro." Those images of Che and Fidel are faded, captured in postcards for tourists; or they are as tired as the houses in which they hang from flaking walls.


    For De Keyzer, travelling began with India (1987), followed by Homo Sovieticus. In that book (originally published as U.S.S.R. | 1989 | C.C.C.P. in Dutch), he portrayed the Soviet Union at a moment like the one Cuba is experiencing now: the collapse of Communism.

    In recent decades, he went looking for religious communities, travelled to the Eastern Bloc, the old Europe, Siberian prison camps, the former Belgian colony of the Congo. Everywhere, he portrays citizens waking up from ideological narcosis.

    De Keyzer: "Apparently, this is my thing: how systems invented by people in their theoretical delusions of grandeur fail to provide any room for humans as sentient beings."

    Cuba, la lucha is the title of his most recent book. Cuba, the struggle. The title itself already suggests multiple layers. "It is the outcry that refers to the struggle to keep Socialism alive. In the early nineties, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, everyone thought that Cuba would perish with it. For four years, people lived in true poverty." But the struggle is not over yet, as De Keyzer noticed all too often. "People are fed up. They negotiate between their love for the revolution and the fear of a drawn-out death struggle. Call it struggle as a synonym of the fire of life."

    He laughs: "La Lucha is also the name of a Cuban chain of DIY stores, by the way, where you can buy building materials and tools for renovation and repair."

    The history of the Cuban citizen as continuous patching up; man as a plasterer. Those are the big themes that De Keyzer offers with empathy and in the form of a question. The image of a throng in front of a door, as if waiting to enter a shrine to Fidel Castro, looks like a scene from a film. In fact they are extras from a historical film, waiting for their lunch outside a closed canteen. Or take the photo of a private boxing club: a man wearing an FBI t-shirt, and on the wall the famous Che Guevara portrait, taken by Magnum photographer René Burri in the early sixties.

    Times change. Cracks appear in the ceiling. There is only a window, open to the playful wind, with a view of the Museum of the Revolution. De Keyzer suggests. There is this image of two tourists sitting in a rocking chair outside a villa, like colonials. In front of them the postcards with old icons: "It is almost a view of the future." In his images, De Keyzer stops a merry-go-round. In one of his photos the woman who sits at the controls has fallen asleep. That is his cue to press the shutter.

    'Cuba, la lucha' by Carl De Keyzer is published on 15 March 2016 by Lannoo, 176 p., € 49.99 Exhibition from 18 March until 15 May 2016 at the Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, Brussels,

  • Carl De Keyzer | Ramshackle Cuba, by Rosan Hollak | NRC Nederland



    Ramshackle Cuba


    Carl De Keyzer records what a regime does to a country. In Havana, one or other house collapses every day; that is telling for Cuba.
    • by Rosan Hollak – Photo: Carl De Keyzer – translation: Raf Erzeel

    10 March 2016

    "I became quite restless when, at the end of 2014, President Obama announced that the U.S.A. and Cuba were to restore their relations. I wanted to go there immediately, but I had to wait for a visa." Belgian Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer's impatience is logical.

    For years, he has been photographing the decay of political systems in different countries. In 1989, he published Homo Sovieticus, a photo book about the Soviet Union in the pre-Perestroika era. For his ambitious photo project Trinity (2008), he travelled all over the world for sixteen years, looking for the influence of politics on people. His photo book Congo (2009) showed the remains of the Belgian colonial past in present-day Congo.
    The photographer had set his heart on Cuba before, but the moment was ripe now. Early last year, he travelled throughout the island for three months, capturing the crumbling power of Communism in its cities, towns and villages. What he found can be seen in the exhibition Cuba, la lucha at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels from next week onwards, and in the book with the same title that will also be published next week.

    I did not make a travel guide full of palm trees and beautiful old-timers.

    He explains that the title – 'the struggle' – refers to the Cubans' struggle for survival after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. "When the Soviet Union imploded, Moscow cut off the flow of money and Havana missed out on a yearly $6 billion in subsidies. Back then, everyone expected the country to collapse – people had nothing, everyone was hungry – and yet the Cubans managed to survive. It was only after 1998, when Hugo Chávez became president of Venezuela and Castro received economic aid again, that the situation became less desperate."

    But 'la lucha' does not only refer to that struggle. "It has yet another meaning", says De Keyzer. "It is also the name of a chain of DIY stores in Cuba where people go in search of all kinds of materials to prevent their homes from collapsing."

    It is especially that way in which the degeneration of the Cuban political system has left its traces in architecture that De Keyzer wanted to record. "I did not make a travel guide full of palm trees and beautiful old-timers; I wanted to approach the country critically. Everything is still based on the pesos-economy. People earn little, and in Havana everything is propped up. Every day, some house or other collapses."

    A three-legged desk

    De Keyzer photographed the flaking, ramshackle buildings, the cheerless shops, and came across Communist practices that he recognised from the time he spent in the Soviet Union. As an example, he mentions the Comités de Defensa de la Revolución (CDR). "Those tiny offices that are supposed to check that everyone stays in line. You notice that Cubans still do not feel free to talk about certain things. Whenever I criticised Castro or Che Guevara, people lowered their gaze."

    Yet those committees are not very active. "Mostly, there are a few little old ladies sitting behind a three-legged desk. Everyone is tamely waiting for something to change. The real passion has long gone."

    And those changes are indeed coming quickly. "There are more small restaurants; people are allowed to put up tourists. That kind of economic freedom is increasing. But meanwhile, you still have to shell out dollars for a radio or a bottle of shampoo."

    The fact that an American president will visit the island – for the first time since 1928 – on 21 March, and the first Rolling Stones concert at the end of this month are really big events. "Yet I am afraid that, should the trade embargo really be lifted, an enormous gap between rich and poor will open up. It is already clear that plenty of business deals have been closed with Cuban-American entrepreneurs. Hotels of big chains are being plunked down on the beaches. 12,000 berths for yachts are being constructed in Varadero harbour."

    Even though he does not see it as his task to judge the situation in Cuba, it does not make him happy. "It was a bizarre thing for Communism ever to have been introduced on such a paradisiacal island. But I also fear for its future."

    As a photographer, he is, above all, an observer. "I am not a diplomat or a politician; I take pictures with several layers to be discovered. You see the history and the present situation, and hopefully those tell you something about this country."

    El Capitolio in Havana. Before the revolution, the government was housed in this building, modelled on the American Capitol in Washington D.C. Carl De Keyzer/Magnum Photos

    The exhibition runs from 18 March until 15 May at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels. At the end of the year it can also be seen at the photo festival BredaPhoto.

    Cuba, la lucha
    by Carl De Keyzer
    Published by Lannoo, 176 p.

  • Carl De Keyzer | Through the Eyes of Magnum Photographer, by Joke Embre | Beeld Express




    Through the Eyes of Magnum Photographer

    Carl De Keyzer

    TEXT: JOKE EMBRECHTS [translation: Raf Erzeel] / PHOTOS: CARL DE KEYZER

    In 2015, Carl De Keyzer travelled to Cuba. This resulted in a new book and a large solo exhibition at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels.

    The solo exhibition 'Cuba – La Lucha' contains around sixty works; this series – both documentary and conceptual, and created in 2015 – explores the change of Cuba's system. De Keyser went to Cuba and returned with unique images of a country in transition: Fidel Castro on a wall poster, with a T-shirt of a man in the same picture that reads 'FBI'; four Cubans withdrawing money in a bank, with Che Guevare watching from a portrait above their heads.
    In his latest project, Carl De Keyzer captures the duality of Cuba in pictures. The eye of the master sketches the portrait of a country still rooted in communism, but reaching out to the capitalist West.

    When Barack Obama visited Cuba and surprisingly extended a hand to the country, news photographers flooded the island, hurrying to capture images of what might well disappear. Not so Carl De Keyzer: he had visited Cuba earlier, stayed on and took more time. He saw that 'La Lucha', the struggle, is just continuing on so many levels. The struggle for survival, the struggle to preserve socialism, struggle as a synonym of the holy fire of life. His photos may conclude an era there, but not an entire life.

    And what better place to open the exhibition than the gallery of the renowned Cuban-American art dealer Roberto Polo, who has a weak spot for Belgian art? His life reads almost like a Hollywood film script: after Castro's revolution, he and his family left their native Cuba to settle in the United States. At the age of sixteen, Polo was already teaching painting and aesthetics at the respectable Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. Later on, he also started working as an artist and organised the exhibition 'Fashion as Fantasy', with works by, among others, Mapplethorpe and Warhol. Polo started to trade art and soon counted the New York elite among his customers. He moved to Paris and after a turbulent period eventually ended up in Brussels in 2007. 2011 saw the publication of 'The Eye', an impressive 688-page tome featuring 300 works from a selection of 7,000 pieces of art which he had bought over the previous 40 years. At the end of 2012 he opened the Roberto Polo Gallery, a gallery for modern and contemporary art.

    Carl De Keyzer (°1958) has been a member of the world-renowned Magnum photo agency, founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, since 1994. As such, De Keyzer is one of the most important Belgian photographers today. He photographed what remains of Europe, he documented religion in America and captured the life in Siberian prison camps in Russia – that is how wide his scope is, how all-encompassing his world view, how important his photography. In his previous book 'Moments Before the Flood' (2012) he was already looking into the possible consequences of global warming. He also looked at Cuba before the entire world press became interested in the potential changes on the island. His photos are published and exhibited worldwide. His work is being treasured in, among others, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, at the International Center of Photography Collection in New York and in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Among the themes in his work are the permanent threat of decay in contemporary society and the impact of power on daily life. A sampling of his work can be found at
    Carl De Keyzer also features in De Donkere Kamer

    De Donkere Kamer (DDK) [The Darkroom] focuses on present-day photography, during an all-evening programme with short interviews, presentations and topical discussion. Apart from those, special attention is given to interesting events and exhibitions. DDK is a successful Dutch initiative, organised four times a year, for photographers, image makers, students and anyone who is interested in present-day photography. [shutter speed], Kaat Celis's visual project agency, is now launching De Donkere Kamer internationally.

    Kaat Celis: "The strength and popularity of the formula lies in the variation and active participation of photographers and the public. A (nationally or internationally) well-known photographer is extensively interviewed about a new series or project. Apart from this, there is a mixture of different disciplines, from documentary to popular photography, from young to old. During the 'pitch your photography project' part, three young photographers can seek public sponsoring for their dream projects. The visitors pay an entrance fee and decide at the end of the evening how the total revenue is to be divided among the three photographers. The one who manages to get most of the money can not only enjoy the financial support, but is also invited to present the sponsored project at one of the following DKK events."

    Sluitertijd is bringing DKK to Belgium, with a first stop in Antwerp at 'Born in Antwerp' on 12 May. Photographers such as Carl De Keyzer, Kurt Stallaert, Jasper Leonard, Awoiska van der Molen and many others will be there to present their new projects. Celis: "Since December 2015, the city of Antwerp is putting the spotlights on its creative and cultural entrepreneurs. Under the heading 'Born in Antwerp - Harbour of Creativity' a unique headquarters is the stage for an ambitious programme with international events, expositions and interventions in the public space. Five eminent names from the creative world act as curators and ensure a varied programme. A warehouse at the Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai is the beating heart of the project and offers a sampling of what creativity means in Antwerp. There is room for creative events, performances, lectures and exhibitions, but it is also an open space for encounters, an inspiring place to work or to meet friends. And 'Born in Antwerp' also welcomes De Donkere Kamer.

    Afterwards, DDK will also visit 'Summer of Photography' at Bozar in Brussels on 23 June, before travelling on to the Guislain Museum in Ghent on 27 October and finally to Buda Kunstencentrum in Kortrijk.

  • Carl De Keyzer | 'Cuba, la lucha' | De Standaard



    Cuba, la lucha

    Barack Obama's impending visit to Cuba is to be the exclamation mark of a new start. But where will it lead? Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer visited a country that is hovering between a complex past and an uncertain future.

    Religion, political systems and ideologies, mechanisms of repression: for over a quarter of a century, Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer (°1958) has shown an extraordinary fascination with man and systems conceived by man, their evolution, impact and manifestations. For his most recent project, he travelled to one of the last Communist strongholds. At the end of 2014, Barack Obama announced the resumption of Cuban-American relations, which had been abruptly broken by the U.S. in early 1961. In a few weeks' time, Obama will seal the renewed relations with a state visit, the first by an American president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

    A new era has begun. But how will this work out in practice? Nobody knows at present. De Keyzer imagines: a blind man tapping his way across American and Cuban flags with his stick. Or the opening image of the book: from a dilapidated block of flats in Havana, we look out over the dome of El Capitolio, built during the late 1920s, imitating the American example, and until 1959, the seat of the Cuban government. Now it is covered in scaffolding. Ready to become the seat of power of a new democracy?

    Images of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are still everywhere. On the wall of a room where two men are boxing wearily, from a rocking chair, an aged heavyweight looks on, wearing an FBI t-shirt. Fieles a sus ideas – loyal to their ideas – a poster on the wall states. But there is no punch left.

    De Keyzer named this project Cuba, la lucha – the struggle. This term, Cuba expert and curator, Gabriela Salgado, explains in the book, refers to a mentality that emerged in Cuba after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Due to the implosion of the Soviet Union, Havana missed out on a yearly $6 billion per year in subsidies. By 1993, the economy had shrunk by 5%. Ever since then, the struggle for decent living is on – la lucha.

    The book Cuba, la lucha has been co-published by Lannoo and Roberto Polo Gallery.
    The series is on show between 18 March and 15 May at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels.

  • Jan Vanriet | Painter of Words, by Benno Barnard |



    Jan Vanriet: painter of words
    In his latest collection of poems Moederland [Motherland], painter-poet Jan Vanriet argues with the twentieth century and with the present, in his own unique way, according to Benno Barnard.

    Doubly talented Jan Vanriet writes poetry with the same flexibility that is found in his paintings. © Hans Vercauter (Hollands Diep)
    In a utopian world, I would write about the poet Jan Vanriet without mentioning the painter Jan Vanriet, but that is sadly impossible, because there is no poetry or painting in that paradise.

    I have known Jan for years, and those years have become decades. In one of those years – 1997 according to my diary – he and I are on the steps of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, our home city at that moment, pointing. Behind us the nineteenth century, with its columns, adjectives and winged allegorical bronze on the roof; on the other side of the filled-in quays the MUHKA, the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, then brand new. That is the other side we are pointing at.


    'Aren't those Freudian names?' we tell each other. They illustrate an agonizing truth, namely that our century, soon to be over, has enthusiastically blown up the obvious link between art and aesthetics. Beauty is suspect. Jan is suspect, as his work is not conceptual, even though it is teeming with comments on history. A leading Belgian curator in visual arts does not appreciate him. Traditionalist, much too magnificently painted bourgeois art! That is how he characterises Vanriet's work to me. Where is the pain, the struggle, amice? And Jan Fabre wields the comical word combination 'terror of the eye'.
    But what is a depiction that does not want to be a depiction? What is a thought about the world worth if the world itself remains invisible? I have a deep-rooted aversion to conceptual pretence, produced by artists who can't paint. But I do love those conventional pictures by Jan Vanriet.

    Painter of the word

    Slightly earlier in the nineties, we made Volgens Johannes [According to John] together – a series of paintings by Jan following the gospel according to John, to which I added a long poem-in-poems, De schipbreukeling [The castaway]. In this, I refer to my friend – without mentioning his name – as 'the painter of the word'. The word: in or on many of Jan Vanriet's paintings and drawings there are words, just as in Brueghel's and Magritte's. In his case they usually refer to a historical context. But I am running ahead of things – even though running ahead of things is an excellent way of discerning the historical connection between things. What I really wanted to say: he has quite recently published an important collection of poems, in which he argues with the twentieth century and with the present, thinks about thinking, ruminates on love and portrays an alter ego with sweet mockery:

    In onze voorraadkast liggen muizen
    met hun pootjes omhoog
    verwijt de vrouw de man

    Die klapt het boek dicht
    en zwijgt
    achter zijn bril

    Hij beaamt wat hij las
    bij Joseph Roth:
    de beurzen van de wereld
    bepalen de moraal
    van de maatschappij

    Maar dat zegt hij haar niet
    Hij wil beleggen in bloembollen
    en geloven in de muntwaarde
    van roos en hyacint

    Zwakkeling, denkt hij -
    door mijn schuld
    door mijn allergrootste schuld

    Niet wankelen, vermaant hij –
    ieder ongelukkig gezin
    is op bijzondere wijze ongelukkig

    Hij wil rechtop staan
    met de hakken in het zand

    Eerder een zoon van verdriet
    zo voelt hij zich, hij
    die koortsig een opening zoekt
    die ten onder gaat in een storm
    van zwarte pionnen

    Toren geofferd
    Dame kwetsbaar
    op het veld van diagonalen

    Laat de tijd maar lopen:
    de sluipschutter aan de overkant
    weigert een milde

    In our pantry mice
    lie with their feet up
    the woman chides the man

    He shuts the book
    and remains silent
    behind his glasses

    He confirms what he read
    in Joseph Roth:
    the markets of the world
    determine the morals
    of society

    But he does not tell her that
    He wants to invest in bulbs
    and to believe in the currency
    of rose and hyacinth

    Weakling, he thinks -
    through my fault
    through my most grievous fault

    Do not falter, he scolds -
    All happy families are alike
    each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

    He wants to stand up
    dig his heels in the sand

    More like a son of sorrow
    he feels, he
    who feverishly seeks a way
    who succumbs in a gale
    of black pawns

    Sacrificed rook
    Queen vulnerable
    on the field of diagonals

    Let time run:
    the sniper on the other side
    refuses a mild

    The blood-veined stone passing for my heart always warms again on those rare occasions when I come across so poignant, so true a poem, a serendipitous poem to boot, this Aan zet [Your move], because I was not looking for it, it came across me. I quote it in full, not to bulk up my article, but because it is an important poem, quite telling about Vanriet and about an entire generation. Here is the poet-painter-husband in his Antwerp, Belgian, international salon, in the company of Roth, Tolstoy, Elsschot and his wife, calling himself 'a son of sorrow', and I suspect he does not just mean that in the figurative sense, being the son of a father linked with the biggest sorrow in modern history.

    Embracing melancholy

    Also in De schipbreukeling [The castaway] chess is used as a metaphor: it expresses the impossibility of controlling life. In a sense, that is what the entire collection is about: you may cling to all kinds of things – politics, philosophy, love, faith – but eventually you cannot do much more than embrace melancholy and cherish your memories.

    About politics: Jan Vanriet's father was put in the Mauthausen concentration camp as a Communist. Jan has not told me much about it, but I gather that this 'indirect horror' (if I may put it like that) has been the determining factor in his artistic calling. In the darkroom of my memory, I slide a negative in a tray of fluid, and two ghostly contours fill with the flesh and blood of Jan and Benno, on a trip together to the only-just-still-Communist Czechoslovakia in 1988; in Mariánske Lázne – the historic spa town – we visited old Peppi, who had survived Mauthausen with Jan's father. He had gone back, so he told us, and had sat in the deepening twilight listening to the chirping of summer insects: 'Das waren die Toten.' [Those were the dead.] The Habsburg Empire still rang in his German.

    The father and the camp do not feature directly in Moederland. But big history is constantly present; a background that sometimes, as with a spectacular scene change, comes to the foreground large as life, as in the poem Rode plein [Red square], in which Lenin's mausoleum is featured as 'the brothel of ideology' – not one of the usual theatre props in modern Dutch-language poetry. But the strongest poem about ideology, politics and history must be Droge naald [Dry needle], and that is, strangely enough, about a famous colleague-painter whom nobody would associate with politics:

    Waterval in een ets
    van Hercules Seghers

    Geknakte boom
    scheur in de wolken
    bundels aarzelend licht
    over de ruïne van een abdij
    en de gelouterde wandelaar
    rechts van een ravijn

    Waterfall in an etching
    by Hercules Seghers

    Snapped tree
    tear in the clouds
    shafts of hesitant light
    on the ruins of an abbey
    and the chastened wayfarer
    to the right of an abyss

    This chastened wayfarer: is that not him, is that not me? Almost fifty years after the year of the Cardinal Principles, people with common sense take care to keep a safe distance from that abyss, unlike certain brothers and sisters in art, who like to accuse them of having become 'rightist', a political position that is known to be insufferable. We were talking about it the other day, he and I, at a richly laden table, sipping a conservative Bordeaux, how ridiculous it is for us, apologists of human rights and humanitarianism, with some leftist extremists ... Anyway, I am digressing, even though digressing is the only way to get to the point, at least in my case.


    Moederland: no, this title (a leftist title!) is no coincidence; the necessary poems are autobiographical fragments about the mother – they are among the most emotional in the collection. Death, that sniper, stands in between her and him, and all that remains are stories to slow time down, because

    Ach, und im demselben Flusse
    Schwimmst du nicht zum zweitenmal

    Ah, and in the same river
    You don't swim a second time

    as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe says on one of the first pages of the collection. I suddenly remember now, that in Mariánske Lázne, almost thirty years ago, we were talking about the Geheimrat: Jan knew the old scoundrel, already in his eighties, had chased a fifteen-year-old baroness there.

    But eroticism... that is as big a trap as political conviction, though the bottom is softer if you fall into it. Sometimes it even offers consolation, albeit briefly:

    De melancholie van het orgasme
    duurt hooguit 10 seconden
    (terwijl het grommende varken
    dertig minuten lang
    van zijn hoogtepunt geniet)

    The melancholy of orgasm
    lasts 10 seconds at most
    (while the grunting pig
    enjoys its climax
    thirty minutes long)

    That is what it says in Prediker [Ecclesiastes], a verse about that book of the Bible admired by Jan Vanriet. Indeed, even though faith does not escape his scepticism, he does not join in the childish lamenting of his peers about the wickedness of the average cleric in your childhood, who would, by definition and out of sheer lust for power, feel your pecker, etc. It is no coincidence that he described John as 'a wonderful text' when he suggested making the book.


    Melancholy and memories: we do not have much more. A bit of self-mockery. Ten seconds once in a while. A glass of something. Friendship that is like-mindedness, because as he says in Over de methode [On the method]:

    Onze vriendschap is geen piramidespel

    Our friendship is not a pyramid scam

    Yet having said all this, having stressed the melancholy, the final poem Iconoclasme reminds me of the critical sense with which Vanriet talks about all ideology, not just that of his childhood. In that final poem about our present, filled with terrifying religiosity, he says:

    Wij kijken omhoog
    smeken de afwezige om een aanwijzing:
    een woord dat splijt
    een teken dat voorgeeft, verlicht

    We look up
    beg the absent for a clue:
    a word that splits
    a sign that pretends, enlightens

    But then what do you expect? This poet does not just happen to call on the sad, sarcastic Jew Joseph Roth to be his witness.

    Benno Barnard

  • Jan Vanriet | The Music Boy, by Roger Pierre Turine | La Libre



  • Jan Vanriet | A Book of Memories | Capital Arte




    In capital-arte · March 1, 2016


    The Belgian painter and poet Jan Vanriet is the absolute protagonist of this exhibition, replete with his personal experiences and universal concerns. Vanriet has previously represented his country at the biennials of São Paulo, Venice and Seoul, but this is his first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom. Love, loss, identity and destiny are the themes that alternate and complement each other in his compositions, which focus exclusively on his family history and on World War II. "While I 'm painting, my concerns are the colours, composition and aesthetics of the subject. But the story I am telling is about who I am. I cannot keep away from that" is how Vanriet defines his own work. His is a road spangled with images, repeated to clear the cobwebs from his own fading memory, using various media and in any thematic variations imaginable. The show's epicentre, The Music Boy, is in fact a quadriptych representing the painter's grandmother and his uncle (his mother's twin brother) as a child, playing the accordion, before the war. His family history reveals itself to the spectator as a book of memories sprinkled with actual, universal themes such as the shortcomings of this world, rampant with inhumanity, corruption and abuses of power. These memories of a childhood transport us to a new, contemporary way of describing the world. B.R.

  • Stephen Snoddy | Fenêtres sur cour |, by Muriel de Crayencour



    Stephen Snoddy was born in Northern Ireland in 1959. He graduated as a painter at the Belfast College of Art, but put his brushes aside four years later to pursue a career as director of various important museums in Great-Britain. But in 2012, his mother presented him with a sketch book dating to 1981, featuring monotypes of his own paintings... This rediscovery elated him and he felt the urge to experience once again the intensity that had motivated his creativity of old... seeing his works rekindled his love for painting.

    He is currently showing an impressive series of paintings at Roberto Polo Gallery, each of which questions space and architecture in the same abstract mode that he practised 35 years ago. Playfully toying with colours, fresh, impressive colours, Snoddy plows the field that is his pictorial surface, creating perspectives, drawing lines that give onto a third dimension. The shapes structuring his paintings are mysteriously evocative: wall edges, doors giving onto an enclosed space, windows facing a sun-drenched area. Vertical and horizontal lines structure the painting. Some diagonal evokes a retreating view, invites the gaze to penetrate the image, to imagine it as a theatrical scene, a stage set, composed of several levels.

    Here, behind a red zone, it seems another plane is hidden that is suggested by the vivid blue on top. There, a purple, applied in transparent layers, forms a wall that hides a barely guessed-at otherwhere. Stephen Snoddy's abstraction is, in fact... a narrative abstraction. Or a cinematographic one. It consists of cross-sections, views onto the courtyard and roads towards a landscape. Yes, colour and lines are capable of telling a story!

    These majestic, irradiant canvases exude elation, also – doubtless springing from his newly regained sheer joy of creation – a feeling of happiness to be choosing colours, to be experimenting with compositions. This creative impulse is communicated to the spectator, this joy of creating, of inventing yet another composition, without fear, yet without deliberately attempting to do something completely new. A colour, a line. What to do with it. Just that. And it is magnificent.

    Stephen Snoddy
    Roberto Polo Gallery
    8 – 12 rue Lebeau
    1000 Brussels
    Until March 13
    Tuesdays - Fridays 14.00 – 18.00, Saturdays - Sundays 11.00 - 18.00

  • Bart Vandevijvere | 'Reasoned improvisations on music', by Marc Ruyters | H ART



    Bart Vandevijvere in Roberto Polo Gallery


    Bart Vandevijvere (°1961, living and working in Kortrijk, Belgium) paints like a composer and composes like a painter. Two of his major musical models are John Cage and Morton Feldman. Vandevijvere paints abstract canvases like Feldman composes abstract music. He is looking for parallels between the two. And Vandevijvere’s paintings seem anything but silent, like Cage who sometimes made silence deafening. The exhibition is, as such, named ‘The Eye Listens’. Just like composers, Vandevijvere exploits ‘accidents’ and coincidence: a piece of dirt in the paint on the brush makes scratches on the canvas. Traces of paint sometimes seem to emerge in his paintings like music notes, just like Feldman or John Cage also exploited coincidence. There is a rhythm in there, a cadence, “with crippled patterns”, as the artist once said. Nothing is perfect, the essence of the canvas lies in the imperfect, the unfinished. Just like Morton Feldman is an intuitive composer, so Bart Vandevijvere is an intuitive painter – difficult but fascinating to ‘read’. In his work, he wipes and erases, sometimes working from light to dark, but equally as often from dark to light; physical gestures are executed in lines, flows and spatters (sometimes a canvas seems to have been exploded or electrocuted); line may be placed on and across each other like in a game of Mikado; sometimes the cut-and-paste technique is used, the composition is reviewed, mistakes are put on the canvas on purpose.

    In Roberto Polo Gallery, he shows some forty paintings. Bart Vandevijvere uses acrylic paint, because of transparency, but water is an almost equally important medium: many works seem fluid, washed, sprinkled. He draws lines and meandering waves with a brush, only to wash the half-dried paint partly away again with water. Or he works ‘wet on wet’, allowing the paint to diffuse, left to its own purposes.


    In the gallery, duality stands out in almost all of the works: order vs. chaos, sharp lines vs. dripping, impulsive smears vs. immaculate geometric surfaces, planning vs. coincidence; colour vs. black-and-white. Brush in hand, Bart Vandevijvere seems to be the conductor of the abstract, in which anything goes and improvisation is the highest prize, until the brush stops and everything comes together into one image that enters the eye and mind of the observer (viewer or listener) – and the conductor eventually lets go of the image. He once wrote: “Creating abstract work is acting without the concretely observable reality as an example. It is thinking and acting formally, but also thinking in abstractions, in metaphors. It is interpreting and converting countless sensory perceptions that definitely do originate in reality. A converted reality.” The exhibition is complemented with a publication, including an essay by British art critic Jonathan Griffin. One quote: “There are other times – as is obvious if one studies his paintings carefully – when he is forced to leave the layer to dry before starting on the next. Unlike an Action Painter, therefore, who tended to throw down a painting in a single frenzied session or a live musician. Perhaps, the better comparison would be with a musician in the recording studio, who seeks to retain all the energy and spontaneity of a live performance within carefully modulated layers of recorded tracks.” Paintings as ‘tracks’, in other words, meticulously constructed, but orchestrating spontaneity.

    In the other gallery space, work by the Irish painter Stephen Snoddy (°1959, Belfast) is on show: acrylic paintings as well, with a strong colour base, in a geometrically abstract, almost architectural style.

    Marc RUYTERS

    Bart Vandevijvere, ‘The Eye Listens’ and Stephen Snoddy, ‘Looking Out’ until 13 March in Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 12, Brussels. Open Tue-Fri 2 – 6 p.m., Sat-Sun 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

  • Jan Vanriet | 'Painting against forgetting' | by Eric Rinckhout, H Art



    Jan Vanriet impresses in The New Art Gallery Walsall, Birmingham

    Painting against forgetting

    After the British Museum’s Print Cabinet bought a number of paintings by his hand, Jan Vanriet now presents his first exhibition in the United Kingdom. The Antwerp painter impresses with a vulnerable exhibition in The New Art Gallery Walsall in Birmingham. Walsall is considered the best regional museum outside London and is well-known for its unconventional selections.


    It is no coincidence that the exhibition ‘The Music Boy’ starts with ‘Wounded Hand’, a new (2015) painting. It is a powerful graphic work in which Jan Vanriet has painted the palm of a left hand in the purest way, almost comic-like; in the middle we see a shining wound with a few streaks of dried blood. It is the hand of Christ, a detail from ‘Christ Crowned With Thorns’ (ca. 1470) by Flemish primitive Dieric Bouts, but Vanriet manages to lend the image a universal meaning, detached from the religious context, against an anonymous, yellow-grey background. The injured hand, in Vanriet’s depiction, stands for Man, the vulnerable and – in the course of history – so often wounded person. Across from ‘Wounded Hand’ hangs ‘Song of Destiny’, for which Vanriet sought inspiration in a 1915 sculpture by Wilhelm Lehmbruck. The fallen warrior is reduced by Vanriet to his essence: a frail figure that can hardly right its bloodied back. Not a hero, but a victim.

    In the sober, high spaces of The New Gallery Walsall, daylight enters silkily to rest on the thirty paintings by Jan Vanriet, enhancing the fragile nature of the paint. The hanging arrangement has a nice rhythm to it: some works get ample space, some others huddle closely together, such as the seven portraits of Holocaust victims. Working from passport photos taken before the fatal transport from the Dossin barracks in Mechelen, Belgium, Jan Vanriet grants these people a new life. As the painter applies different styles and colours, widely different paintings are created. Each portrait is a sign of life, but only a life in paint; that is all the painter can do.

    Painting is necessary but futile. A song of sorrow and melancholy sounds in Vanriet’s masterful paintings.

    Art vs. poverty in Walsall

    The New Art Gallery Walsall on the outskirts of Birmingham is an excellent museum, built in 2000 by Caruso St John, the architectural firm that designed, among others, Nottingham Contemporary and a few branches of Gagosian. Walsall itself is a tired Victorian town, once famous for its car and leather industry, but now an economically run-down area in the Midlands. The New Art Gallery was built in an attempt to revive the community through culture. The museum, free for visitors, focuses on a strong educational programme and varied exhibitions. Besides Jan Vanriet, there is an interesting exhibition on of the young British painter Laura Lancaster (°1979).

    The permanent collection was donated in 1973 by the widow of sculptor Jacob Epstein, and contains drawings, sculptures and smaller works by, among others, Constable, Bonnard, Van Gogh and Epstein himself. As Epstein’s youngest daughter was married to Lucian Freud for a while, the collection contains some remarkable works by his hand.

    From 11 February, the gallery hosts Tate.


    ‘The Music Boy’ is an exhibition soaked in melancholy and loss. What remains of a person: fading memories, a few ever harder-to-place photos, a few objects that have irrevocably lost their original context.

    Indeed, Jan Vanriet paints against time and against forgetting. On the one hand, there are the memories that unavoidably impose themselves on him. (‘Memory is like a dog that lies down wherever it wants’, Cees Nooteboom wrote in his novel ‘Rituals’). On the other hand, Vanriet also shows the pitfalls of memory and the unreliability of the photos he found.

    Take, for instance, the poliptych ‘The Contract’: eleven paintings, based on an old black-and-white photo of Vanriet's mother and father dancing in a warm embrace. But is that really what we see? Is the father smiling or grimacing? Is he holding his wife tenderly, or restraining her? Why is he smoking – is that inconsiderate? Is he stepping on her foot deliberately? Is she fending him off? Jan Vanriet paints the same image again and again, but with changing colours and accents, sometimes happy, sometimes sad. The past is impenetrable and full of unanswered questions.

    There is also the mother’s golden bracelet, which Jan Vanriet depicts as a monumental architectural construct, an arena of memories, at the same time indestructible and unattainable. Then there is the four-painting poliptych ‘The Music Boy’: a song of nostalgia. Working from an old photo, Vanriet paints his grandmother and her son, who is playing the accordion in an idyllic landscape. Those are images of simplicity and harmony, a scene occurring before the great drama of WWII.

    Yet in one work, shades of grey dominate, and faces blur. Maybe Jan Vanriet is painting the hankering for a time that never was. Or as the British art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon writes in the excellent catalogue: ‘The past does not become tangible, it has become a shadow play.’

    The two most recent, monumental paintings ‘Horse’ (2015) are also a shadow play. A woman and a man – recognisable as the painter and his wife – are playing ‘horse’, as if they are participating in a pantomime, but without the usual costume. The one painting is purely graphical; the other has the monumentality of Piero della Francesca. Both canvases feature a deafening silence, in spite of the playful subject. Jan Vanriet is showing an almost childish role-play, the eternal ‘human comedy’. Outside the frame, time and the human tragedy play out.

    Painting is necessary but futile. A song of sorrow and melancholy sounds in Vanriet’s masterful paintings.

    ‘Jan Vanriet, The Music Boy’ until 8 May in The New Art Gallery Walsall.

    Catalogue with texts by Andrew Graham-Dixon, Martin Herbert and Charlotte Mullins.

  • Bart Vandevijvere | 'Peinture musicale', by Bernard Roisin | L'Echo



    Musical Painting

    Roberto Polo Gallery is showing paintings by Bart Vandevijvere (born in Kortrijk in 1961), who expresses himself in acrylic on canvas using a technique that is close to "action painting", yet distinguishes itself from this method in more than one way. By his use of stencilling, for instance, that makes immaculate apparitions or neat colours materialise right in the middle of vigorous brush strokes, drippings and trickles, even blobs. The Belgian painter also applies scraping, expertly removing parts of a fine upper layer of paint.

    An example of this technique is to be found in the painting entitled "Jungle diving with a little Marc Ribot": the canvas is streaked with orangey stripes - proof that music comes in colours – in a zigzag shape that returns to the canvas’ initial pristine state as the paint is removed, in the area around the stripes, where one stripe hasn’t been wiped off completely. The title of this painting itself alludes to a musical universe, a constant in Vandevijvere’s dynamic, which refers to John Cage or Sciarrino and has recently incorporated geometry into his dripping and brushing as a new element. As if the cadence of the improvised rhythm to his broad strokes intends to redefine the "staff" that is the starting point for all musical improvisations. The same goes for "The Garden Painting Session Series", which fuses two apparently contradictory styles; "Inclusion", for instance, is a neat coloured geometric composition, in a cloud-like cluster of rough traits, broad lines, black and red spots. At times, the rhythm subsides, as jazz compositions give way to a more subdued nocturnal sound, for instance in the grass-green painting where two irregular trapeziums, applied with a stencilling screen, have come to graze ("Amusette de géométrie").

    At other times, the music becomes mathematical and adopts a more orthodox geometry, as in the painting from the "Garden Painting Sessions Series" entitled "Copy paste abstraction", or takes on the martial aspect of a military marching band, when Vandevijvere paints using bubble wrap that he also represents ("The ultimate bubble wrap variation"). Some of his paintings even look and sound like the Zen-like melody of a Japanese woodblock print ("Meter for Aki Takase") while yet others, some of them smaller in size, allow themselves more freedom as to forms, look more relaxed, as does "Splitting the thought again", a long solo improvisation in black on white canvas. The whiteness of the canvas is almost atonal when, on a large empty canvas, a tiny triangle ends in a two-toned reversed trapezium, stained by a judiciously positioned black spot and trace: "Crossing to silence." The music stops.

    "For Kris Defoort"

    On a large sized horizontal canvas, on a white background, a number of coloured geometric shapes – a rather recent feature of Bart Vandevijvere’s work - seem to be moving about. Above them; streaks, black spots, some of them scraped, at times also stained with white or sombre spots that may be heavily impastoed, in a space that looks simultaneously bare and washed out. Just like a jazz piece that, basing itself on a geometrically strict staff, colours itself with music and ends up flying off in a flutter of wholly organic, free shapes. With good reason: this canvas bears the title "Tilting moments for Kris Defoort."

    February 05 2016 03:15 © L'Echo Bernard Roisin

  • 'Les constructions chromatiques de Snoddy', by Roger Pierre Turine | La Libre | Arts Libre



    Snoddy’s chromatic constructions

    Faced with Snoddy’s paintings, the viewer is immediately struck by their zeal for rigour, their simplicity - notwithstanding a profusion of planes and volumes crossing and sometimes catching up with each other again, and that jointly celebrate a simultaneously plastic and musical symphony. For Snoddy’s colours, which are for the most part very elaborated, pure, subtle and light, are subdued, never glaring or loud, but shimmering with transparencies. They seem to be washed out, shivering. Rectangles, squares, lozenges and geometric shapes… and, from yellow to green, from red to black, from blue to grey, there’s a mingling of shapes going on, of colour planes and lines that deceive the eye, as they either cut up or reveal the perspective. Add to this Snoddy’s depths of field, worm’s eye views and bird’s eye views and there you have, layer upon layer, the ingredients of a painting style that is innovative, yet embedded in the continuity of certain types of constructivism.

    Angles and tangents

    Stephen Snoddy is a great colourist and this primary quality of his emerges instinctively. His paintings release a kind of impulsive enjoyment that immediately catches the complicit eye of those who appreciate the pristine light in springtime… Stephen Snoddy revels in painting. No need to be a great diviner to guess as much, even if it may seem presumptuous to assert this without ever having met him. His painting is like a song of vibrant chords punctuated by notes of winged colourfulness. You can feel him instinctively juggling angles, straight lines, perspectives and tangents. Even, at times, some crooked, untidy straight lines. Hence the spectator’s tenacious and lingering impression that these paintings are surges of spring, inhabited by the painting. In Snoddy’s presence, painting is smiling, enjoying itself, without for that matter ever getting distracted from the beauty of his line constructions. His paintings are kaleidoscopes, featuring lines that may be neat yet may also be blurred, like the ones on the upper floor that present themselves in a bolder, or in any case less rigid vein, with a halo of colours seemingly spreading all over, and vertical and horizontal lines only serving to perfect an atmosphere of deep infatuation with freedom.

    Painting that breathes

    Snoddy’s exhibition, entitled “Looking Out”, features some 50 paintings: acrylics, watercolours, gouaches and monotypes, all on paper, mounted on plywood. We are told that pictorial innovation is his credo, and finding new shapes and structures is his mission. We are also informed that he is fascinated with the works of Matisse, Brice Marden and Rothko, which, in view of his own work, is not too hard to imagine. Snoddy is a painter with aspirations and his painting, which is personal and sensitive, breathes.
    The catalogue text for this exhibition is by Richard Cork, the English historian and art critic famous for his art chronicles on the radio. According to him, “Snoddy’s work is characterised by an exactingness as to the pictorial procedure that is a quite complex premise: the painting should not be purely conceptual, nor present itself as completely fortuitous. It should issue both from a natural, organic process and from a subtle command of the gesture”. The pleasure proffered by such works is in line with his creative process. This is an indisputable and beautiful discovery.

    Roger Pierre Turine

    Left: Snoddy, Untitled 100 (after Matisse), 2015, mixed media on paper, mounted on plywood panel 46,6 x 66,6 cm.

    Upper right: Snoddy, Untitled 97 (after Matisse), 2015, mixed media on paper, mounted on plywood panel, 104,1 x 122 cm.

    Lower right: Snoddy, Untitled 109, 2015, mixed media on paper, mounted on plywood panel 40,1 x 32,6 cm.

    "Stephen Snoddy, who is fascinated by architecture, shows meticulous attention to the proportions and disposition of his pictorial elements.” Richard Cork

    Roberto Polo Gallery, 8-12, rue Lebeau, 1000 Brussels. Until March 13th, Tuesdays to Fridays, 14 – 18pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 11 – 18pm. Catalogue. Info: 02.502.56.50 and

    Short Bio

    Born in Belfast in 1958. Lives and works in Manchester. Graduated at the College of Art in Belfast. Had a long career as a director of museums of contemporary art in England. Took up his artistic career again in 2012.

  • Bart Vandevijvere | 'Toute la peinture', by Claude Lorent | La Libre | Arts Libre



    All of painting!

    Paintings by Bart Vandevijvere are either clean and bare or, to the contrary, very full, but they all result from a lengthy creative process of which the multiple traces are the only visible witnesses after repeated reworking in the course of which the artist either removes or adds, effaces or superimposes. His rigorously nonfigurative paintings are “Battle Fields”, as he named one, where victory is achieved after a lengthy struggle between the artist and the pictorial surface, in which the latter is called upon to react to any attacks it is subjected to. The issue is often unforeseeable, as his tactics may change in the course of the undertaking. That is, at any rate, what we glean from these works, which are, however, often much more tightly constructed than they may seem. These are postmodern paintings at heart, which incorporate the most antagonistic practices originating from the 20th Century. They are tachist, structured, gestural, minimalist sometimes, or, most often, graphic. In all cases, his paintings exalt the pictorial substance, which seems to thrive and truly rejoice and to make the colours sing with delight to hitherto unknown tunes. Their power and their fragility merge, in images where vigour, passion even, mingles with restraint, images that create an unprecedented confluence of classic geometry, trompe­l’œil revisited, surges of operatic lyricism and soft toned-down areas. These are the kind of images that don’t shy away from making a bold statement by drawing a dominant line in an angular shape, nor from allowing uncontrolled natural paint drips or scrapings to achieve random effects, or from making subtle use of suggestive transparency, of a scanty sketch, accidental splashes or inverted perspectives. The simple line holds its own against the imposed shape, and the borders, left out of a final covering layer, are equal to the dominant figure. It’s all a question of equilibrium and harmony, rythm and sequence, low or high notes. It is hardly surprising that Jonathan Griffin evokes music in the exhibition catalogue. This can only be the kind of music that is free, yet highly structured, like contemporary classical music or free like jazz. (C. L.)

    > Bart Vandevijvere, “The Eye Listens”. Roberto Polo Gallery, 8­-12 rue Lebeau, 1000 Brussels. Tuesdays to Fridays, 14-18pm, Saturdays and Sundays, 11 – 18pm.

    >Publication. Bart Vandevijvere “The Eye Listens”. 88 p., 42 col., ill., text (Eng) by Jonathan Griffin.




    Processing archives and conjuring up the light

    In his series of monographic exhibitions of contemporary Belgian artists, Roberto Polo Gallery is currently showing work by Bert Timmermans and Peter Van Gheluwe.

    While Bert Timmermans sources his work in the past, manipulating images in mixed media, Peter Van Gheluwe is a painter whose compositions document light and shadow.

    These artists' sole common denominator is the way they conduct a kind of continuous investigation that unswervingly takes them down their chosen path, which they research deeply. Both refer to the history of art, while remaining distant from fashionable current trends, preferring to remain independent, and thus, reinforcing their original and personal status as non-conformists. As their exhibitions spread over three levels of the vast gallery, regrouping a large number of works, they each provide a rare opportunity to apprehend the complexity of the artists' respective approaches.

    The strata of time

    As they tend to be rather dark, only occasionally blazoned with traces of colour, the images composed by Bert Timmermans are not immediately accessible and demand an extended look. We can make out snippets of text in German, and what seem to be industrial locations, buildings, hardly any human figures, barbed wire, seeming ruins, a railroad line, an inscription... What is on view here resembles a series of nocturnal visions, aerial visions that flatten the reality of these, most probably urban, landscapes. Superimposed planes occlude the view. These compositions, which are visually akin to photography, serigraphic document reproductions, media inserts and collage and bring to mind both the work of Rauschenberg and the Russian Constructivists' graphic design, accumulate a succession of more or less transparent film strata. Underneath these layers, an invisible past lies hidden, of which only a few opaque, ambiguous images remain. The artist's approach is that of the archaeologist, excavating memories. On the surface, an impression of chaos, of annihilation, destruction. Hardly anything escapes this Armageddon. This is a vision of the apocalypse.

    Shadows and lights

    The eponymous "gnomon" from Peter van Gheluwe's exhibition title is a simple astronomical device: the part of a sundial that, placed on a level surface, casts the shadow that indicates the position of the sun. The whole exhibition is a succession of pictorial variations on this theme. As we know, colour derives from white light, which is perceived to take on a hue as it comes into contact with an object. In painting, this hue derives from the pigments that were included in its raw materials. All paintings depend on the chromatic dosage and luminosity the artist requires to render his vision most accurately. Peter Van Gheluwe chose light itself as his subject and decided not to represent its natural hues, opting instead for a restricted spectrum, ranging, generally, from brownish tonalities to light green hues. Just a few blacks, which may vary in density, and some slightly washed-out whites add structure on some of his canvases.
    In reference to the gnomon, the artist paints the shadows cast by windows on sparse interiors. He paints the effects and minute variations of lighting in a formalised register associating architecture and the deformations caused by light projections. By these means, he brings painting itself to life, as seen in motifs and details that are more or less recognisable, depending on the chosen viewpoint or breadth of focus. Yet that is not the point: what he is showing us is light that has become painting, to such a degree that the two become indistinguishable. And acquire a mysterious beauty.

    Claude Lorent

    Bert Timmermans, 'Exorcising the Metropolis', 88 pp., hardback, 39 ill., interview (English) by Henri-Roanne Rosenblatt. Ed. Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels.
    Peter Van Gheluwe, 'Gnomon', 96 pp, hardback, 66 coloured illustrations, and text by Chris Fite-Wassilak. Ed. Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels.


    Bert Timmermans: Born in 1976 in Kapellen. Lives and works in Antwerp. Master of History, PhD in Art History, a special interest in the theories of Aby Warburg and Walter Benjamin. His work has regularly been exhibited in Belgium since 2002. The present exhibition is his first in Brussels.

    Peter Van Gheluwe: Born in 1957 in Ghent. Studied at Sint-Lucas in Ghent. Lives and works in Scheldewindeke. Received many awards, for instance a distinction from La Jeune Peinture in 1986. His work has regularly been exhibited in Flanders since 1978. He took part in a group show at De Markten in Brussels. The present exhibition is his first solo show in Brussels.

    Practical information
    'Bert Timmermans | Exorcising the Metropolis', and 'Peter Van Gheluwe | Gnomon', Roberto Polo Gallery, rue Lebeau 8-12, 1000 Brussels. Until January 10, 2016. Tuesday - Friday 2PM - 6PM, Saturday-Sunday 11AM - 6PM. Info:



    United Kingdom





    Roberto Polo Gallery currently presents two solo exhibitions by artists whose work quite strongly differs. While the paintings of Peter Van Gheluwe adhere to a classical art historical theme, sometimes evoking a slightly melancholic atmosphere, Timmermans' very personal collage technique evokes the restlessness and agitation of modernity.

    Under the heading 'Gnomon', Peter Van Gheluwe shows a series of paintings featuring the shadows of incidental sunlight. In various formats, he explores this theme again-and-again in an interplay of lines with various degrees of complexity. On the border between the figurative and the abstract, and with a subdued colour palette of ochre, green, gray and brown, Van Gheluwe continually renders the reflection of incidental sunlight: sometimes through an ordinary window, then again through bars or curtains. Memorable is the somewhat unusual, but also related series on view in the gallery's basement level, where he captures up to eleven times the shadow of a flag at different moments.

    Bert Timmermans uses a very personal collage technique, again vaguely reminiscent of earlier artists (Rodschenko, Rauschenberg ...), but he knows how to integrate these elements into his own visual language. Like an experimental, modernist collage maker, the artist sets to work with black and white photographs and copies. Sometimes also with fragments of text – such as the use of newspeak in modernist novels – in an old font in German, or sometimes also in English. Somewhere is thus stated 'R. Hausmann's erste Tonfilm', a reference to the cinematic experiments of the Dadaist Raoul Hausmann, much admired by him.

    Timmermans' work has itself a cinematic slant, even if only by the horizontal strips that evoke film clips. As a surgeon – or perhaps more appropriately, an editor – he carves into the photographs, but also into pieces of cardboard mounted onto them and he tapes over particular areas as in a constant back-and-forth movement between construction and deconstruction, repair and destruction. With archive photographs, Timmermans knows how to transcend the familiarity of the original source material, which you can't clearly identify anymore, while retaining the mood of a special atmosphere. These are images that express a metropolitan modernity by means of communication, infrastructure and aerial photography, but that also often refer to WWII. These works are hung next to, above and below each other, as a time line in which both memory and amnesia are already contained.

    In addition to the mixed media on cardboard, Timmermans also shows three works on aluminum, a support, which by its abraded and sometimes corroded texture, lends itself excellently to his multi-levelled practice.

    Sam Steverlynck

    Peter Van Gheluwe/Bert Timmermans until January 10th in Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, 1000 Brussels. Open Tue-Fri from 2 to 6 pm, Sat-Sun from 11 am to 6 pm.




    De STANDAARD 30 NOV 2015


    ‘Our house was the internet avant la lettre’

    Karin Hanssen paints. It could be imagery from the 60s and 70s, the period in which she grew up. She started with the stacks of archive material which she inherited from her father. ‘Yet my images are not autobiographical’, Hanssen says. ‘I paint them in such a way that they loose their innocence.’ GEERT SELS

    ‘My father died when I was 24. My mother one year and a half later. They never knew me as an artist’

    Imagine: fifteen years after the war a former priest arrives in rustic Zurenborg with an Austrian widow and child. It is the family Karin Hanssen (°1960) grew up in. 'People thought it strange and as a child I could feel that', she says. 'I was considered a sinful child from a sinful family. When talking, German words would slip in. Drawing, I also did in a different way. It was considered wrong. As a child, I wasn't always accepted, because I was different.'

    Already in school, Karin Hanssen wondered about cliquism and arising conflicts. She often felt an outsider, because she thought differently. 'This still happens to me. In political discussions, I sometimes end up standing alone, because I try to understand both sides. This leads my leftist peer group sometimes to suspecting me of right wing sympathies.'

    The Hanssen family was somewhat exotic. Hubert, the father, was a priest and during the war a chaplain within the US Army. Looking at his brothers and their big families, he realised he wanted a civilian life. He became a priest in the end, because his parents didn't have the means and the diocese had financed his studies in philosophy and theology. Later on, disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the church, he broke with the institution. Not with faith however. To find peace, he travelled to Switzerland where, in a Konditorei, he met love at first sight with a waitress.

    Herta Rieder came from Austria and had a son by a man who had been killed in the war. Later she travelled on to Switzerland. Hanssen: 'My father had two lives: one religious and one secular. His break with the church was complete and radical which was a scandal. When my parents and my half brother returned to Belgium, they therefore first lived in Brussels for a while. None of the family was informed.'

    ‘Our whole house was filled with books. The door couldn't be used because it had book cases in front of it. In the toilet: books’

    Books everywhere

    In the Antwerp Zurenborg district, the family moved into a mansion near to, of all places, a church. Not that father Hanssen often visited. 'The family reacted divided to the arrival of my mother. Some refused to call her aunt. "Hello uncle Hubert and hello Herta", they would say. It was an active rejection. When confronted with prejudices, you need a strong relationship to go against them. They succeeded. My parents stayed together all their lives.'

    Yet they were two divergent characters. Hanssen father was an intellectual, taught himself to read when he was four and skipped the odd form here and there. When learning French at age twelve, he memorised the Petit Larousse which was much more convenient than looking up words every time. Herta Rieder, on the other hand, was not highly schooled. She left school aged eleven, because she had to go to work in the shop of an uncle. She nevertheless scored big with her singing talent. She never could develop it any further though.

    'You could read my parents' temperament from the layout of our house', says Hanssen. 'The front part was my father's territory: a salon and a library. Actually, our whole house was full of books. The double door could not be used because there were bookshelves in front of it. The toilet: books. We lived in a book home. It was an internet avant la lettre. And phenomenally enough, my father could digest all that information. At the publication of a new Van Dale, he would read it and then have that knowledge ready in his head.'

    'My mother occupied more the back part of the house, the kitchen and the verandah. This is where warmth and security were found. My mother was always cheerful, of the type who seized the day. She had a strong emotional intelligence.The image I have of her is that of a warm, cheerful little stove.'

    The orphanage

    In 1963 and 1965, her mother suffered from a protracted illness. This was before the time that fathers took on the care of children. The three sisters were temporarily housed in an orphanage. 'For a child under five, this was enormously heavy. Every weekend my father came with his brother and we went walking. Every time, we hoped that we would be allowed to go home. Always hope in vain. I then did reconstruct that image in the handicraft lesson: my father and his brother up front, and we, like three Daltons, in the same striped little dresses following them. There I first felt the power of an image. I could conjure up my father. Darstellen, they say in German. This gave me comfort.'

    An intellectual father, constantly studying, thinking and publishing himself, of course had ambitions for his daughters. Karin would study Germanic languages ('reading was an ordeal, I had dyslexia'), while herself drawn to artistic studies. Therefore it became the fast track, light version: two years of Dutch, English and German. 'When I received my diploma, I went straight to the academy to enroll for evening classes. I was 22. My father was proud of my artistic development, but died when I was 24. My mother died one and a half year later. They never knew me as an artist.'


    The piles of books and magazines, in earlier days cautiously vacuumed around, ended up in her possession. 'My father had piles of Time and Life. They have become a source for my art. It is no longer his stack, it now is mine. It has become an artistic archive.'

    Those images, often calling up a retro atmosphere from the 60s and 70s, tempt the viewer to see Hanssen's work as autobiographical. 'I easily mentally store pictures and sound. I can easily call up images from the 70s. As a result the past is unintentionally very present. Sometimes that's annoying, sometimes enriching. Yet my work isn't autobiographical. Personally I come from an exotic nest and am amazed by the uniformity in types of imagery. I make them mine and paint them in a way that makes them loose their innocence.'

    It may be the period that coincides with her childhood, yet personal involvement is not her motivation. She looks at it as a social period. As evidenced by her series of paintings The Thrill of It All, after the film of the same name, a postwar screwball comedy. Doris Day played the attractive woman who nevertheless was nothing but all goody-goody submissiveness.

    Snow White

    The Golden Age also fascinates her. Seventeenth century Amsterdam was driven by hope and flourished as a result of its increasing trade. In The Borrowed Gaze/Variations GTB, she took the 17th century female image as a starting point and gave it a contemporary interpretation. The girl in De vaderlijke vermaning (The Paternal Admonition) by Gerard ter Borch, so often copied, sometimes in a brothel scene, and then again in a musical context, gave her the idea to create a new set of variations.

    Her main concern is to reflect on imagery. 'An innocent photographic image changes meaning when you paint it. There is a whole transformation in moving from the old image to the new. It is like Snow White's apple: it looks like a beautiful apple, but it could well contain poison.'




  • MARIA ROOSEN | LA FÉE JOUISSIVE |, by Muriel de Crayencour Muriel de Crayencour




    Muriel de Crayencour 15 October 2015 Galleries

    Upon entering the gallery, you will encounter a wall of colourful bricks. The bricks are made of glass, so they are fragile, and yet they have been stacked as if they were meant to form ramparts.

    This translucent brick wall is the work of Maria Roosen (1957), a Dutch artist who creates effortlessly in various media – glass, knitted wool, watercolour. She graduated from the very exacting Moller Instituut in Tilburg in 1981, and went on to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Arnhem, an institute that boasted a multidisciplinary approach and allowed students to grapple with all their subjects right from the start.

    An elongated bunch of red currants, Berries, resembles a bunch of voluptuous breasts. A vase in the most exquisite pink, filled with penises, looks like a delicate glass bouquet. Also in Roosen’s signature range of acid pink colours, several female heads with weirdly shaped hairdos. Set on a stool, yet another bouquet of penises, knitted in wool, looking like Medusa’s head of serpent hair was just casually abandoned here... The human body is prominently present in a series of powerful watercolours, clearly akin to Louise Bourgeois’ works on paper - which are coincidentally simultaneously exhibited at Xavier Hufkens gallery. Maria Roosen grapples with the concept of the human body in a range of different ways.

    Then there are also a number of non-body related glass objects, such as the coloured ovoid shape tacked onto a broomstick, looking like a piece of incongruous window-dressing. Or those vivid green shapes, imprisoned between two pallet supports.

    Maria Roosen presents us with a richly blossoming, fertile world, where bodies are ample and voluptuously in-your-face, and seem to have a life of their own. All breasts are swollen, and so are the phalluses, all bursting with life. They may well be made from inert materials like glass, wool, paper or wood, yet still seem to have been touched by a magic wand belonging to an artist who effortlessly, convincingly, conveys life to everything she touches.

    Whether it is a brick or the glass mushroom, a drawing or watercolour or a tree trunk dressed in knitwear and sporting a pink glass breast part… all her pieces exude a thoroughly intimate, feminine poetry. Her partner’s tragic sudden death when she was 37 continues to transpire in Maria Roosen’s life and work. Raw suffering, anxiety and sudden solitude spurred her on to immerse herself into her work and turn it into a tangible catharsis. The artist’s determination to emerge from the mire, to reach once more the shores of life and appease her sorrow, to feel powerfully alive, positive… are all emotions present in her work.

    Visitors will feel the life flowing through the veins, the pulsating heart and the muscles contracting and relaxing, in each and every one of these pieces, and will take great delight in this orgasmic discovery.




    H ART


    Wim Wauman interrogates the viewer at Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels


    Wim Wauman's stunning photographs are preceded by tightly structured compositions. The result is a meditative, multi-layered work. A revelation!


    In this age of digital manipulation we may have become more and more suspicious about the authenticity of photographic images, but sometimes our suspicion desserts us. As is the case with the fascinating images by Wim Wauman (°1976). He makes photographs of painstakingly ordered compositions that pay tribute to visual complexity. On an invented background, the artist composes scenes with everyday objects, such as matches, ear plugs, an old floppy disk, an egg and so on. Then these compositions are strongly lit, resulting in a special feeling of depth, perspective and shadow, and an ethereal atmosphere.

    It appears to be an artificially composed image, but apart from a few details in about four of the works, Wauman didn't process anything with Photoshop. He starts by sketching the compositions on paper, then builds them up like a collage with veneer sheets of wood, to finally add the props, stage the lighting and make the photograph. The final image is thus preceded by a creative process that is invisible to the viewer - except as illustration in the fantastic catalog published on the occasion of the exhibition.


    Wauman's work seamlessly joins art history, from dioramas to still life, passing through Cubism, Constructivism, digital photography... It is all in there, but at the same time, Wauman manages to create his own universe. Each work is a variation on the same theme, yet this solo exhibition at Roberto Polo Gallery does not bore for one moment. In it "one recognises the master", as Goethe wrote.

    Not only does the work subtly refer to art history, but it also does to contemporary art. Wauman asked a number of Belgian artists to provide him with objects that inspired them. This way the exhibition also functions as a rebus and hints at the practice of no less than 28 artists, from Nel Aerts to Leon Vranken and Kris Martin. In the compositions you recognise an old library card of Adriaan Verwée, a few of Jan Vanriet's ties, or a Coke bottle defying gravity of Roeland Tweelinckx. In addition to a strong sense of aesthetics and composition, Wauman's exhibition also communicates a notion of play and trompe-l'oeil, whereby the artist, like a magician, moves from 2D to 3D and back, from reality to fiction. Each work therefore is also a puzzle you can keep looking at. And keep looking at. And don't tire looking at.

    Wim Wauman, ‘False Friends’ until 15 November at Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, Brussels. Open Tuesday-Friday from 2 pm to 6 pm, Saturday-Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.

  • Maria Roosen | 'L'oeuvre joyeusement charnelle de Maria Roosen' by Claude Lorent | La Libre | Arts Libre



    Maria Roosen's cheerfully carnal oeuvre

    For her first solo exhibition in Brussels, this Dutch artist, who has represented her country at the Venice Biennale, is presenting us with a celebration of the sexual body.

    THE FIRST THING THAT WILL STRIKE THE VISITOR is a wealth of colours. Maria Roosen's invigorating, luminous, vibrant, daring colours irradiate the exhibition space with bright hues, creating a festive, relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. The visitor becomes eager to walk in and have a wander around, to take part in it, as Roosen's installation presents itself as an invitation anyone would be glad to accept. One might even get the impression that this is a set stage, with colourful glass bricks competing for attention with the wall, and a kind of huge screen composed of old painted doors and featuring the poetic names of glass colours in gold leaf. Winding through the exhibition rooms, elsewhere, a number of glass objects on white pedestals flaunt their transparency and colourful reflections...
    Yet before long, when the eye ceases to feel assaulted, dazzled, Roosen's subject matter starts to take shape - literally. A bouquet of flowers becomes a blooming posy of male sexual organs. Jars reveal their decorations, consisting of scenes that are definitely worth a closer look. A mass of earrings hooked into an infatuated-looking face turn out to be tiny little multicoloured breasts...
    Maria Roosen joyfully celebrates the sexual body and manages to do so without resorting to silliness or salaciousness.

    No inhibitions

    This direct link with the corporeal and with sexuality might bring to mind some of Louise Bourgeois' works, because of the use of materials such as glass and textile, and even the watercolours. And yet Roosen's work is decidedly positioned at the other end of the spectrum. Here, not a hint of any torment is to be found, nor any Freudian or Laconian touches or gender oppositions. Carnality rules here, constantly, festively, content to be exactly what it is and to enjoy the pleasure of just being.
    Maria Roosen's apparent lightness of touch in treating her subject matter is the more surprising because it is extremely rare to encounter such expression, that does not bother to burden itself with any vain precautions nor loses itself in tiresome questioning. Above all, what we are confronted with here is a form of expression that is completely free from inhibitions. This is a pure and simple beauty, a corporeal aesthetic that is easygoing and shines through, in all it has to offer, transformed by Maria Roosen into generous imagery.

    Tender sensuality

    It is quite clear why her hymn is so transparent, luminous and colourful, why the shapes she gleefully blows up and multiplies are ample and unapologetically rotund, why their fluidity overflows into watercolours that, as a result, verge on evanescence.

    Also why, in her art, the masculine joins the feminine in a single sensitivity, a torrid, tender sensuality.

    Why she uses glass, which radiates, never forgetting its extreme fragility – it can only be approached with delicacy, without ever rushing, respectfully.

    These objects are far from being decorative and attain an interiority that, though potentially incandescent, is all the more thoughtful.

    Awakening to life

    Her metaphoric shapes are songs of praise, like lyrical poems, or carnal hymns. When she reduces the body to a feverish mouth, extended with an ample bosom and suggestive curves, we can easily imagine Magritte, who famously reduced the female body to a face, approving of this sculpture's sensuality, which is as wholesome as it is torrid.
    When Maria Roosen averts her eyes from the human body and adopts a broader view, she contemplates nature by cherishing a tree, touching it, enveloping it, pampering it. She glorifies a flower's blazing heat and heady perfume in watercolour. Her art is an awakening to a flourishing, invigorating nature. Claude Lorent

    Practical information


    Maria Roosen, 'Fruits of Love'. Roberto Polo Gallery, 8-12 Rue Lebeau, 1000 Brussels. Until 15/11. Tuesdays to Fridays, 14h-18h, Saturdays and Sundays 11h-18h.
    On the occasion of this exhibition, a richly illustrated 88-page catalog was published, with full-page colour reproductions and texts by Maria Roosen and Clare Lilley, Director of Programme, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield.

    Bio express

    Born in Oisterwijk

    (The Netherlands) in 1957, Maria Roosen now lives in Arnhem. Her work has been exhibited internationally since1986, mainly in Europe and group exhibitions in Belgium. She represented the Netherlands at the Venice Biennale in 1995, with Marlène Dumas and Marijke van Warmerdam. Her work is represented in a great number of museum collections in the Netherlands (i.a. Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam) and Belgium (D'hondt-D'haenens, Deurle and Mu.ZEE, Ostend).
    "The globe is the best and the most beautiful shape, the strongest also. We live on a globe and each cell in our bodies is round. We are constituted of this shape."
    Maria Roosen



    United Kingdom

    Maria Roosen, artist: 'I do textiles, knitting ... all those things that are not the real things'

    Karen Wright meets the artist in her studio on the outskirts of Arnhem

    KAREN WRIGHT Thursday 17 September 2015

    Maria Roosen lives and works in a former military base on the outskirts of Arnhem, a small city in the Netherlands, near the German border. She bought the building that she, three friends and her partner Jan Broekstra, a ceramic artist, are currently restoring.

    Before we go to her studio, we swing by MMK, the local museum, to see a large, outdoor glass branch of apparently supersized currants that look like pendulous breasts. We then detour to her partner's studio to look at the large

    project Roosen is currently working on for the MST Hospital in Enschede. Her inspiration is Monet's painting of Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies, in Giverny.
She has translated this painted image into a real bridge that will hang high in the atrium of the hospital, its glass lily-pads, carrots, hearts, pearls and frogs fabricated in the Czech Republic, and the steel frame constructed in Arnhem.
Roosen was born in 1957 in Oisterwijk near Tilburg, "in the needle woods", she tells me. Her brother is a forest manager and supplies the silver birch trees that she has used in various sculptural projects – knitting coats some and attaching glass bubbles to others. She tells me cheerfully that "I do textiles, knitting, ceramic, glass, embroidery and watercolour: all those things that are not the 'real things'."

    When we arrive at her studio, her knitter, Caroline, is already industriously working at one end of the light, bright room. Today she is knitting phalluses, in various shades of pink, to cover a small stool, a piece for Roosen's forthcoming show. Roosen has always worked with collaborators – initially starting her knitting projects with her mother. "My formula is simple: 1 + 1=3". She has explored embroidery using Nepalese embroiderers to translate her watercolours into colourful needlework pictures, transformed in the process by their expertise. Her glass pieces rely on master glass-makers in the Czech Republic, although she closely oversees the process.

    Many of her projects start as watercolours and are then fabricated into objects in collaboration with others. Roosen lost her first partner in 1984 when he died suddenly of a heart attack. She made several works almost as therapy, including a large sewn hanging. "It helped me through this painful time. The machine was very helpful. It helped draw me forward." She describes the process of drawing a thin straight line from top to bottom on her

    sewing machine and then starting another line as close as possible to it. She worked on it for hours and hours for months, admitting that the concentration needed, as well as the machine, propelled her. This is a work for which she could not have had collaborators, nor repeat. "Some jobs you have to do for yourself. I don't dare to ask anyone to do it."

    "Maria Roosen: Fruits of Love" is at the Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels, until 15 November,




    Maria Roosen at Roberto Polo Gallery and at Park Tilburg
    Meeting and Contrasts

    Maria Roosen's colourful glass sculptures have been shown regularly in group exhibitions in Belgium - the last time in Middle Gate (2013), but to date she didn't have a permanent gallery here. A first solo exhibition at Roberto Polo in Brussels has changed this.

    Anne-Marie POELS

    The exhibition gives an overview of Maria Roosen's (°1975, Oisterwijk, NL) work from 1988 until now, including a number of very recent pieces next to older work. When Roosen first worked with glass - a medium that led to her first recognition - she melted glass plates. Once she started to blow glass - which she mostly does in cooperation with Czech glassblowers - she soon noticed that this process automatically generated spherical forms. This form runs like a main theme through her whole oeuvre and comes back in, for instance, the belly-rounded jugs she has been making for years: pinkish or deep wine red, with breasts stuck on, a tongue sticking out or a bunch of willies ('Lullenvaas/Dick Vase', 2009), or also as anchors for a tent ('Tent', 1998-2015). Specifically for this exhibition she created a new series, 'Jug Family' (2015), with flesh-coloured pink jugs with added on drawing in drops of glass.
    The spherical form also returns in the red and black currents ('Berries' and 'Blackberries', both from 2015) which hang in greatly enlarged clusters together; something which also quite literally refers to the 'fruit' in the exhibition title. In any case, nature is an inspiration for Roosen. "My work always comes from a kind of vital force and nature is very inspiring in this: I like to look at how things grow."

    In the publication accompanying the exhibition, she lovingly sings the beauty of nature by means of a beautiful parable 'The Rich Blackberry Picker' after Godfried Bomans. This is about a blackberry picker who imagines that he is alone in the world and is very happy with the enormous wealth of nature all around him. One day he receives a visit from a traveller and a whole village community in his wake - it turns out they don't manage to see this splendour at all.

    Breasts and Willies

    "Bomans' story is quite old-fashioned; when the traveller arrives, the blackberry picker asks 'may I touch you' and he feels his head. I added things. Not only do I let the blackberry picker touch the traveller's head, but also his willy and to move it back and forth, so to discover that the man is exactly the same as himself - this way the story becomes naughtier, it assumes an exciting dimension."

    This mischievousness, this showing of dicks openly (for instance in the series 'portraits' with dicks on their heads and breasts (again spherical forms, for instance in 'Inside Out', 2009, an installation that was on view in Middle Gate and is now in the collection of Roberto Polo) is an integral part of Roosen's work. All this happens in a very natural way, never aggressive, never provocative.

    "My work is often about how things come together, man and woman, and then that's part of it. But I get more and more comments on that. When in the '80s I started with the breasts, it was seen as much more normal. Now everyone can look at the most explicit images and I get questions, even from young people, like 'what's this with these penises and breasts'. But I can't dissociate: it belongs to the picture. In earlier times, the difference between man and woman could be defined by saying 'this one wears trousers, the other one a skirt', but these days that doesn't work anymore; now you could say 'this one has a willy, the other one has breasts'. This meeting and the contrasts, hard and soft, transparent-opaque, large-small - that's what my work is about."

    Outside and Inside

    Next to the works in glass, Roosen shows textile works and watercolours. For example, a birch tree with a knitted sweater ('Berk/Birch', 2012) or an enormous, white piece of cloth measuring 210 x 78 x 80 cm with blue machine stitching ('When I Think of You', 1988). Or about 'Overalls' (1994), a watercolour showing a number of dancing overalls - at the time she stored it to make space for works for the Venice Biennale in 1995. But it surfaced again and is now being shown for the first time. As a matter of fact, Roosen also makes her glass works on the basis of watercolours: "I often use watercolour to be able to think in glass. People who draw always start from the outside, with contours. But with watercolour you start from the inside. You set down a mass and let form emerge from the inside. This is also what happens when blowing glass." In addition to Brussels, Roosen also shows work in the art space Park in Tilburg (NL): "I have made a conceptual installation with an indoor and an outdoor space." The large hall became the 'outdoors' when she filled it with a real grass lawn with a living plum tree and breast forms in a mirroring material: "You can walk around a bit like Alice in Wonderland and discover all sorts of things. If you look at the mirror breasts, you are engulfed, surrounding space included." In the open gallery space upstairs, overlooking the hall, she made a kind of 'indoors', where you can go and sit, as it were, on wooden stools and knitted dicks to look 'outdoors'. What the exhibition in Brussels will look like she didn't know yet at the time of this interview: "But surely quite different. I think I'll conceive it very classically. Drawings on the wall and objects in the middle of the room. It sometimes can be good to present things quite drily."

    aria Roosen 'Fruits of Love' until 8 November at Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat, Brussels. Open Tuesday-Friday from 2 to 6 pm., Saturday-Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.

    Maria Roosen 'Looking Back' until 18 October in Park, Wilhelminapark 53, Tilburg, NL. Open Friday-Sunday from 1 to 5 pm.
    On Sunday 18 October (1.30 pm) there will be an interview with Maria Roosen about her work in De Pont, Wilhelminapark 1, Tilburg, nL.

    Maria Roosen, 'Overalls', 1994, watercolour on paper, 120 x 700 cm
    Maria Roosen, 'Willy Head (after Paul McCarthy)', 2014, glass, 35 x 25 x 26 cm, Pačîinek Studio, Lindava, Czech Republic




    De Standaard

    Karel Dierickx retrospective in Raveelmuseum
    Rigourously himself

    For the first time, following his passing away in December 2014, a well researched overview is devoted to the work of Karel Dierickx. It is a rare opportunity to learn to know this fascinating but too little known painter at his full value.Jan Van Hove

    Karel Dierickx was not a man looking for the limelight. He kept far away from the changing fashions and worked quietly but with great intensity on a very personal oeuvre instead. The exhibition this summer at the Raveelmuseum makes it possible to follow his development over a period of forty years and it gives an idea about the various media he used. Karel Dierickx – Voorstelbare werkelijkheid/Imaginable Reality includes some one hundred paintings, drawings and sculptures. Because the artist regularly exhibited in Germany and France, a number of works are on view in Belgium for the first time.
    Karel Dierickx (1940-2014) belonged to the bustling Ghent art world. He had his studio there and from 1973 onwards he taught painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of the city. This resulted in an important influence on a whole generation of artists. His students included Wim Delvoye, Jan Van Imschoot, Philippe Vandenberg, Marc Maet and many others. "Dierickx was to a large extent an artists' artist", says Piet Coessens, the curator of the retrospective in the Raveelmuseum.
    As a painter Dierickx started off in a figurative style. He liked traditional genres such as the landscape, portrait and still life. Evidently his work did not stop at a simple rendering of reality, but it was important to him to start from the visible world. In some of the more abstract paintings you can still feel the landscape that was at their origin.


    In the 80s, Dierickx went for a fierce, abstract style, with powerful swipes and intensified contrasts between light and dark that recall abstract expressionism. Over time he evolved towards a sensual abstraction, with paintings that look like intensely worked weavings of brush strokes and paint.
    Typical for this oeuvre is the persistent search for the most precise expression of the feeling that inspired the artist. The writer Stefan Hertmans described Karel Dierickx as "a melancholy soldier, a fighter for the one unbeatably right brushstroke".
    The Ghent artist was a master of light. As few others he could make a colour sing in an otherwise sombre, mottled background and thereby change the entire feel of a painting. From the beginning careful attention to light is also striking in his drawings, as for example in a sweet little landscape from Saint-Rémy at the exhibition.
    As a draftsman, Dierickx reached a spectacular high in the Stations of the Cross, exhibited in 2008 in the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kultur in Münster. In spite of the artist being a non-believer, he portrayed the suffering of Christ with exceptional empathy and gripping dramatic power. Universal feelings of pain, powerlessness and hopelessness are called up in these expressionistic charcoal drawings. The Stations of the Cross are something special in Dierickx' oeuvre and show the artist at his best.
    In the 90s, the born painter he was, also started to make sculptures, mainly heads, figures and birds. In these images the artist also gropingly searches for the precise form: the plaster sculptures have the same recalcitrant quality as the paintings. And this is not by chance as Dierickx' oeuvre impresses most as a convincing and coherent body with a recognisably own formal language. It is an intimate adventure you can follow step by step.
    Dierickx was not unappreciated. In 1962 he won the Young Belgian Painters Award and in 1984 he took part in the Venice Biennale. He also found recognition abroad and worked for several years with a Parisian and a German gallery. Yet he never stood at the forefront. For he worked at a time when conceptual art and new media such as video, photography and installations set the tone. Dierickx was one of many artists who imperturbably continued painting at a time when the significance of painting was called into doubt.
    The exhibition at the Raveelmuseum shows that during that time, in the quiet of the studio, an oeuvre has grown that will remain worthwhile once the hypes and the manic prices of the day will long be forgotten.

    'Karel Dierickx – 'Voorstelbare werkelijkheid/Imaginable Reality' in Raveelmuseum, Machelen-aan-de-Leie, until October 11th.
    'Ambrosia', 1999. © Karel Dierickx
    'De lagen van de tijd/Layers of Time', 2004. © Karel Dierickx
    'Voorstelbare werkelijkheid/Imaginable Reality', 2014. © Karel Dierickx

  • JAN VANRIET | ‘In Antwerpen loop ik op wolkjes’ BY JAN VAN HOVE | DE STANDAARD



    De Standaard : zaterdag 18 ; zondag 19 juli 2015

    Jan Vanriet

    In deze reeks neemt een kunstenaar ons mee naar zjin favoriete uitzicht. De plaats waar hij zich goed voelt, tot rust komt, zichzelf heruitvindt. Vandaag : Jan Vanriet in de buurt van het Mechelseplein in Antwerpen.

    ‘In Antwerpen loop ik op wolkjes’

    Het werk van Jan Vanriet heeft de wind in de zeilen. Hij begon het jaar met een opgemerkte tentoonstelling in Moskou, exposeert deze zomer in Gdansk en is volgend jaar te gast in Londen en Birmingham. ‘De tijd dat figuratieve schilderkunst passé was, is gelukkig voorbij.’ JAN VAN HOVE

    Jan Vanriet (Antwerpen, 1948) is een kunstenaar die graag thuiskomt. Een beetje zoals Odysseus na al zijn omzwervingen weer thuiskwam op Ithaca. Maar voor Vanriet is ‘thuis’ gewoon Antwerpen. En in de eerste plaats is het de buurt waar hij woont, met het Mechelseplein, de Sint-Jorispoort en het uitzicht op de rijzige toren van de kathedraal. ‘Het besef van het verleden is in Antwerpen buitengewoon sterk’, zegt hij. ‘Thomas More heeft in deze stad rondgelopen. Albrecht Dürer woonde er en probeerde hier zonder veel succes zijn tekeningen aan de man te brengen. Wie een beetje historisch inlevingsvermogen heeft, loopt in Antwerpen op wolkjes.’

    Wat maakt precies deze buurt in het centrum van de stad voor u zo bijzonder ?

    ‘Er zijn wel meer plekken waar ik een sterke band mee heb en waar ik me mentaal thuis voel. Het stadsplein van Siena, bijvoorbeeld, of het kuuroord Marienbad, of de stad van Goethe : Weimar. Het zijn plaatsen die een rijke culturele erfenis bewaren en waar ik persoonlijke herinneringen aan heb. Maar het oude Antwerpen is de thuishaven van waaruit ik de wereld bekijk.’

    ‘Na elke reis kom ik op dit Mechelseplein even poolshoogte nemen. Waar je ook kijkt, zie je hier ankerplaatsen voor het geheugen. Achter mij staat de Sint-Joriskerk, waar de jonge flamingant Paul Van Ostaijen in 1917 een rel uitlokte met kardinaal Mercier – een actie waarvoor hij de gevangenis in vloog. Dicht bij elkaar zie je hier ook het Maagdenhuis met zijn mooie collectie Vlaamse kunst, de woning van de schrijver en politicus Filips van Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde, het Museum Mayer van den Bergh waar de Dulle Griet van Bruegel hangt… En wat verder ligt de Leopoldplaats, op de plaats waar vroeger vorsten en landvoogden hun Blijde Intrede in de stad hielden.’

    Gaat u graag op reis ?

    ‘Ik ben geen globetrotter. Liever dan verre landen te bezoeken, blijf ik in Europa, maar zelfs daar heb ik nog blinde vlekken, zoals Sevilla. Op reis gaan om te luieren, zegt mij weinig. Ik moet een doel hebben : een museum dat ik wil bezoeken, of een tentoonstelling die ik moet opstellen. Ik ben momenteel volop aan het werken aan een reeks schilderijen over baders en baadsters. Dat is een interessant thema in de kunst, denk maar Cézanne of Renoir. Voor die reeks reis ik weleens naar een museum in het buitenland om werken te gaan bekijken. Ik geniet over het algemeen meer van een goed gestoffeerde museumcollectie dan van tijdelijke tentoonstellingen waar massa’s volk op afkomt.’

    Kunst is een belangrijk deel van uw leven.

    Wist u dat al vroeg ?

    ‘Ik schilderde al toen ik acht jaar was. In de familie van mijn vader zaten artistieke genen, maar meer op muzikaal gebied dan op dat van de beeldende kunst. Ik had het geluk dat een verstandige onderwijzer mij van in het begin aanmoedigde. En dat mijn ouders me naar de Academie lieten gaan. Helaas vond ik dat daar bij de schilders een stoffige en oubollige boel, en wilde ik er zo vlug mogelijk weg.’

    ‘Het meest dank ik aan een galerie die mij als jonge kunstenaar kansen heeft gegeven. Lens Fine Art had in de jaren zeventig en tachtig een groot netwerk en exposeerde bekende kunstenaars zoals Pierre Alechinsky, Antonio Saura en Pierre Klossowski. De galerie geloofde in mijn werk en wees mij de weg. Dat is veel waard als je aan het begin van je loopbaan staat.’

    U schildert en tekent niet alleen, u hebt ook veel geschreven en gedichten gemaakt. Zo’n dubbeltalent is veeleer zeldzaam. Hoe groeit zoiets ?

    ‘Schilderen komt voor mij op de eerste plaats, maar ik schrijf ook graag. Na mijn studies heb ik enkele jaren wat bijverdiend als journalist, met lange interviews voor tijdschriften als Avenue of Panorama. Ik denk daar met plezier aan terug. Het was de tijd dat men oog begon te krijgen voor human interest, voor de mens achter de politicus of de zakenman. Het aardige was dat ik figuren met heel verschillende achtergronden kon interviewen. De ene week praatte ik met de orkestleiderder James Last, de andere week met wielerkampioen Jean-Pierre Monseré of met de directeur van Sabena. Ik volde mij daar goed bij, maar toen ik merkte dat ik door dat schrijven te weinig tijd overhield om te schilderen, ben ik er radicaal me gestopt.'

    Wat vindt u in het schrijven dat het schilderen u niet kan bieden ?

    ‘ik heb net een dichtbundel klaar die volgend jaar zal verschijnen en die ik Vaderland genoemd heb. Tijdens het schrijven merkte ik opnieuw dat je in gedichten op een meer genuanceerde manier kwijt kunt hoe je tegen de wereld aankijkt dan in schilderijen. Woorden zijn specifieker en concreter dan een beeld. Bij een schilderij kunnen de interpretaties gemakkelijker verschillen van toeschouwer tot toeschouwer. Schrijven en schilderen zijn twee verschillende media, dat moet je aanvaarden. Ze zijn ook niet inwisselbaar, al kun je in allebei eenzelfde idee of gevoel proberen uit te drukken.’

    Zijn er kunstenaars of schrijvers die een grote betekenis voor u hebben gehad?

    ‘Ja, er zijn er heel wat. Op dat punt ben ik nogal ontrouw. Maar misschien steekt Picasso toch boven alle anderen uit. Het talent en de vindingrijkheid van die man moeten verzengend geweest zijn. Het is niet alleen de kwaliteit van zijn werk waar ik voor val. Ook zijn bijna filmische leven, zijn doordringende blik, en de romantiek van de avant-garde waarvan hij de leider was, vind ik heel imponerend. Wat ik van Picasso geleerd heb, is dat je altijd nieuwe wegen moet verkennen in plaats van te herhalen wat je vroeger al gedaan hebt.’

    U hebt ook Hugo Claus goed gekend.

    ‘Die had wel iets van Picasso. Ook hij bezat een enorme dosis branie en bravoure, en ook hij had het vermogen van een alchemist om uit een prul goud te toveren. Maar Hugo was voor mij veel meer dan een grote kunstenaar. Hij was een vriend. Ik heb hem vijftien jaar lang wekelijks een paar keer gezien. Dat was een gelukkige periode in mijn leven.'

    'Natuurlijk had ik zijn boeken al veel vroeger gelezen. Als tiener keek ik naar hem op als naar een jonge god. Claus wrikte aan de gevestigde orde en die balorigheid sprak mij als adolescent aan. Toen ik hem leerde kennen, merkte ik dat hij zijn indrukwekkende status compenseerde met veel charme en generositeit. Hij kon heel eenvoudig zijn. Het was voor mij als schilder een genoegen om hem over kunst te horen praten, of om hem met Chinese inkt en penseel vliegensvlug iets op papier te zien zetten. Over mijn eigen werk sprak ik uit schroom niet met hem, maar toen hij een doek van mij kocht, besefte ik dat hij het apprecieerde.’

    Hoe kijkt u terug op uw loopbaan ? Hoe verklaart u het succes dat uw werk de jongste jaren te beurt valt ?

    'Ik kijk niet graag terug. Ik ben nog volop aan het werk en kijk liever vooruit. Ik voel dat ik mijn werk met de jaren steeds beter onder de knie krijg. En ik kreeg in de voorbije jaren ook een goede professionele ondersteuning van mijn Brusselse galerie, Roberto Polo, die een uitstekend netwerk heeft. Via hen kwam ik bijvoorbeeld in contact met een Russische verzamelaar die ervoor zorgde dat mijn werk in Moskou werd getoond.'

    'Ik heb in mijn loopbaan een slingerbeweging ondervonden. Er was een periode dat mijn werk het moeilijk had. De figuratieve schilderkunst die ik beoefen, en waar ik aan gehecht ben, was niet langer bon ton. Het waren de hoogdagen van de conceptuele kunst. De jongste jaren merk ik dat de slinger terugkomt. Ik krijg nu zelfs mails van jonge schilders die geïnteresseerd zijn in wat ik maak.'

    'Enkele ijkpunten in mijn loopbaan waren belangrijk voor mij. De tentoonstelling Closing time, waarmee het Museum voor Schone Kunsten van Antwerpen in 2010 zijn deuren sloot voor renovatie, was zo'n moment. Ik kreeg toen de kans een selectie uit de Antwerpse museum-collectie te maken en raakpunten te zoeken met mijn eigen werk. Ook tentoonstelling Gezichtsverlies in Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen was zo'n uitschieter. Daar hingen schilderijen die gebaseerd waren op pasfoto's van mensen die vanuit ons land gedeporteerd werden naar de concentratiekampen. Ze raakten een snaar bij het publiek.'

    Het valt op dat u heel uiteenlopende thema's aanpakt. U schildert evengoed een stuk rauw vlees als Mickey Mouse als een nachtgezicht van Berlijn. Is er iets wat dat allemaal verbindt ?

    'Mijn werk is autobiografisch. Het gaat niet alleen over wat ikzelf heb meegemaakt, maar over alles wat mij bezighoudt. Dat rode vlees verwijst naar de traditie van het vanitasstilleven uit de oude Vlaamse en Hollandse schilderkunst, die ik bewonder. Andere schilderijen gaan terug op boeken die een diepe indruk op mij maakten, of op het levensverhaal van mijn familie. Zoals alle mensen ben ik op zoek naar betekenis in mijn leven. Mijn werk is daarbij een hulpmiddel.'

    Volgt u de hedendaagse kunst? Voelt u zich ermee verbonden ?

    'Laten we zeggen : ik volg vanop afstand. Maar ik ga vooral mijn eigen gang. Ik haal meer informatie uit artikelen in kranten en tijdschriften dan uit het afschuimen van vernissages in de galeries. Ik probeer ook verder te kijken dan de beeldende kunst. Ik lees veel en ga graag naar theater of naar een mooie operavoorstelling.

    Kunst is niet het hele leven, bedoelt u dat ?

    'Goethe zei ooit dat zijn schrijverschap ondergeschikt moest zijn aan het leven. Ik heb dat gevoel soms ook. Maar kunst is een motor die je drijft. Het zit in je, je kan het niet beheersen. Als ik een tijd niet creatief ben, of dat niet op zijn minst probeer te zijn, word ik nukkig en onrustig. Kunst heeft me al zoveel intellectuele verrijking geschonken, zoveel gelukkige momenten. De ontroering die kunst soms opwekt, overvalt je plots en maakt je weerlos. Ik zal de enige niet zijn die bij het beluisteren van mooie muziek zijn tranen niet kan bedwingen.'

    'Wat ik van Picasso geleerd heb, is dat je altijd nieuwe wegen moet verkennen in plaats van te herhalen wat je vroeger al gedaan hebt.'

    'Er was een periode dat mijn werk het moeilijk had. In de hoogdagen van de conceptuele kunst was de figuratieve schilderkunst niet bon ton.'

    ’Na elke reis kom ik op dit Mechelseplein even poolshoogte nemen.’ ã Wouter Van Vaerenbergh

    ' Liever dan verre landen te bezoeken, blijf ik in Europa' ã Wouter Van Vaerenbergh

  • KAREL DIERICKX | Karel Dierickx in the Raveelmuseum ALL EXCEPT REACTIONARY, by Isabelle de Baets | H ART



    H Art

    Karel Dierickx 
in the Raveelmuseum

    The Roger Raveel Museum in Machelen pays tribute to Belgian painter, Karel Dierickx, who passed away at the end of 2014. A layered solo exhibition sheds new light on his oeuvre. It shows the various forms of expression he used and the interplay between them. At the same time it makes visible the dialogue with predecessors, contemporaries and younger generations of artists.

    Isabelle DE BAETS

    The solo exhibition 'Voorstelbare werkelijkheid/Imaginable Reality' is not built up chronologically, but thematically and by discipline rather. Although Dierickx was in the first place a painter setting out to work from the materiality of painting, it shows that drawing and sculpture were also very important to him. The exhibition also pays much attention to the professional relations the painter cultivated with art history, with peers, with colleague teachers and students at KASK (Royal Academy of Fine Arts) in Ghent, with his friends and gallerists. From 1995 he worked closely with Hachmeister Gallery in Münster and since 2014 with Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels.
    Although Dierickx' work was exhibited in the Belgian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1984 and since 1963 incorporated in various group exhibitions at home and abroad - among others in the group exhibition 'Nouvelle Subjectivité/New Subjectivity' by the famous French curator Jean Clair in Paris and in various group exhibitions by Jan Hoet - he never really made an international breakthrough. In Belgium also the interest remained limited.
    The reason is perhaps to be found in the fact that his work often was perceived as reactionary at a time (the 70s, 80s and 90s) when conceptual art reigned supreme and seeped into all branches of painting. This exhibition however shows that Dierickx was anything but reactionary but, on the contrary, had a very fresh way of handling classical subjects, such as landscapes, still lifes and portraits. This results in a timeless, elaborate and intimate painting, far removed from the more distant, more conceptual contemporary painting which often uses existing imagery as its starting point and merely reflects on the medium itself.


    It is to Dierickx' credit that he never made compromises or adapted his way of working to the dominant tendencies of the time. He merely continued working with integrity, true to himself. His touch is expressive and varies from voluminous to sparse and minimally present.
    Many imposing landscapes in the exhibition show how Dierickx developed quality, especially in the rendering of impressions of landscapes. Some works have a rather dark colour palette. Light shines through dark colour tones or stripes, in other works he uses white stripes on a dark background. Examples of this are 'Omsloten situatie/Enclosed Situation' (1985), a major square canvas with white stripes on a dark background and 'Marrakech' (1985), an equally large canvas with dark stripes on a transparent, light background. The two masterpieces hang opposite each other in the exhibition.
    Dierickx' great examples were Morandi, Giacometti and Bonnard. Echoes of their work are ever present in his work. Even though his work is quite abstract, references to observable reality are nevertheless always present. In this, his search for plastic solutions is essential. Some sort of presence emerges from the materiality of the work without there being anything explicitly depicted. He plays a subtle game between appearance and disappearance of forms. A game the viewer's eye can continue, provided he/she takes the time to carefully take in the image.

    Karel Dierickx, 'Voorstelbare werkelijkheid/Imaginable Reality', until 11 October in the Roger Raveelmuseum, Gildestraat 2-8, Machelen-Zulte. Open Wed-Sun from 11 am to 5 pm.

    Karel Dierickx, Schier eindeloos/Almost Endless, 1995-2013, 150x150cm, oil paint, photo Dominique Provost

  • KAREL DIERICKX | Karel Dierickx in the Raveelmuseum ALL EXCEPT REACTIONARY, by Isabelle de Baets | H ART



    H Art

    Karel Dierickx 
in the Raveelmuseum

    The Roger Raveel Museum in Machelen pays tribute to Belgian painter, Karel Dierickx, who passed away at the end of 2014. A layered solo exhibition sheds new light on his oeuvre. It shows the various forms of expression he used and the interplay between them. At the same time it makes visible the dialogue with predecessors, contemporaries and younger generations of artists.

    Isabelle DE BAETS

    The solo exhibition 'Voorstelbare werkelijkheid/Imaginable Reality' is not built up chronologically, but thematically and by discipline rather. Although Dierickx was in the first place a painter setting out to work from the materiality of painting, it shows that drawing and sculpture were also very important to him. The exhibition also pays much attention to the professional relations the painter cultivated with art history, with peers, with colleague teachers and students at KASK (Royal Academy of Fine Arts) in Ghent, with his friends and gallerists. From 1995 he worked closely with Hachmeister Gallery in Münster and since 2014 with Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels.
    Although Dierickx' work was exhibited in the Belgian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1984 and since 1963 incorporated in various group exhibitions at home and abroad - among others in the group exhibition 'Nouvelle Subjectivité/New Subjectivity' by the famous French curator Jean Clair in Paris and in various group exhibitions by Jan Hoet - he never really made an international breakthrough. In Belgium also the interest remained limited.
    The reason is perhaps to be found in the fact that his work often was perceived as reactionary at a time (the 70s, 80s and 90s) when conceptual art reigned supreme and seeped into all branches of painting. This exhibition however shows that Dierickx was anything but reactionary but, on the contrary, had a very fresh way of handling classical subjects, such as landscapes, still lifes and portraits. This results in a timeless, elaborate and intimate painting, far removed from the more distant, more conceptual contemporary painting which often uses existing imagery as its starting point and merely reflects on the medium itself.


    It is to Dierickx' credit that he never made compromises or adapted his way of working to the dominant tendencies of the time. He merely continued working with integrity, true to himself. His touch is expressive and varies from voluminous to sparse and minimally present.
    Many imposing landscapes in the exhibition show how Dierickx developed quality, especially in the rendering of impressions of landscapes. Some works have a rather dark colour palette. Light shines through dark colour tones or stripes, in other works he uses white stripes on a dark background. Examples of this are 'Omsloten situatie/Enclosed Situation' (1985), a major square canvas with white stripes on a dark background and 'Marrakech' (1985), an equally large canvas with dark stripes on a transparent, light background. The two masterpieces hang opposite each other in the exhibition.
    Dierickx' great examples were Morandi, Giacometti and Bonnard. Echoes of their work are ever present in his work. Even though his work is quite abstract, references to observable reality are nevertheless always present. In this, his search for plastic solutions is essential. Some sort of presence emerges from the materiality of the work without there being anything explicitly depicted. He plays a subtle game between appearance and disappearance of forms. A game the viewer's eye can continue, provided he/she takes the time to carefully take in the image.

    Karel Dierickx, 'Voorstelbare werkelijkheid/Imaginable Reality', until 11 October in the Roger Raveelmuseum, Gildestraat 2-8, Machelen-Zulte. Open Wed-Sun from 11 am to 5 pm.

    Karel Dierickx, Schier eindeloos/Almost Endless, 1995-2013, 150x150cm, oil paint, photo Dominique Provost

  • Jan Vanriet | SCHILDER MET VERVE', by mark Schaevers | HUMO




    'Thanks to Luc Tuymans, figurative art is a possibility once again. I should offer him a nice treat one of these days'
    Jan Vanriet


    Yesterday, Jan Vanriet was in the Polish city of Gdansk where he opened a retrospective. Tomorrow, he drives to France to empty his second home - sold! Today, in his Antwerp studio, he shows me paintings which he is working on for an exhibition in London. "For the time being, I have no intention of going on holiday,", says the painter-poet. Did he ever intend to be busier than ever before at 67 years of age? "No, until a few years ago, the idea was: that's all there is, what is left is to age with dignity, enjoying the south. Now I know: there is more to come."

    Mark Schaevers / Photographs Johan Jacobs

    HUMO: The buzz is: Jan Vanriet is doing well. Do you think so yourself?
    Jan Vanriet: "Yes, I have the feeling to be in a flow, like an athlete in good shape. Athletes have peaks over short periods that have to be phased out again; with me it has been going on for a few years, and it isn't ending yet."

    HUMO: But you do not use dope?
    Vanriet: "The interest shown in you is a kind of doping. For over two years now, I have been working with the gallerist Roberto Polo in Brussels, and this man has brought a dynamic into my life. He is the gallerist whom I have always dreamt of: when I call him, he immediately comes to have a look and that is very stimulating. He has excellent international contacts and that also stimulates one. Contrary to what many people think, I'm not a very successful networker. I have always been fortunate that many things just kind of happened to me. Almost 45 years ago, I started working with Adriaan Raemdonck of De Zwarte Panter (The Black Panther) just because we studied together at the academy. He wisely decided to stop painting, because he thought others did it better. And at once it was logical that I took my first steps with him. And then it was the poet Hugues C. Pernath, a friend and a difficult person, incidentally, who, behind my back, went to talk to Jan Lens, who at that time owned the most important gallery in the country, and he piloted me in there."

    HUMO: But that luck didn't last. You experienced lesser times when conceptual art started to dominate the scene: not your thing.
    Vanriet: "I admit that I prefer to look at a traditional artistic expression rather than at a piece of cloth on a brick floor. That just doesn't touch me so much. An installation is quickly taken in by me; in my mind that's something for window dressers. Maybe that's the Prince Charles in me (laughs).
    In the 80s and 90s there was an overkill of conceptual art. Figurative painting was seen as a superannuated act, you simply didn't do THAT anymore! You had to deal with the new media and develop a new approach: most of all there had to be a lot of explaining, there had to be a lot of text on the wall. You can imagine that in such a climate, I was put in the trash container. But I am a comeback kid!"

    HUMO: You were also led to the garbage can by the then reigning art pope Jan Hoet?
    Vanriet: "It is no secret that I had only negative experiences with Hoet. My effect on him was that of a red flag on a bull. One day, he visited a collector, was delighted by all which he saw until a new Vanriet appeared: he then stormed to his raincoat and left the building in a fury. Another time he explained in an interview why the German painter, Walter Dahn, could not be part of his Documenta: 'he makes me think too much of Jan Vanriet!' I have been 'kaltgestellt' (sidelined), that's the right word, by Hoet and his acolytes, who are still occupying desks in stuffy offices here and there. I felt I was slipping away into a samizdat position (after the clandestine publishing houses in the former Eastern Bloc countries which distributed printed materials forbidden by the state, ed.). Those poor artists behind the Iron Curtain were very much admired in those days! But here the same thing was happening. The extremism directed against figurative art was far more severe here than in the neighbouring countries. They had more museums and thus exhibition possibilities. We barely had museums - to this day we only have three - and a few museum curators made their mark on them. Quite a few people have been 'killed' at that time."

    HUMO: Am I to understand this literally?
    Vanriet: "In the region of Ghent there were painters who put an end to their lives. Witness the tragic fates of Marc Maet and Philippe Vandenberg (the first committed suicide in 2000, the second in 2009, ed.). It also had to do with the ways in which those museum curators would be blowing hot and cold: first they were enthusiastic about an artist, subsequently they totally ignored the artist of their former enthusiasm. Many painters have known quite serious depressions."

    HUMO: But not Jan Vanriet?
    Vanriet: "I would at times be fretting in my studio. The annoying thing is that you can hardly react, because then it's you who is the envious piece of chagrin. I kept my mouth shut and stayed away from the art world, the courts and their courtiers, the obligatory conversations at openings. You will never see me at an opening of any museum."

    HUMO: Seeking some support from colleagues can make you feel better, no?
    Vanriet: "You don't have colleagues in the art world. I barely noticed really sincere solidarity amongst artists. Julian Barnes recently stated in De Standaard newspaper that he grew up with the naive idea that artists became better people because they were constantly busy with art. He came back on that view (little laugh)."

    HUMO: You are a loner and you never joined up with a group.
    Vanriet: "Is that kind of forming of groups not something of the past? Somewhat back in time artists wrote manifestos."

    HUMO: And today they write invoices?
    Vanriet: "Exactly - you're too quick for me. However swollen and silly those manifestos, after all they were written. A group also offered a sense of protection in difficult times: artists tried to lift each other out of poverty. Take group Zero where Ivo Michiels and Jef Verheyen had contacts. I knew them well, I know how inexpensively they organised their trips to Milan, all the people who offered them to stay for free at their homes. Now there is more money in circulation and artists meet each other under very different circumstances."

    HUMO: Figurative painters also do profit from the flowering of the visual arts.
    Vanriet: "The attitude towards figurative art is completely reversed, and in our region, we largely have to thank someone like Luc Tuymans for it. I have to offer Luc a treat one of these days! For me such a turning point came around the year 2000, when Lieven Storme - meanwhile vanished again from the art world - started to take care of me, organising excellent exhibitions and discovering my older work.
    I myself am also returning more and more to the work from the 80s and the key year for that period is 1986. I worked for a gallery in Los Angeles and had friends there who guided me through that difficult period. I rented a studio in New York and there was a kind of breakthrough painting where all my worlds came together. It is called 'La doctrine'. There are blue stripes on it, reminiscent of a prison: for the first time, I referred to the concentration camp past of my parents in a painting. But those blue stripes could just as well refer to the art of Daniel Buren. The iron in the painting is not only ironing history flat, it is also the instrument of the doctrinaires of conceptual art who ironed flat out everything in art at that time.
    There is still a third element: on the canvas is also a portrait of the Russian Avant-Garde artist Tatlin, a man who had great difficulties with Stalinism. I have an intense and preferential love for the Russian Avant-Garde, I adore Mayakovsky. Already at 16, I had his complete works, published in de GDR by Volk und Welt, and I tried to translate a play by him."

    HUMO: After 'La doctrine', the story of your family kept arising in your work. Is it possible to summarise?
    Vanriet: "I am the result of the combination of two prisoners in the camp at Mauthausen. To say it with Harry Mulisch: I am here thanks to Hitler. My father was in the Communist resistance movement against the Germans. In the camp, he managed to survive, amongst other things, because he played the violin in the camp orchestra - also once for Himmler, there on a visit. The favourite piece of music of the camp commander was 'Leichte Kavallerie' by Franz von Suppé.
    My mother came from a family of barge skippers, people who were just simply against the Germans, and thereby given away and deported to Mauthausen. By pure chance, my father, who had to bring bread to the women's camp, met her there - he heard her talk in the Antwerp dialect. 'Should we ever get out of here', they promised each other, 'then we'll try to find each other.' Maybe it might have been better, had they not done so. They had their camp past in common, but that was too small a basis for a successful marriage. Their relationship knew many ups and downs, at the end mostly downs.
    Jewish friends of mine, with dozens of deaths in the family, did not talk about their wartime past: 'We leave it behind us.' With my parents, it was just the opposite: the past was the engine of their existence. They went to all kinds of meetings of former prisoners, I was raised with this kind of thing. My first reaction was that I didn't want this oppressiveness to appear in my work; and under the influence of Pop Art, I wanted it to be light-footed. Only after the death of my father in 1989, did I start to very explicitly examine that past in my work. Before that I ever had the feeling that he was watching over my shoulder: my painting could never be as strong as what he himself had experienced."

    HUMO: 'A son of sorrow' you call yourself in one of your poems. But it was your wife, Simone Lenaerts, who set down the family history in a novel, 'The irreplaceable'. You didn't feel like doing this yourself?
    Vanriet: "I do not have the ability for the long haul, like Simone has, to do a thing like that. I am more of the little sprint and write poems; she can go for the marathon."

    HUMO: Your father was a socialist alderman in Hoboken. You had a red childhood.
    Vanriet: "I didn't oppose it. Together with my father, I was part of the weekly 'Links' (Left), with Willy Calewaert and others. I wrote TV reviews. Severe pieces - it then was fashionable to write very admonitory, with much sarcasm. Then I switched to the editorial board of the political magazine 'De Nieuwe Maand' (The New Month), with colleagues as Jean-Luc Dehaene, Karel Van Miert, Miet Smet and Wilfried Martens. Probably I'm the only editor who didn't become a minister (laughs)."

    HUMO: A political career would have been possible?
    Vanriet: "My father had a path laid out for me: first the legal profession, and then by way of the party, to parliament. I did disappoint him. For a long time, I doubted and I have been locally politically active in Hoboken for a while. But I soon realised that it was not in my character. There was an incident where it was publicly made clear to me: 'Chappie, THIS is how we do things here!' Bang! Nothing left of Jan Vanriet. But you see where the Socialists are at today. They did it to themselves. The problems to find political personnel with some talent and a certain level of thought started there and then in Hoboken (laughs)."

    HUMO: Am I to find it not that obvious that you were infected by the artistic microbe in that environment?
    Vanriet: "I started to paint around the age of 9 and nobody ever stopped me: I always got my tubes of paint. My father worked as a clerk in a shipping agency. He was a reader, he had the first books by Hugo Claus and raved about Marnix Gijsen, whom he invited home for a lecture, as he did with Boon and Geeraerts. It isn't that strange that I started to paint."

    HUMO: Let's talk about the comeback kid. The exhibition 'Closing Time' was very important: in 2010 you could hang your work alongside that of the biggest names from the collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. You mentioned that it was as if you could play some football with Ronaldinho.
    Vanriet: "Yes, 'Closing Time' was a point of reference. The Antwerp buzz was: 'This is the pinnacle of hubris, hang your own paintings next to Van Eyck, 10 centimetres away from a Memling! It'll be our pleasure to see him smash into the wall!' Sweaty hands indeed, but only one moment of real anxiety. That was when we really started to hang the paintings and a splendid oil sketch by Rubens was brought in, followed by a Modigliani. I could touch them, I practically had my nose on top of them. Ten minutes later it was over and routine set in: 'Place that Vanriet there, next to the Titian, some more space!' (laughs) Looking back at art history is essential for me. That's also why I work so much in series: viewed from the tradition you can think of all sorts of alternatives to treat a particular theme."

    HUMO: Do you have an idea of your position on the playing field of living artists? Stefan Hertmans once wrote: 'Somewhere between Raveel and Tuymans'.
    Vanriet: "That sort of positioning is awkward. What Stefan wrote is quite correct I think."

    HUMO: But you don't fetch Tuymans' prices yet.
    Vanriet: "No. But do you see an unhappy man in front of you? I don't paint to fetch record prices. I just want to see what I can still do better. That's also the interesting thing about my career, which differs from a classical evolution: often, when an artist has reached his peak, he starts to repeat his formula. That's kind of the end in fact - to put it mildly: it won't get any better any more. While I still surprise people, and myself in the first place. The peak has not yet been reached, I think. I am painting for an exhibition in London next year and now already know that it will be work no one has ever seen by me."

    HUMO: Meanwhile it won't have escaped your notice that a Rothko was sold for 81million dollars.
    Vanriet: "That's another planet and I am not on it. I don't know if I should use the word immoral for that kind of trade, in any case: I don't get it. That world of speculation isn't mine. Many people buy my work out of love, because it affects them, because they want to live with it. That's also why they sometimes refuse to lend it for exhibitions. I cherish that kind of involvement more than a record amount of money from someone who sees me only as an investment. Even if it's just paint on a canvas, it's always about venting ideas - even if Hugo Claus claimed at one point that painters are the dumbest people on earth..."

    HUMO: Not a speck of jealousy when a Giacometti gets sold for many millions?
    Vanriet: "I don't see why. I'm very pleased with what I make and with the response. And I easily bear the thought that others also get something. I regularly propose work by others to the gallery. Am I to be afraid of other painters? If they are better, they are better: life is that simple."

    HUMO: Do you know living painters who are better than you?
    Vanriet: "No (laughs). But then you don't put that question to Ronaldo either. Will he say that Messi is better?"

    HUMO: What is the price of a Vanriet today?
    Vanriet (hesitating) "It depends on the sizes. Oil paintings now go between 20.000 and 100.000 euros."

    HUMO: Nothing there for the modest purse?
    Vanriet: "The watercolours, these carry different prices: from 4.000 euros onwards."

    HUMO: Why the big difference?
    Vanriet: "It's partly tradition, but you can't quite compare watercolour and oil painting, I think. Watercolour brings about much more direct, impulsive work. An oil painting takes a much, much longer time, it is very physical work. At Polo's in Brussels, we hung a canvas of 5.5 by 2 meters: when you work on something that size, you move so much it's almost like dancing."

    HUMO: Are there any paintings which you don't want to separate from?
    Vanriet: "That turns out better than expected. But as a family we have established a list of works which we won't sell anymore, because of their historic or emotional value. That little painting over there of Remco Campert holding an eulogy next to the coffin of Hugo Claus is so emotional for me that I won't let it go anymore. Meeting Hugo Claus was fundamental for me: he already was God when I was in high school. It was an absolute miracle when later on that God also turned out to exist in real life."

    HUMO: What kind of work do you buy yourself?
    Vanriet: "For a while my love for the Russian Avant-Garde obliged me to collect a lot of printed material, first editions of Lissitzky or Mayakovsky. For the rest I have an eclectic taste: it can be abstract work from the 50s, it can be contemporary. Recently we did sell a lot, including a few highlights of our collection, such as a watercolour by Warhol. For I wanted a new studio."

    HUMO: The old one was worn out?
    Vanriet: "No, I wanted a more practical studio, where I also could store my older work under better conditions, and I have been fortunate to find something around the corner from here."

    HUMO: You abandon France as a place to work. Your second home there has been sold.
    Vanriet: "We only were there for a couple of months over the past two years; the importance of that second home had already been reduced. In summertime, you are seduced by outdoor living, but I noticed that in the other seasons, Provence left me culturally somewhat hungry. The offer is substandard compared to what you can get in the triangle Antwerp-Ghent-Brussels. There you are happy with a second rate performance of 'La Traviata', and that's it for the next six weeks. And then there is the culinary debacle. What is understood in France by good cuisine is really embarrassing. You've got one tourist trap next to the other and they're full of pretensions as well. And to say that I grew up with a great love for French culture. The discovery of the French chanson! I learned French by listening to French radio stations from the age of 17-18 onwards. For example, the programs of Coluche. I also had myself totally immersed in the spirit of Charlie Hebdo. I knew a few of those guys - Reiser, also the murdered Wolinski: I still have some drawings by them in my drawings attic. In a rash moment, 35 years ago, I even once said: 'I am not a Flemish painter, but a French one!' Because at that time, I was crazy about the airiness of Matisse and Dufy. I set myself against the Flemish soul, rooted in mud and clods. But other loves can impose themselves. In recent years, I have developed a great passion for Germany, something that would have been difficult in my family before... Now we travel a lot there, I discover the German cultural cities. And Die Zeit is a fantastic magazine, both in content AND form."

    HUMO: For you the 'G' stands for Goethe, I understood from an intriguing alphabet you drew a number of years ago and which was recently published in your book 'Het dienstbare beeld' (The instrumental image). It summarizes just about your cultural world.
    Vanriet: "In this alphabet are the people that have defined me. And Goethe is one of them: I admire him because he is such a man of all seasons, a man who wants to touch on everything, a man who travels a lot, who writes about his travels, who also painted incredibly beautiful watercolours."

    HUMO: Your alphabet contains more writers than painters.
    Vanriet: "This here is a house of literature! The world of the visual arts is less close to my heart than the one of literature. It is also among the writers that I have my friends, with the exception of the painter Karel Dierickx."

    HUMO: Strange to find Xerxes between them.
    Vanriet: "I needed an 'X' (laughs). And the film 'Alexander the Great' with Richard Burton made an incredible impression on me. That world of the Persians! And that incredible scene in which the king is slain. In a vast plain only his carriage is left, with curtains fluttering in the wind..."

    HUMO: Only one film director figures in your alphabet, Fellini. However, Marc Didden once wrote that your film knowledge is extraordinary. He even suspected that you always wanted to make a movie.
    Vanriet: "Surely not. The one thing I've always wanted to do is paint, and mess around a bit with texts. I do regret however that I don't play an instrument."

    HUMO: Your musical heroes are apparently Dylan, Sinatra and Zappa.
    Vanriet: "Sinatra most of all. Frankie - his style, his class, his timing - is high on my list."

    HUMO: Also remarkable in 'Het dienstbare beeld' (The instrumental image) is your ability to make outstanding portraits. There is a very well resembling portrait of Herman Van Rompuy in it. Is resemblance important to you in a portrait?
    Vanriet: "It surely is, otherwise it is nonsense. First you have to have the resemblance, afterwards you can still deviate in one manner or another. The Van Rompuy portrait was for the newspaper: you don't want the reader to suspect it is the coach of Club Brugge whom he is looking at."

    HUMO: Is there then some suspense, waiting to see if a portrait is going to work?
    Vanriet: "No, I am able to do it, I don't have to prove anything anymore. However, it does require mental preparation. I am now charging myself to paint a double portrait. I worry every moment of the day about how I will handle it."

    HUMO: Do you avoid the self-portrait? In your many recent catalogues I don't see many.
    Vanriet: "Well, do come and have a look in my studio. My latest work is a self-portrait, nearly 2 x 2 meter. Self-portraits are rather fun. You can exaggerate what you see a little."

    HUMO: And what do you see in the mirror?
    Vanriet: "Time leaving its traces. Self-portraits again are a manner to link up with tradition: you think of the self-portraits of the ageing Rembrandt."

    HUMO: You are also scrutinising yourself in a poetry collection in preparation, 'Vaderland' (Fatherland). There, we also see a constant splitting into two: 'I am another'. Also a comeback kid in poetry?
    Vanriet: "Certainly. For years I didn't write poetry. Recently, Boudewijn de Groot said in the newspaper: 'I only make a record when I have to say something.' I have the same attitude, and it can happen that you have nothing to say for twenty years (laughs). Another factor: I was close with so many superb poets that I didn't always dare."

    HUMO: What you have to tell now seems like a warning for what is coming. You read the signs on the wall. 'Omens' is the title of an exhibition currently on view at De Zwarte Panter gallery (The Black Panther gallery).
    Vanriet: "What is in the process of happening is nothing to be cheerful about: we are facing major societal choices and I perceive only short-sightedness, demagogy, and way too little seriousness in the political leaders. You know the origin of my melancholic vision? When I was in high school, I grew up with the idea that the third world admittedly had a huge backlog, but everything was in motion: at the most another thirty years and things would be much better. In Africa, you had great leaders like the Ghanaian Nkrumah, the Senegalese Senghor, in the Middle East you had Nasser, Beirut was a suburb of Paris. Women started to study. In short: the future looked bright. And then the mess there is now... With those boats in the Mediterranean, we see the drama coming straight at us. I have no solutions. You won't read in my poems how to provide shelter or stop the boat fugitives. Art can not save the world. But maybe art can illuminate. Lighten the spirit by offering consolation, enlighten the mind by encouraging people to think. That thought is already sufficiently pretentious."

    ‘Omens.Work on Paper’ until the 21st of June in De Zwarte Panter, Antwerp.

    ‘Song of Destiny’ until the 13th of September in the National Museum, Gdansk.

    Charlotte Mullins, ‘Vanriet | Vanity’, Lannoo

    ‘Het dienstbare beeld. Toegepast werk van Jan Vanriet’, Willem Elsschot


    Grâce à Luc Tuymans l'art figuratif est de nouveau possible. Je devrais l'inviter un de ces jours.'
    Jan Vanriet


    Hier, Jan Vanriet était encore en Pologne, à Gdansk, où il inaugurait une rétrospective, demain il se rendra en France pour y vider sa maison secondaire qu'il vient de vendre. Aujourd'hui, il me montre dans son atelier anversois les tableaux auxquelles il travaille pour son exposition à Londres. 'Je ne prends pas de vacances en ce moment,' me confie le peintre-poète. Aurait-il pu imaginer qu'à 67 ans, il aurait eu tant à faire ? 'Non, il y a quelques années, je vivais encore avec l'idée que tout était là, qu'il ne me restait plus qu'à vieillir dignement, à profiter du climat du Midi, mais maintenant je sais que j'ai encore beaucoup à faire.

    Mark Schaevers / photos Johan Jacobs

    HUMO Jan Vanriet est bien lancé, voilà ce qu'on dit sur lui. Confirmez-vous ces rumeurs?
    Jan Vanriet : « Oui, j'ai l'impression d'être pris dans un flux, comme un athlète qui est en forme. Chez les athlètes, il s'agit par contre d'un temps bref, suivi d'une période moins intense alors que chez moi ça dure depuis quelques années et ça ne s'arrête pas encore. »

    HUMO Mais vous ne vous dopez pas ?
    Vanriet «L'attention qu'on vous prête est une forme de dopage. Je travaille maintenant depuis deux ans avec le galériste Roberto Polo à Bruxelles, qui a apporté un vrai dynamisme dans ma vie. Il est le galériste dont j'avais toujours rêvé : quand je l'appelle, il vient voir sans tarder, ce qui est très stimulant. De surcroît, il a d'excellents contacts internationaux, ce qui m'encourage aussi. » A l'inverse de ce que beaucoup pensent, établir des réseaux n'est pas mon fort. J'ai toujours eu la chance que beaucoup de choses me tombent dessus. Il y a bientôt 45 ans que j'ai commencé à collaborer avec Adriaan Raemdonck à De Zwarte Panter, tout simplement parce que nous étions étudiants dans la même année. Il avait pris la sage décision d'arrêter la peinture, car il trouvait que d'autres étaient meilleurs que lui. Dès lors il était logique que je fasse mes premiers pas chez lui. » Ensuite, il y a eu le poète Hugues C. Pernath, un ami mais par ailleurs un homme difficile. Il s'était permis de prendre contact derrière mon dos avec Jan Lens, qui tenait à l'époque la plus grande galerie de Belgique, et qui m'y a fait entrer. »

    HUMO Mais ce bonheur n'a pas duré. Vous avez connu des temps plus difficiles lorsque l'art conceptuel donnait le ton : ce n'était pas votre affaire.
    Vanriet « J'avoue que je préfère une expression artistique plus traditionnelle à un morceau de tissu fichu sur un sol en briques. C'est une question d'émotion. J'ai vite fait le tour d'une installation, que je vois plutôt comme une activité d'étalagistes. C'est peut-être mon côté prince Charles (il sourit).» Dans les années 80 et 90 il y avait une surenchère d'art conceptuel. La peinture figurative était perçue comme une activité dépassée, ça ne se faisait plus ! Il fallait s'intéresser aux nouveaux médias et développer une nouvelle approche. Il fallait surtout beaucoup expliquer, ce qui se traduisait dans d'interminables textes aux murs. Vous pouvez facilement vous imaginer que dans ce climat, j'étais juste bon pour la poubelle. Mais je suis un comebackkid !»

    HUMO Est-ce que vous étiez également relégué à la poubelle par Jan Hoet, le pape de l'art de l'époque ?
    Vanriet « Avec Hoet, je n'ai connu que des expériences négatives, ce n'est pas un secret. Je lui faisais l'effet d'un tissu rouge sur un taureau. Un jour, il se rendait chez un collectionneur où il était enchanté par tout ce qu'il voyait, jusqu'à ce qu'un nouveau Vanriet surgit. Ni d'une, ni de deux, il s'est précipité sur son imperméable et a quitté les lieux en colère.
    Une autre fois, il expliquait lors d'une interview pourquoi le peintre allemand Walter Dahn n'avait pas sa place à Documenta : 'Il me fait trop penser à Jan Vanriet!'» Ainsi, j'ai été relégué aux oubliettes, c'est bien le terme, par Hoet et ses acolytes, qui de-ci, de-là sont encore en poste dans des petits bureaux poussiéreux. A l'époque je me sentais imperceptiblement glisser vers une position de samizdat (en référence aux maisons d'édition clandestines dans les pays de l'ancien bloc de l'Est, qui diffusaient des ouvrages interdits par l'Etat, ndlr). Combien on admirait à l'époque ces pauvres artistes derrière le Rideau de Fer ! Mais ici c'était la même chose. L'extrémisme dirigé contre l'art figuratif était bien plus virulent chez nous que dans les pays voisins qui comptaient davantage de musées et donc davantage de possibilités d'expositions. Nous n'avions par contre que quelques musées ; nous n'en avons toujours que trois, et quelques commissaires y faisaient régner leur loi. De nombreux talents ont été étouffés dans l'œuf à l'époque.»

    HUMO Dois-je comprendre ceci littéralement ?
    Vanriet « A Gand et ses environs, certains ont mis fin à leurs jours. Voyez la fin tragique de Marc Maet et de Philippe Vandenberg (le premier s'est suicidé en 2000, le deuxième en 2009, ndlr). Cette situation était aussi liée aux réactions contradictoires des commissaires : d'abord ils mettaient quelqu'un sur un piédestal avant de le laisser tomber comme une brique. De nombreux peintres ont connu une sévère dépression.»

    HUMO Mais pas Jan Vanriet ?
    Vanriet « Il m'arrivait de broyer du noir dans mon atelier. C'était embêtant car on pouvait à peine réagir, faute de quoi on passait pour des jaloux grincheux. Je me suis donc tu et je suis resté en retrait du monde de l'art, des coteries et des entretiens complaisants lors de vernissages. Vous ne me verrez jamais lors d'une inauguration d'un musée.»

    HUMO Chercher un peu de réconfort auprès des collègues par contre ne saurait faire de mal ?
    Vanriet « Dans le monde de l'art, il n'y a pas de collègues. J'ai à peine senti ce que pouvait être une vraie solidarité entre artistes. Julian Barnes disait récemment dans De Standaard qu'il avait grandi dans l'idée naïve que les artistes devenaient des hommes meilleurs grâce au fait que l'art était au centre de leur vie. Mais il en est revenu (sourire en coin).»

    HUMO Vous faites plutôt cavalier seul, sans jamais rallier de groupe.
    Vanriet « Je me demande si la constitution de groupe n'appartient pas au passé ? Autrefois, les artistes rédigeaient des manifestes.»

    HUMO Et aujourd'hui ils rédigent des factures ?
    Vanriet « Exactement – vous m'ôtez les mots de la bouche ! Certes, ces manifestes regorgeaient d'emphase et d'inepties, mais l'acte d'écriture était incontestable. Le groupe offrait aussi un sentiment d'appartenance et de protection par temps difficiles : les artistes serraient les rangs pour se sortir de la misère. Prenons par exemple le groupe Zéro, avec lequel Ivo Michiels et Jef Verheyen entretenaient des contacts. Je les ai bien connus et je sais dans quelles circonstances misérables ils séjournaient à Milan, chez qui ils pouvaient loger gratuitement. Aujourd'hui, il y a davantage d'argent et les artistes se rencontrent dans des circonstances très différentes.»

    HUMO Les peintres figuratifs profitent aussi du succès des arts plastiques.
    Vanriet « L'attitude envers l'art figuratif a complètement changé, chez nous en grande partie grâce à Luc Tuymans. Je devrais inviter Luc un de ces jours ! En ce qui me concerne, j'ai connu un moment charnière vers 2000, lorsque Lieven Storme, qui a entre-temps quitté le monde de l'art, s'était occupé de moi, avait organisé d'excellentes expositions et avait découvert mes œuvres plus anciennes.»
    Je m'inspire moi aussi de plus en plus de mon travail des années 80. L'année 1986 a été l'année clé.
    Je travaillais alors pour une galerie à Los Angeles, où j'y avais des amis qui m'ont aidé à traverser cette période difficile. Je louais un atelier à New York où j'ai réalisé une toile qui m'a permis de percer et dans laquelle tous mes mondes convergeaient. Elle s'intitule 'La doctrine'. On y voit des rayures bleues, qui rappellent une prison : c'était la première fois que je référais dans un tableau au passé des camps de concentration de mes parents. Mais ces rayures bleues peuvent aussi bien référer à l'art de Daniel Buren. Le fer à repasser ne repasse donc pas seulement les plis de l'histoire, c'est aussi l'instrument des doctrinaires de l'art conceptuel qui passaient sur l'art comme un bulldozer. » Il y a encore un troisième élément : sur la toile figure aussi un portrait de l'artiste avant-gardiste russe Tatlin, qui a connu de grandes difficultés sous le stalinisme. J'ai une vraie prédilection pour l'avant-garde russe ainsi que pour Maïakovski. A mes 16 ans, je possédais déjà son œuvre complète, éditée en Allemagne de l'Est par Volk und Welt, et j'ai essayé à l'époque de traduire une de ses pièces de théâtre.»

    HUMO Après 'La doctrine', l'histoire de votre famille va être un élément récurrent dans votre œuvre. Pourriez-vous la résumer ?
    Vanriet « Je suis l'héritier de la combinaison de deux prisonniers du camp de Mauthausen. Ou, pour le dire à la façon de Harry Mulisch (ndt: auteur néerlandais traitant souvent de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale) : je dois ma vie à Hitler.
    Mon père était dans la résistance communiste contre les Allemands. Au camp, il a réussi à survivre entre autres grâce au fait qu'il jouait du violon dans l'orchestre du camp – et même une fois pour Himmler, qui était en visite à ce moment-là. La pièce favorite du commandant de camp était 'Leichte Kavallerie' de Franz von Suppé.»
    Ma mère était issue d'une famille de bateliers, des gens qui étaient simplement contre les Allemands et qui avaient été dénoncés et ensuite déportés à Mauthausen. Le hasard a fait que mon père, qui devait apporter du pain au camp des femmes, l'avait rencontrée là-bas et l'avait entendue parler anversois. 'Si jamais on sort d'ici, on se cherchera,' s'étaient-ils promis.' Il aurait sans doute mieux valu qu'ils ne le fassent pas. Ils avaient leur passé du camp en commun, mais c'était trop peu pour assurer un mariage réussi. Leur relation a connu beaucoup de hauts et de bas, et vers la fin surtout des bas.« Chez mes amis juifs on ne parlait pas de ce passé de guerre, avec des dizaines de morts dans la famille : 'Nous laissons cela derrière nous.' Chez mes parents, c'était tout le contraire : ce passé était le moteur de leur existence. Ils se rendaient à toutes sortes de réunions d'anciens prisonniers. Voilà le climat dans lequel j'ai grandi. Ma première réaction a été que je ne voulais pas retrouver ce sentiment d'oppression dans mon œuvre, et sous l'influence du pop'art je voulais qu'elle soit empreinte de légèreté.
    Ce n'est qu'après la mort de mon père en 1989 que j'ai commencé à m'intéresser à mon passé de manière explicite dans mon œuvre. Auparavant j'avais toujours un peu l'impression que mon père m'observait de par-dessus mon épaule : mon tableau ne pourrait jamais être aussi fort que ce qu'il avait lui-même vécu.»

    HUMO Dans un de vos poèmes, vous vous désignez comme 'Un fils de chagrin'. Mais c'était votre femme, Simone Lenaerts, qui a relaté l'histoire familiale dans un roman, 'De onvervangbare'('L'irremplaçable'). Vous ne vouliez pas le faire vous-même ?
    Vanriet « Je n'ai pas la grande respiration de Simone pour y arriver. Je suis plutôt du style à pousser un sprint et à écrire des poèmes; mais elle c'est plutôt le marathon.»

    HUMO Votre père était échevin socialiste à Hoboken. Vous avez connu une jeunesse rouge.
    Vanriet « Je ne m'y suis pas opposé. Je collaborais aux côtés de mon père à l'hebdomadaire Links, avec entre autres Willy Calewaert. J'y écrivais des critiques de programmes télé, des articles sévères car à l'époque il fallait écrire en donnant des leçons, avec beaucoup de sarcasme. Ensuite, je suis passé à la rédaction de la revue politique De Nieuwe Maand, avec des collègues tels que Jean-Luc Dehaene, Karel Van Miert, Miet Smet et Wilfried Martens. Je suis peut-être le seul de la rédaction à ne jamais être devenu ministre (sourire).»

    HUMO Une carrière politique, était-ce possible ?
    Vanriet « Mon père avait tracé la voie à suivre : d'abord devenir avocat et ensuite devenir parlementaire grâce au parti. Je l'ai déçu. J'ai longuement hésité. Au niveau local à Hoboken, j'ai fait une brève incursion en politique, mais j'ai vite constaté que je n'avais pas le caractère à tenir. Il y a eu un incident où on m'a clairement écharpé en public : 'Mon garçon, ici ça se passe comme ça et pas autrement ! Et vlan! Il ne restait plus rien de Jan Vanriet. Mais aujourd'hui, on voit où en sont les socialistes. Ils l'ont cherché eux-mêmes. Les problèmes pour trouver du personnel avec quelque talent et niveau remontent à cette époque à Hoboken (sourire).»

    HUMO Puis-je me permettre de trouver peu évident d'avoir contracté le microbe artistique dans ce genre de milieu ?
    Vanriet « J'ai commencé à peindre vers mes 9 ans et personne ne m'a jamais freiné : je recevais toujours mes tubes de peinture. Mon père travaillait comme employé dans une agence maritime. Il lisait, avait les premiers livres de Hugo Claus et était un fervent lecteur de Marnix Gijsen, qu'il invitait à l'occasion aussi chez lui pour un exposé, tout comme Boon et Geeraerts. Rien d'étonnant donc à ce que je commence à peindre.»

    HUMO Mais revenons au comebackkid. En 2010, l'exposition 'Closing Time' était une étape importante : vous pouviez accrocher votre propre oeuvre à côté des plus grands noms du Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Anvers. C'était comme si vous pouviez jouer une partie de football avec Ronaldinho, comme vous le formuliez.
    Vanriet «'Closing Time' était en effet une référence. A Anvers, on disait : « c'est bien le comble de l'orgueil : accrocher ses propres tableaux à côté de ceux de Van Eyck ou à 10 centimètres d'un Memling ! On se frottera les mains de le voir se casser la gueule ! » Et en effet, j'avais alors les mains moites, mais je n'ai tout de même eu qu'un seul moment d'angoisse. C'était lorsqu'on a commencé à accrocher les tableaux et qu'on faisait entrer une magnifique esquisse à l'huile de Rubens, suivie d'une oeuvre de Modigliani. Je pouvais les toucher, je les avais là sous le nez. Dix minutes plus tard, c'était passé et je retrouvais presque une routine : 'Donnez à ce Vanriet-là, à côté du Titien, un peu plus d'espace !' (sourire) "Pour moi, le regard vers le passé qu'on projette sur l'histoire de l'art est essentiel. C'est pourquoi je travaille aussi beaucoup avec des séries : à partir de la tradition, il est possible d'imaginer toutes sortes d'alternatives pour traiter un thème particulier. »

    HUMO Avez-vous quelqu'idée de l'endroit que vous occupez parmi les artistes vivants ? Stefan Hertmans notait 'quelque part entre Raveel et Tuymans'.
    Vanriet « Ce genre de positionnement est difficile, mais j'adhère à ce qu'a écrit Stefan.»

    HUMO Mais vos oeuvres n'atteignent pas encore les prix de Tuymans.
    Vanriet « Non. Mais est-ce que vous voyez devant vous un homme malheureux ? Je ne peins pas pour atteindre des sommets. Je veux simplement montrer ce que je peux encore faire mieux. C'est ce qui est intéressant dans ma carrière, qui s'écarte de l'évolution classique : souvent un artiste continue, après avoir atteint son moment de gloire, d'user sa formule jusqu'à la trame. En fait, je pense que c'est fini à ce moment-là et que ça ne s'arrangera pas, pour le dire en termes modérés. En ce qui me concerne, j'arrive toujours à surprendre les gens, et moi-même en premier lieu. Je n'ai pas encore atteint le meilleur de moi-même, du moins, c'est ce que je crois. En ce moment, je peins pour l'exposition de l'année prochaine à Londres et je sais dès maintenant que ce seront des œuvres que personne n'aura encore vues.»

    HUMO Vous aurez remarqué entre-temps que le monde de l'art est en plein essor : dernièrement un Rothko a été vendu pour 81 millions de dollars.
    Vanriet « Ça se passe sur une autre planète, ce n'est pas celle sur laquelle je me trouve. Je ne sais pas si je devrais qualifier ce genre de commerce d'immoral, mais ce qui est sûr c'est que je n'y comprends rien. Le monde de la spéculation n'est pas le mien. Beaucoup de gens achètent mon oeuvre par amour, parce qu'elle les touche, parce qu'ils veulent vivre avec. Parfois il leur arrive de ne pas vouloir la prêter pour des expositions. J'admire plus ce type d'engagement qu'un montant record de la part de quelqu'un qui n'y voit qu'un investissement. Même s'il ne s'agit que de peinture sur toile, il s'agit en fin de compte toujours de diffusion d'idées – quoi qu'en dise un Hugo Claus qui trouvait que les peintres étaient les gens les plus idiots au monde ...»

    ' 81 millions de dollars pour un Rothko? Je ne sais pas si je devrais qualifier ce genre de commerce d'immoral, mais ce qui est sûr c'est que je n'y comprends rien.

    Doctrine • 1986
    Salted Meat - Vive le Sociale • 2014

    HUMO Pas une once de jalousie lorsqu'un Giacometti atteint plusieurs millions à la vente?
    Vanriet « Je ne vois pas pourquoi. Je suis très content de ce que je réalise et de la réaction des autres. Et je supporte très bien qu'un autre reçoive aussi quelque chose. Je propose régulièrement à la galerie des œuvres d'autres que moi. Dois-je craindre les autres peintres ? S'ils sont meilleurs, ils faut l'admettre, la vie est aussi simple que ça.»

    HUMO Connaissez-vous des peintres vivants qui sont meilleurs que vous ?
    Vanriet « Non (sourit). Mais on ne pose tout de même pas la même question à Ronaldo ? Il ne va pas vous dire que Messi est meilleur n'est-ce pas ?»

    HUMO Combien coûte un Vanriet aujourd'hui ?
    Vanriet (en hésitant) « Cela dépend des formats. Les peintures à l'huile font entre 20.000 et 100.000 euros.»

    HUMO Rien à proposer aux portefeuilles moins garnis ?
    Vanriet « Des aquarelles, pour lesquelles s'appliquent d'autres prix : à partir de 4.000 euros.»

    HUMO D'où vient cette grande différence ?
    Vanriet « En partie, cela tient à la tradition, mais s'ajoute le fait selon moi qu'une aquarelle ne peut pas être comparée à une peinture à l'huile. La peinture à l'eau permet une œuvre plus directe, impulsive. A l'inverse, je travaille beaucoup plus longtemps à une peinture à l'huile, c'est un travail très physique. Chez Polo à Bruxelles, il y avait une toile de 5,5 mètres sur 2 : lorsqu'on travaille à ce genre de toile, on bouge tellement que ça ressemble à de la danse.»

    HUMO Y a-t-il des tableaux dont vous n'arrivez pas à prendre congé ?
    Vanriet « Ça peut aller. Mais avec la famille, on a dressé une liste des œuvres que nous n'allons plus vendre, en raison de leur valeur historique ou sentimentale. Ce petit tableau là-bas de
    Remco Campert qui tient un éloge funèbre auprès du cercueil de Hugo, est tellement chargé d'émotion que je ne veux plus m'en défaire. La rencontre avec Hugo Claus a été pour moi fondamentale : il était déjà Dieu quand j'étais à l'athénée. C'était un miracle absolu lorsque ce Dieu s'avérait exister réellement.»

    'J'ai été relégué aux oubliettes par Jan Hoet et ses acolytes. Mais je suis un comebackkid'

    HUMO Quel type d'oeuvres achetez-vous vous-même?
    Vanriet « Ma prédilection pour l'avant-garde russe m'a poussé à collectionner pendant quelque temps beaucoup d'imprimés, les premières éditions de Lissitzky ou Maïakovski. Sinon, j'ai des goûts plutôt éclectiques : il peut s'agir d'œuvres abstraites du début des années 50 ou quelque chose de contemporain. Nous venons d'ailleurs de vendre beaucoup, entre autres quelques œuvres phares de notre collection, telles qu'une aquarelle de Warhol, le but étant d'acquérir un nouvel atelier.»

    HUMO Est-ce que l'ancien était usé ?
    Vanriet « Non, je voulais un atelier plus pratique, où je pourrais mieux conserver mes oeuvres plus anciennes, et j'ai eu la chance de trouver quelque chose dans le coin.»

    HUMO Vous dites qu'en France vous avez un lieu de travail, mais vous y avez vendu votre résidence secondaire.
    Vanriet « Ces deux dernières années, nous n'avons passé que quelques mois en France, donc nous ne tenions plus tellement à une résidence secondaire. En été on est par ailleurs tenté par la vie à l'extérieur, mais en dehors de la saison d'été la Provence m'a laissé sur ma faim au niveau culturel. L'offre y est très maigre en comparaison avec ce qu'on trouve dans le triangle Anvers-Gand-Bruxelles. Là-bas on se contente d'un spectacle de deuxième catégorie de 'La traviata', et voilà tout ce qui se présente pour un mois et demi. Puis il y a la débâcle culinaire : ce qui passe en France pour de la bonne cuisine est honteux. Cela ressemble plutôt à des pièges à touristes, qu'ils traitent avec beaucoup de prétention.
    « J'ai cependant grandi avec une grande admiration pour la culture française. La découverte de la chanson française ! J'ai appris le français en écoutant dès mes 17, 18 ans les radios françaises. Par exemple les programmes animés par Coluche. J'étais aussi complètement dans l'ambiance de Charlie Hebdo. J'ai connu quelques dessinateurs comme Reiser et Wolinski, qui a été assassiné. Je conserve quelques dessins d'eux dans mon grenier à dessin.
    « Il y a 35 ans, j'ai même affirmé à un moment imprudent : 'je ne suis pas un peintre flamand, mais français' parce qu'à ce moment-là j'avais une grande admiration pour la légèreté de Matisse et Dufy. Je me suis alors opposé à l'âme flamande trempant dans la boue et enracinée dans la terre. Mais d'autres amours peuvent surgir. Ces dernières années, j'ai une grande passion pour l'Allemagne, ce que ma famille aurait eu du mal à digérer autrefois... Nous y voyageons beaucoup et je découvre ainsi les villes culturelles allemandes. Je trouve aussi que Die Zeit est un très bon journal, tant pour son contenu que sa forme.»

    HUMO J'ai compris que pour vous le 'G' renvoie à Goethe d'après l'intrigant alphabet que vous avez dessiné et qui a paru récemment dans votre livre 'Het dienstbare beeld' (L'image sur commande). Il résume en quelque sorte votre monde culturel.
    Vanriet « Cet alphabet reprend les personnes qui m'ont marqué. Et Goethe en fait certainement partie : je l'admire pour sa polyvalence, c'est un homme qui touche à tout, qui voyage beaucoup, qui relate ses voyages par écrit et qui a par ailleurs réalisé des aquarelles d'une grande beauté.»

    HUMO Votre alphabet compte plus d'écrivains que de peintres.
    Vanriet « Vous avez ici une maison des lettres ! Je suis moins attaché au monde des arts plastiques qu'au monde des lettres. J'ai aussi mes amis parmi les écrivains, à l'exception du peintre Karel Dierickx.»

    HUMO Bizarre de voir figurer Xerxès parmi le lot.
    Vanriet « J'avais besoin d'un 'X' (sourit). Puis le film 'Alexandre le Grand' avec Richard Burton m'avait aussi fait un effet incroyable. Le monde des Perses ! Et cette scène inoubliable où le roi est mis à mort. Dans l'immensité de la plaine on ne voit plus que son char avec des rideaux claquant au vent...»

    HUMO Votre alphabet ne compte également qu'un seul cinéaste, Fellini. Pourtant, Marc Didden avait noté que vos connaissances en la matière sont exceptionnelles.
    Vanriet « Pas vraiment. Tout ce que j'ai toujours voulu faire c'est peindre et bricoler un peu avec des textes. Ce que je regrette par contre c'est de ne pas savoir jouer d'un instrument de musique.

    HUMO Vos héros en musique sont apparemment Dylan, Sinatra et Zappa.
    Vanriet « Surtout Frank Sinatra avec son style, sa classe, son sens du timing me fait craquer.»

    HUMO Ce qui frappe également dans 'Het dienstbare beeld' (L'image sur commande), est que vous réalisez d'excellents portraits. Ainsi, l'ouvrage compte un portrait très ressemblant de Herman Van Rompuy. Est-ce que dans un portrait la ressemblance est importante pour vous?
    Vanriet « Bien sûr, sinon c'est n'importe quoi. D'abord il doit y avoir de la ressemblance et ensuite on peut s'en écarter d'une façon particulière. Ce portrait de Van Rompuy était réalisé pour un journal : vous ne voulez tout de même pas que le lecteur y reconnaisse plutôt l'entraîneur du Club de Bruges. »

    HUMO Est-ce que réaliser un portrait crée pour vous un certain suspens quant à savoir si le résultat sera réussi ?
    Vanriet « Non, je sais le faire, je n'ai plus rien à prouver. Par contre, cela demande une préparation mentale. En ce moment, je suis en train de me préparer à peindre un portrait double. Je me creuse la tête à chaque moment de la journée pour savoir comment je vais m'y prendre.»

    HUMO Est-ce que vous évitez l'autoportrait ? Dans de nombreux catalogues récents je n'en vois pas beaucoup.
    Vanriet « Je vous invite à venir jeter un coup d'oeil dans mon atelier ! C'est justement le sujet de ma dernière œuvre, qui fait près de 2 mètres sur 2. Je prends un certain plaisir à faire des autoportraits. Vous pouvez en ajouter une couche par rapport à ce que vous voyez.»

    HUMO Et que voyez-vous dans le miroir ?

    Vanriet « Que le temps laisse ses traces. Les autoportraits sont aussi une façon de s'insérer dans la tradition : on songe aux autoportraits de Rembrandt vieillissant.»

    HUMO Vous vous observez également dans un recueil de poèmes en préparation, 'Vaderland' (Patrie). Il y a là aussi sans cesse un dédoublement : 'Je est un autre.' Le comebackkid se manifeste-t-il aussi dans le domaine de la poésie ?
    Vanriet « Certainement. J'ai laissé tomber l'art de la poésie pendant des années. Boudewijn de Groot confiait dernièrement à un journal : 'Je ne fais un disque que quand j'ai quelque chose à raconter.' J'ai la même attitude, et il se peut que pendant vingt ans on n'ait rien à dire (sourit). Ce qui a également compté c'est que je fréquentais tellement de grands poètes que je manquais d'audace.

    HUMO Ce que vous avez à raconter maintenant me semble être un avertissement de ce qui nous attend. Vous lisez les signes au mur. 'Omens' est d'ailleurs le titre de votre exposition qui se tient à De Zwarte Panter actuellement.
    Vanriet « Ce qui s'annonce ne me ravit pas : nous nous trouvons devant de grands choix de société, alors que chez les politiciens je n'observe que de la politique à la petite semaine, de la démagogie et un manque de sérieux flagrant.
    « Savez-vous d'où viennent mes idées sombres ? Quand j'étais à l'athénée, j'ai grandi avec l'idée que le tiers monde avait un énorme retard, alors que tout était en mouvement : cela ne prendrait que trente ans au maximum avant que tout ne rentre dans l'ordre. En Afrique, il y avait de grands leaders tels que le Ghanéen Nkrumah, le Sénégalais Senghor, au Moyen-Orient il y avait Nasser et Beyrouth était une banlieue de Paris. Les femmes faisaient des études. Bref, l'avenir était radieux. Et voyons la ruine que c'est devenue... Avec ces bateaux en mer Méditerranée nous voyons débarquer le drame chez nous. Je n'ai pas de solutions. Dans mes poèmes vous ne lirez pas comment il faut accueillir ou refouler des réfugiés.
    L'art ne peut pas sauver le monde, mais peut-être que l'art peut apporter une légèreté et un éclairage. D'une part alléger l'esprit en apportant un peu de réconfort et d'autre part éclairer l'esprit en faisant réfléchir les gens. Cette idée seule semble déjà assez prétentieuse.»

    'Omens.Work on Paper' à voir encore jusqu'au 21 juin à De Zwarte Panter, Anvers.

    'Song of Destiny' encore jusqu'au 13 septembre au Musée national de Gdansk.

    Charlotte Mullins, 'Vanriet Vanity', Lannoo
    'Het dienstbare beeld. Toegepast werk van Jan Vanriet', Willem Elsschot Genootschap

  • KARIN HANSSEN | Everything that drives this woman, by OLIVER KOERNER VON GUSTORF | AD DEUTSCHLAND




    The painter Karin Hanssen is yet to be internationally discovered. Deliberately and easily accessible, her paintings plumb into our depths in the style of Hopper and Hitchcock. Rarely have reactionary images of the roles of men and women been presented with such joyful modesty as in the screwball comedies with Doris Day. Constantly the neatly coiffed icon of puritan America laughs through the kitchen, the children and the husband in turbulent comedies. Since the Belgian artist Karin Hanssen saw innumerably of these comedies in the 1990s, she is fascinated by the ability to parry with such ingenuity all these outdated representations. Most of her paintings are sourced here, especially with 'The Thrill of It All' of 1963. Doris Day plays a gynaecologist's wife who makes a more or less brief, but brilliant career as an advertising face for soap, while, at the domestic heart, the household collapses – of course presented in accordance, with slapstick. It is hardly surprising that in the end everyone returns to his assigned place. In such films, as well as in pictures of the magazine 'Life' of the 50s and 60s, where women are integrated as decorative objects in chic 'Mad Men' interiors, the Flemish painter finds her inspiration for paintings such as 'The Approach (Donald Duck)' (left), which seem consciously and easily accessible, but which show several meanings and probe existing abysses between various human relationships (P. 92). These are subjects that pictorially remind us of Edward Hopper, but which touch on the dark atmosphere and nightmarish scenery of Alfred Hitchcock. At the same, time they reveal an astonishing closeness to the social painting of the Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. While her Belgian contemporaries Luc Tuymans or Michaël Borremans have long been stars of thescene, Karin Hanssen is to be discovered urgently outside of her homeland. So museums, wake up!

    Everything that drives this woman

    Karin Hanssen found her theme in Doris Day: bitter reactionary morality pills, which one swallows in a comic laugh. The paintings by the Belgian artist show the mundane, but are just as undercooled and exciting as a Hitchcock thriller.


    The works of Karin Hanssen (left page, in her Antwerp studio) are enchantingly beautiful. She frequently finds analogies between films and advertising clips of post-war Modernism and the Dutch masters. For 'Catching Butterflies' (above, 2009), she was interested in the charming view of a human figure seen from the back, as in Romantic landscape painting.

    Karin Hanssen could have obtained her images from the album of the wife of 'Mad Men', Betty Draper: she has a taste for giving her paintings the blur of Technicolor, the melodramas of Douglas Sirk and the fall colours of New England. This is a golden blond oxygenated age in which children are put to bed by a nanny, where starched white coats gleam in the sun, where cigarette smoke floats over pools and of mid-twentieth century design.

    The Belgian painter Karin Hanssen grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. But what interests her about these motives are neither nostalgic reminiscences of her childhood, nor a cast retro aesthetic. On the contrary, it is these seemingly harmless pictures that reflect our current visual culture and still powerfully determine our social relationships. "Painting is of a very strange and paradoxical nature, both concrete and abstract, as a specific object, individual, but also a symbolic form that encompasses a whole", writes art historian W.J.T. Mitchell. This means that paintings are also and always images of the world, that immortalise ideologies, clichés, stereotypes. Thus, with the concept of 'pictorial turn', Mitchell established the principle of thought in the image, just like in a political or a female context.

    And that is precisely what Karin Hanssen does. Indeed, her works, almost always based on photographs found in magazines of the 1950s to 1970s, are not only art, but also painted visual theory or component parts of her doctoral thesis, as the series 'The Borrowed Gaze' ( 2010-2011). The research is at least as central to her as the painting itself. Alongside stars, such as Luc Tuymans, with whom she is bound since the time of their studies in a lively artistic exchange, and Michaël Borremans, Karin Hanssen is one of the major representatives of painting based on photography, for which Belgium is so well-known.

    Now it comes to discovering the international nature of her work, as the paintings bind intellectual coldness with virtuosity, and almost Hitchcockian suspense - and a portion of irony. As Hanssen says in the kitchen of her house in Antwerp, it was not Post-Modernist philosophers who inspired her, but Doris Day: I grew up with her Screwball comedies. She looks like a virgin but is actually an attractive wife and a loving mother. She is a kind of puritanical sex-symbol. When she later watches the film 'The Thrill of It All' from 1963, in which Day gives up her professional career in order to have another child with James Garner, she is fascinated by the, under a bizarre cover, reactionary message - and by the ambiguity of the subjects. She photographs particular scenes of the film, and discovers their proximity to women and genre scenes of seventeenth century Dutch masters, such as Jan Vermeer or Gerard ter Borch. They are also full of moral lessons, allegories and sexual connotations. There are parallels between the flowering of the baroque Holland and the departure atmosphere of Modernism of the postwar period. The rapidly increasing wealth of the Dutch middle-class had created a flood of images. Approximately 70,000 paintings arrived each year on the market. The painters produced as an assembly line. Historians estimate that a certain number of millions of works were created, including many orders of peasants, citizens and traders, who were portrayed, a privilege that was once reserved for the nobility. After the Second World War, the economic boost had a similar effect. Not only houses, travel, design and fashion were afforded, but each person could photograph with cameras which were becoming cheaper and thus, reconstruct the social models spread by the mass media.

    Hanssen's series since 2011, 'A Room of One's Own', depicts in details and in wholes the accessories of the modern home in the early 1960s. In reference to Virginia Woolf, it deals with images of roles and of social oppression, but also of 'acquired' Modernism, a creator of identity. In order to be modern, a consumer only needs the appropriate furniture. At the same time, the series develops the theme of women becoming objects such as decorations draped on cherry wood chairs, fitting with the furniture. The loneliness and the alienation of Hanssen's protagonists recall the paintings of Edward Hopper and David Hockney. At the same time, they speak about the very contemporary compulsions of representation and vision, which date back centuries and are still reproduced. There is also linked the intrusion of the public view in the private sphere. The people of Hanssen's works almost never look directly at the viewer, as if they considered themselves to be safely unseen. Hanssen constantly introduces the figure viewed from the back, in reference to Romantic landscape painting, but also as if one was watching an anonymous life over its shoulder. The viewer turns into a voyeur. "I want the paintings to build a very gentle relationship with the viewer", says Hanssen. "That they seem so innocent is important for the first view. The slowness of seeing, of the reception, is very decisive for me. This slowing of time is absolutely fascinating, also in Dutch painting of the seventeenth century. This slowness, however, has something abysmal: when one has finally penetrated the paintings of Hanssen, it seems as if one has always been inside of them.

    P. 94:

    In fact, in the Doris Day film the head of the woman is being washed: Doris Day plays an active woman who becomes, however, a housewife at the Happy End. The film inspired Karin Hanssen for a series of paintings (above, 1995) which deal with images of roles and reactionary messages. The hostess is part of the 'Living Room' (below, 2013-2014.)

    P. 95:

    I know what you did last summer. Or not? The paintings of Karin Hanssen often show an idyll, which is suspicious. And for good reason. Instead of Narcissus, the red Cézanne tree-fall is reflected in the water in 'Burn Baby Burn' (2009), while the title plays with religious images of Hell. More information and contact of the gallery in AD Plus from page 182. "Doris Day is the sex symbol of Catholicism: she has the appearance of a virgin, but embodies mother and loving wife. " Karin Hanssen

    P. 96:

    Karin Hanssen's figures do not smile at the viewer, as on top left in the 'Scene 3' (1998-2000). 'Unveiled' of 1995, on the top right, is from a series that deals with denudation and shows Muslim women without veils or women from porn. The Borrowed Gaze' (in there, 'Variation 8', 2010-2011) is part of her thesis. Therefore, she cites the back figure of 'The Paternal Admonition' by Gerard ter Borch.

    “The landscapes are like scenes. And have at the same time,like a promise, the aura of the sublime." Karin Hanssen








    Roberto Polo Gallery, which has almost doubled in space since the beginning of this year, is also showing paintings by the young Polish artist Tomek Partyka (°1978, Graudenz). These are fierce yet emphatic canvases, in which Partyka, diligently drawing from old and recent art history and using painting, collage and décollage, assemblage, etc. as his media, seems to be merrily creating chaos and confusion.

    Partyka paints in bold strokes, mixes figuration and abstraction, mainly in dirty colours, on large-sized canvases, to create anarchic rewrites of art history. He refers to Fluxus in Germany (Wolf Vostell) and Nouveaux Réalistes in Paris, but also the American abstract expressionists. He smears hairs and plumes into his paintings, inscribes them ‘fake canvas’, ‘fake paint’ or ‘fake intuition’ and tackles the classics with text like ‘David’s elbow as Goliath’s nose’. He does something similar with contemporary works: ‘Rauch has never been in his museum’. Or a mix of both: ‘Young Caravaggio who used to be Baselitz’, featuring a classic nude figure, painted upside down. Or ‘Young Velasquez’, a version of 'Las Meninas' with the Infantas wiped out and what remains larded with spots and splashes, plumes, parts of a skeleton... Elsewhere, he writes the names of famous people in female form: Ludwiga Wittgenstein, Iana Curtis, Alberta Camus ...

    In his catalogue text, art critic Jonathan Griffin says there are two ways to look at Partyka’s work. The first is to look at the rough, distorting, erasing, contradictory… the punk attitude. The second is to see it as a mental, symbolic self portrait: Partyka is painting himself by confronting what he thinks and what he does with what was there before and what is here now. There’s something of a love-hate attitude going on here, that manifests itself in his quasi monumental canvases: no matter how much freedom an artist may want to have today, no matter what unique universe he may wish to build, he will never get out from under his predecessors’ history and shadow. From Caravaggio, via Velasquez, up to and including Baselitz and Neo Rauch. (MR)

    Tomek Partyka ‘X Times X’, until June 7th at Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, Brussels. Open Tu-Fr 14-18,

    Sa-Su 11-18.

    Tomek Partyka, ‘Falling’, 2015, courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery


    Amour et haine chez Tomek Partyka

    La galerie Roberto Polo qui, depuis le début de l’année, a presque doublé en surface, expose également des tableaux du jeune artiste polonais Tomek Partyka (°1978, Graudenz). Ce sont des toiles violentes, fortes, où Partyka puise avec fureur dans l’histoire de l’art ancienne et moderne à travers laquelle il semble prendre plaisir à semer le chaos et la confusion avec ses tableaux, ses collages et décollages, assemblages etc. Partyka peint avec des gestes impétueux, mélange le figuratif et l’abstraction dans des couleurs la plupart du temps sales, travaille sur grand format et réécrit de manière anarchique l’histoire de l’art. Il se réfère à Fluxus en Allemagne (Wolf Vostell), aux Nouveaux Réalistes parisiens mais aussi aux expressionnistes abstraits américains.

    Il enduit ses toiles de plumes et de cheveux, y apporte l’inscription ‘fake canvas’, ‘fake paint’ ou ‘fake intuition’ et s’attaque aux classiques avec des textes comme ‘David’s elbow as Goliath’s nose’. Pour ses contemporains, il fait à peu près pareil : ‘Rauch has never been in his museum’. Ou il mélange allègrement les deux comme dans ‘Young Caravaggio who used to be Baselitz’, avec un nu classique peint à l’envers ou encore dans le tableau ‘Young Velasquez’, où les figures des infantes sont effacées, et lardées de taches, plumes et parties d’un squelette. Ailleurs, il transpose des noms de célébrités en les féminisant : Ludwiga Wittgenstein, Iana Curtis, Alberta Camus …

    Dans le texte du catalogue, le critique d’art Jonathan Griffin propose de regarder l’œuvre de Partyka de deux manières. Le premier regard observe l’aspect rude, déformé, effaçant, contradictoire, punk. Le deuxième est celui de l’autoportrait mental, symbolique : Partyka se peint lui-même en confrontant ses actes et ses pensées à l’environnement ancien et proche.

    Ici réside une attitude d’amour-haine, qui se traduit dans les toiles quasi monumentales : quelle que soit la liberté que poursuit un artiste contemporain, quel que soit l’univers unique qu’il veut construire, jamais il n’arrivera à se soustraire à l’histoire et à l’ombre de ses prédécesseurs : allant du Caravage et Velasquès à Baselitz et Neo Rauch. (MR) Tomek Partyka ‘X Times X’, jusqu’au 7 juin à la Roberto Polo Gallery,

    8-12, Rue Lebeau, Bruxelles. Ouvert ma-ve entre 14h et18h,

    sa-di entre 11h-18h.




    Xavier Noiret-Thomé at Roberto Polo Gallery

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé (1971) is a handsome forty something man. The type my grandmother would have described approvingly as ‘a tall, personable male’. His eyes are so thickly fringed with dark lashes he looks as if he is wearing mascara. Which he is not. An exhibition of Noiret-Thomé’s work is on now at Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels. The press text insists on telling us he is an iconoclast who is trying to paint himself a way out from under his masters’ influences. Which is not what I saw.
    Hans THEYS

    Noiret-Thomé is not destroying any images. He is creating paintings. To this end he draws on his impressive erudition and plays around with techniques, shapes and images that refer to existing paintings. The painter Damien De Lepeleire once told me this was iconoclastic. By that he did not mean Noiret-Thomé is trying to break free from the past, but quite the opposite: the way Noiret-Thomé deals with art-historical material is incredibly unselfconscious and candid. He lives and breathes art. Music, plastic arts, film, and literature: everything is being considered simultaneously; everything is interconnected. Conversations with Noiret-Thomé are whirlwinds. He talks fast, precisely, associatively, like a magician, firing off images in quick succession. Elsewhere in this edition I mention how he describes Ruby’s collages, now exhibited at Xavier Hufkens’, as ‘obese versions of Calder’s collages’. “Ce sont des versions obèses des collages de Calder,” he said, immediately adding: “Des variantes survitaminées”, “Souped-up variants”.

    He paints the way he speaks. He allows things to happen, projects images on top of what is there and tells stories. This is how he coaxes new paintings into being. When we were standing in front of the painting illustrated here, and he told me it was entitled ‘Parentesi Romana’ (2014-15), I immediately recognised the stone pines at the Villa Medici, where he spent a year as an artist in residence in 2006 (Not just because I visited him there, but also because De Lepeleire had told me in 2005 that Poussin made some watercolours of these pines, which is why I looked at them more closely than I might have otherwise). But this painting was not created because the artist wanted to represent those trees, but because he happened to have applied green paint in three spots. It was only after lengthy observation of the green spots, that the idea came to Noiret-Thomé that these could represent the tops of stone pines, if he added trunks. After that, he covered the painting in varnish, and stuck four Moroccan paper napkins to it. When the varnish was dry, he added the grey and yellow parts. Next, he laid the canvas on the floor and trickled some brown wood varnish here and there. Finally, he coloured the napkins, added the two reflectors ‘because it was lacking in red’ and finished the treetops with two extra layers of dark green. Before the addition of the wood varnish, the painting was too ‘atmospheric’: it suggested a perspectival depth. The varnish, which congealed on top of the canvas as it was laid out on the floor, interferes with this perception of depth. To Noiret-Thomé, this is an element from the Far East, reminiscent of Chinese and Japanese paintings that lack perspectival depth, but which also refers to artists like Cézanne and Matisse, who were, of course, influenced by Eastern art forms. Noiret-Thomé detects this influence for instance in their still lifes, where a table top does not seemingly disappear into the depths, but rather looks as if it was folded up – just like the brown varnish spots in ‘Parentesi Romana’. The joy one feels when looking at his paintings is, as with Walter Swennen’s, intellectual rather than anything else, though it is also inextricably linked with the painting’s texture

    On the ground floor, three monumental new paintings embody three different approaches. On the left ‘Non-Spot Painting: The Big White’ (2014), created by pouring white paint over a canvas laid out on the floor. A couple of hundred disc-shaped objects were thrown onto the wet paint – toys, or objects bought at the Moroccan shops near Noiret-Thomé’s workshop, or paint-pot covers, some of which have previously been used as palettes. The title refers to Damien Hirst’s ‘Spot Paintings’. Noiret-Thomé started adding beads and coins to his paintings when, after his daughter was born, he suddenly started noticing girly knick-knacks wherever he went. These are often monochrome paintings, morphed into starry skies by these additions. The second painting is entitled ‘La Desserte ou le bouquet final’ (2014-15). This is a figurative painting that shows affinity with ‘Parentesi Romana’ and ‘Hostages’. The title refers to the Matisse painting ‘La Desserte rouge’. Finally, ‘The Return of the Landscape: The Synthesis’ (2014), features ‘negative space’ MDF-cut-outs, each painted in monochromes and screwed onto a grey monochrome painting. He had found this leftover MDF in the bins at his workspace, where students had been sawing out shapes to compose ‘landscapes’ with. Yet again, in this painting, illusory depth is associated with flat planes.

    Noiret-Thomé translates art history into shapes that come together in his paintings. The joy, felt while looking at his paintings is, as with Walter Swennen’s, intellectual more than anything else, though it is also inextricably linked with their texture. In ‘Hostages’ (2014) three main elements jump out: an apparently secondary red-and-white checkerboard pattern in the background, a bunch of green asparagus and two triangular shadows. Noiret-Thomé told me the checkerboard refers to a tablecloth in a Vichy-pattern (which looks quite different in reality: white with pink stripes, red where they cross). This tablecloth is viewed from above. Strictly speaking, this would mean that the bunch of asparagus is lying on the table, but the shadows suggest otherwise: the bunch is standing upright. Yet again, Noiret-Thomé is playing with perspective and a plane that folds up, yet this painting looks completely different from ‘Parentesi Romana’. The red and green complementary colours create a striking image. The asparagus, unexpectedly brought into existence by adding a few green strokes, refers, of course, to Manet. According to the author of the catalogue text, Martin Herbert, the chequerboard pattern refers to Duchamp, possibly an evil genius to a French art world that, burdened with Duchamp’s heritage, still seems to be struggling with the notion of people just creating paintings. Noiret-Thomé’s paintings have no fixed theme, just open-ended shapes that evoke a chain of projections. The exhibition title, ‘Ghosts’, refers to the poem ‘Ce que dit la bouche d’ombre’ by Victor Hugo. One sentence keeps being repeated: ‘Tout parle’ (‘Everything speaks’). This is a ghost, saying how all things speak of life. “It is a pantheistic poem,” says Noiret-Thomé, “so beautiful.” He may feel, quite understandably, that this poem is also about him - as the ghost in his head whirls like a kaleidoscopic storm wind, frequently scattering images, shaped by his hand… Montagne de Miel, April 29th 2015
    Xavier Noiret-Thomé until June 7th at Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8, Brussels. Open Tu-Fr 14-18, Sa-Su 11-18.
    Xavier Noiret-Thomé, ‘Parentesi Romana’, 2014-15, © Isabelle Arthuis


    Xavier Noiret-Thomé à la Roberto Polo Gallery

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé (1971) est un beau quadragénaire. Ma grand’mère l’aurait appelé avec une admiration à peine voilée un grand beau mec. Ses longs cils noirs très rapprochés font presque croire qu’il se maquille les yeux. Noiret-Thomé expose actuellement à Bruxelles dans la Roberto Polo Gallery. Deux articles de presse parlent d’un iconoclaste qui tente de se libérer de l’influence de ses maîtres. Ce n’est nullement mon expérience.
    Hans THEYS

    Noiret-Thomé ne détruit pas des images, il peint des tableaux. Partant d’une érudition impressionnante, jouant de techniques, de formes et d’images, il renvoie à d’autres tableaux. Le peintre Damien De Lepeleire me parla à ce propos d’iconoclasme. Or, en disant cela, il ne prétendit pas que Noiret-Thomé tenta de cette façon de se libérer du passé, mais précisément le contraire, à savoir qu’il traite le matériel de l’histoire de l’art avec une grande liberté. Noiret-Thomé est un artiste qui respire l’art. La musique, les arts plastiques, le cinéma, voire la littérature, tout est considéré en même temps, tout est lié. Les conversations avec Noiret-Thomé sont des expériences tourbillonnantes. Il parle vite, avec précision, par association et jongle avec les mots et les idées. Il parle en images qui se succèdent à une allure folle. Ailleurs dans ce numéro, j’écris qu’il disait des collages de Ruby, actuellement exposés chez Hufkens que « ce sont des versions obèses des collages de Calder, » ou encore : « des variantes survitaminées ».

    Il parle comme il peint. Il laisse les choses se produire, y projette des images, les accompagne d’histoires et part ainsi en quête de nouveaux tableaux. Lorsqu’il me racontait devant le tableau reproduit ci-joint qu’il l’avait intitulé ‘Parentesi Romana’ (2014-15) j’ai immédiatement reconnu les pins parasols de la Villa Medici où il a séjourné pendant un an en 2006. Non seulement parce que je lui ai rendu visite sur place mais aussi parce que De Lepeleire m’avait raconté, en 2005, que Poussin avait fixé ces pins en aquarelles, ce qui m’a poussé à regarder ces arbres avec beaucoup plus d’attention. Pourtant, le tableau n’a pas été créé par le simple désir de peindre ces arbres, mais bien par l’envie d’appliquer au hasard trois parties vertes. Ce n’est qu’après avoir longuement observé ces parties vertes que Noiret-Thomé s’est rendu compte qu’elles auraient pu représenter les cimes de pins s’il y ajoutait des troncs. Il a ensuite couvert la toile de vernis sur lequel il a collé quatre petites serviettes marocaines. Lorsque le vernis a séché, il y a ajouté les parties grises et jaunes. Ensuite, il a couché le tableau sur le sol et il y a versé çà et là un peu de vernis à bois marron. Enfin, il a coloré les serviettes et il y a ajouté les deux réflecteurs « car il y manquait du rouge » et il a achevé les cimes des arbres avec deux couches de vert foncé. Avant d’y ajouter le vernis à bois, le tableau était trop « atmosphérique » : il suggérait une profondeur perspectiviste. Les taches de vernis coagulées sur le tableau couché bloquent cette profondeur.
    Pour Noiret-Thomé, il s’agit là d’un élément oriental qui rappelle les peintures chinoises ou japonaises dépourvues de profondeur perspectiviste. Il y voit également une référence à des artistes comme Cézanne et Matisse, qui avaient été influencés par l’art oriental. C’est ce que Noiret-Thomé observe entre autres dans leurs natures mortes, où la surface d’une table ne semble pas disparaître dans la profondeur du tableau mais semble rabattue vers le haut, telles que les taches de vernis brun dans ‘Parentesi Romana’.

    Au rez-de-chaussée, nous voyons trois nouveaux tableaux monumentaux qui traduisent trois approches différentes. A gauche ‘Non-Spot Painting : The Big White’ (2014). Le tableau a été réalisé en versant de la peinture blanche sur une toile couchée. Par la suite, quelques centaines d’objets en forme de disques ont été projetés sur la peinture encore humide. Ce sont tantôt des jouets, tantôt des objets issus de magasins marocains voisins de l’atelier de Noiret-Thomés, voire des couvercles de pots de peinture, dont certains ont été utilisés comme palette. Le titre renvoie aux ‘Spot Paintings’ de Damien Hirst. Noiret-Thomé a commencé à incorporer de petites perles et des pièces de monnaie dans ses tableaux lorsqu’après la naissance de sa fille, il avait observé un peu partout des colifichets pour les petites filles. Il s’agit souvent de tableaux monochromes qui, à travers ces ajouts, se transforment en ciels étoilés. Le deuxième tableau s’intitule ‘La Desserte ou le bouquet final’ (2014-15). C’est une peinture figurative proche de ‘Parentesi Romana’ et ‘Hostages’ et dont le titre réfère au tableau ‘La desserte rouge’ de Matisse. Enfin, nous contemplons le tableau ‘The Return of the Landscape : The Synthesis’ (2014), où à chaque fois des formes négatives monochromes de MDF sont vissées sur un tableau monochrome gris. Les formes avaient été abandonnées par des étudiants qui avaient découpé des formes à la scie pour créer des paysages : à nouveau un tableau qui combine une profondeur illusoire avec des formes plates.

    Noiret-Thomé traduit l’histoire de l’art en formes qui se rencontrent dans ses tableaux. Le plaisir que le spectateur éprouve à regarder ses peintures est comme chez Walter Swennen de nature plutôt intellectuelle, bien qu’il soit impossible de le dissocier de la texture du tableau. Dans ‘Hostages’ (2014) nous rencontrons essentiellement trois éléments formels : un fond apparemment sous-jacent en damier rouge et blanc, une botte d’asperges vertes et deux ombres triangulaires. Noiret-Thomé me dit que le damier renvoie à une nappe en Vichy (qui, en fait, a un tout autre aspect car il consiste en bandes roses virant au rouge là où elles se croisent). Ici, la ‘nappe’ est vue d’en haut. A proprement parler, cela signifierait que la botte d’asperges est posée à l’horizontale sur la table. Pourtant, les ombres suggèrent que la botte est à la verticale. A nouveau, nous constatons un jeu de perspective et une surface rabattue vers le haut, mais dans un tableau complètement différent de ‘Parentesi Romana’. Les couleurs complémentaires du vert et du rouge créent une image forte. Les asperges sortant de manière inattendue de quelques traits de peinture verte renvoient évidemment à Manet. De son côté, Martin Herbert, auteur du texte du catalogue, voit dans le modèle du damier une référence à Duchamp, que nous pourrions qualifier de mauvais génie du monde artistique français, qui (en raison de l’héritage de Duchamp) semble toujours avoir des difficultés avec les gens qui font tout simplement des tableaux. Les tableaux de Noiret-Thomés n’ont pas de signification univoque. Ce sont des formes ouvertes suscitant des projections en chaîne. Le titre de l’exposition, ‘Ghosts’, se réfère entre autres au poème de Victor Hugo ‘Ce que dit la bouche d’ombre’ et en particulier à une phrase qui revient à plusieurs reprises dans le texte : ‘Tout parle’. Un esprit raconte comment toute chose parle de la vie. « C’est un très beau poème panthéiste » selon Noiret-Thomé. Nous pouvons comprendre qu’il se reconnaît complètement dans ce texte, car l’esprit dans sa tête déclenche une tempête kaléidoscopique, qui en passant par ses mains, se transforme régulièrement en tableaux. Montagne de Miel, 29 avril 2015 Xavier Noiret-Thomé jusqu’au 07 juin dans la Roberto Polo Gallery, 8, Rue Lebeau, Bruxelles. Ouverture ma-ve entre14h-18 h, sa-di 11h-18 h.

  • XAVIER NOIRET-THOMÉ I GHOSTS I 'XNT-invoquer/évoquer' by Jérémie Demasy I L'art même N°65



    En abordant l’œuvre de XAVIER NOIRET-THOMÉ, deux traits semblent fondateurs1 : d’une part, le lien qu’il entretient avec l’his­toire de la peinture, ses figures emblématiques et oeuvres de tous bords, d’autre part, son geste jubilatoire, iconoclaste, voire irrévéren­cieux. 'Ghosts', titre de l’exposition à la galerie Roberto Polo, met en exergue le premier de ces traits. Le second, quant à lui, passe plus exclusivement par l’image, ses dynamiques et sensations. Seraient-ce là le sujet et la forme qui façonnent l’oeuvre ?


    L’espace du tableau semble être pour Xavier Noiret-Thomé (°1971, Charleville-Mézières (F) ; vit et travaille à Bruxelles) l’oc­casion d’un grand repas. Une sorte de banquet familial, un peu à l’ancienne : on y voit se rencontrer ancêtres et bambins, pas­ser fantômes et amis, se révéler, dans les cercles lointains des cousins, quelques filiations louches, évidentes mais discrètes. Sur ses toiles, il y a donc des invités : un parcours de références comme des invocations, des objets rapportés comme des évo­cations. Par l’invocation de ses prédécesseurs, voilà son geste inscrit dans une certaine grandeur dont témoigne l’histoire. En contrepoint, la présence d’objets rapportés évoque, quant à elle, l’univers quotidien du peintre dans son atelier. Ainsi qu’il le confie à Hans Theys dans un long entretien, sa pratique l’ancre pleinement dans un flux que ses oeuvres condensent. À titre d’exemple, ses compositions cosmogoniques, telles que 'Quest' (2008), renferment et prolongent différents moments de l’his­toire de la peinture : des 'Nymphéas' de Monet au 'Dripping' et à la tradition du 'All-over', en passant par les tableaux abstraits de Mondrian. Selon ce qui l’occupe et capte le regard—sujet, composition, rendu de matière—, peuvent surgir Van Eyck ou Matisse, Eugène Leroy, de Chirico, Beuys ou Basquiat. Un tas d’anecdotes s’entrecroisent sous forme de motifs, de touches ou de textures… Xavier Noiret-Thomé fabrique une peinture à tiroirs, parfois miroir, joyeuse et familière. L’histoire des quatre portraits 'E.R', 'B&E.S', 'X.N-T' et 'D.Z' met en lumière ce rapport d’influences que l’artiste entretient avec ses maîtres tout en cherchant sa mise à distance par le geste "iconoclaste" : jugeant ses tableaux trop proches de leur source d’inspiration, il les recouvrira d’une couche de chrome en bombe. Tout en offrant un espace de projection plus puissant et ouvert, les portraits s’autonomisent par le biais d’une intervention qui est elle-même distanciée.

    Souvent, la peinture de Noiret-Thomé regorge de strates autant qu’elle foisonne de sens de lecture. Le regard erre spontané­ment de zones en zones et de l’infra au supra. Les motifs en réserve côtoient des traits de pinceau à main levée, les plans se contredisent et les matières les plus hétérogènes dialoguent au mieux de leur potentiel technique et visuel. Sur base d’un dessin acrylique automatique ou de quelques taches de couleurs, le processus créatif s’enclenche et les couches successives de diverses textures forment progressivement l’objet et le sujet. XNT utilise pochoirs et pinceaux, bombe, vernis, laque et pail­lettes… Le tout étant de peindre. 'La Méduse' (2009–2010) per­met de bien apprécier cette complexité des plans et des effets graphiques. On y sent la juxtaposition des multiples gestes du peintre en différents moments. Ainsi, si certains traits rapides et couleurs dégoulinantes forment un plan de la représentation et un temps de création, d’autres motifs tels qu’ici cette croix, ces délimitations nettes de différents cadres sur la même toile, offrent de nouveaux plans et une sensibilité plus mesurée qui semble coordonner l’ensemble.

    L’exposition à la galerie Roberto Polo rassemble une petite tren­taine de toiles, puisée dans la production de l’artiste. Elle est aussi l’occasion d’une publication monographique de quatre-vingt pages, reproduisant une importante part de l’oeuvre récente de Xavier Noiret-Thomé ainsi qu’un texte du critique anglais Martin Herbert.

    Jérémie Demasy

    1 Voir Bernard Marcadé, "Les débâcles de la peinture", dans Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Analogues, Maison d’édition pour l’art contemporain, Arles, 2012 ; Hans Theys, "D’une pratique à l’autre – Conversation avec Xavier Noiret-Thomé", dans Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Analogues, Maison d’édition pour l’art contemporain, Arles, 2012 ; Claude Lorent, "Une incroyable jubilation picturale", dans Arts Libre, Bruxelles, 15 février 2013 ; Martin Herbert, "Double image", dans Ghosts, Roberto Polo Gallery, Bruxelles, 2015.




    8-12 RUE LEBEAU

    1000 BRUXELLES


    JUSQU’AU 7.06.15

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé


    To those who approach XAVIER NOIRET-THOMÉ’s oeuvre, two characteristics will seem essential 1: on the one hand, the connection maintained by the artist with the history of painting, its emblematic figures and works of art of all sorts; and on the other hand, his jubilant, iconoclastic, irreverential pictorial gestures.
    The title of the exhibition at Roberto Polo Gallery, 'Ghosts', highlights the first of these characteristics. The latter quality is transmitted exclusively through the images themselves, their dynamics and the sensations they elicit. Can we take these two characteristics to be the subject and form of his oeuvre ?


    Xavier Noiret-Thomé 'Big Mother' 2013–14, acrylic, spray, sand and collage

    To Xavier Noiret-Thomé (°1971, Charleville-Mézières (F); lives and works in Brussels), the space within a painting seems to be the setting for a lavish feast - some kind of family banquet perhaps, a bit old-fashioned, where old-age pensioners meet toddlers, where ghosts and friends roam and where, among far-removed cousins, a few louche, unequivocal, yet discrete parentages are revealed... His canvases feature his dinner guests, a display of his references – as invocations, and found objects – as evocations. As he invokes his predecessors, the painter’s pictorial gesture becomes part of the grandeur that is reflected by history. The presence of the objects, on the other hand, evokes the painter’s everyday surroundings, his workshop. As XNT confided to Hans Theys in the course of a lengthy interview, his practice anchors him firmly in a flux that exists in condensed form in each of his works. His cosmogonic compositions, for instance, such as 'Quest' (2008), contain and prolong various moments in the history of painting: from Monet’s water lilies to dripping and the all-over tradition, via Mondrian’s abstractions. Depending on what he is concerned with at any given time, and on what catches the eye—subject, composition, rendering of the material— Van Eyck may appear, or Matisse, Eugène Leroy, De Chirico, Beuys or Basquiat. Lots of anecdotes intertwine in the shape of motifs, touches or textures… Xavier Noiret-Thomé produces paintings featuring various zones, like drawers which can be opened and shut, sometimes with mirror effects and always joyful and familiar. The history of the four portraits 'E.R', 'B & E.S', 'X.N-T' and 'D.Z', highlights the relationship he entertains with these masters he is influenced by, while keeping them at arm’s length with his 'iconoclastic' gesture: when he feels his paintings are too close to their sources of inspiration, he sprays them with a layer of chrome, from a can. The portraits continue to present a forceful and overt projection, yet become autonomous as a result of an intervention that is itself distanced.
    Noiret-Thomé’s painting often abound with as many levels as it overflows with different readings. The spectator’s gaze roams spontaneously from one area to the next, from infra to supra. Motifs in reserve find themselves next to brush strokes in freehand, layers contradicting each other and the most heterogeneous materials interacting at the best of their technical and visual ability. Building on a basis consisting of an automatic acrylic drawing or a few flecks of colour, the creative process engages whereby successive layers of various textures progressively shape both object and subject. XNT makes use of pochoirs and paint brushes, spray cans, varnish, lacquer, glitter… As long as he can paint with it. 'La Méduse' (2009–2010) is a point in case: it invites us to fully appreciate this complexity of layers and graphic effects, as well as to detect how the painter’s multiple pictorial gestures were, at different times, juxtaposed on the canvas. A few rapid sketches and colour drippings, added during one moment of creation, form one layer of the representation, where subsequently other motifs such as this cross here, and those clear delineations of various frames on the same canvas, add new layers and a more measured sensibility, that seems to bring the whole picture together.
    The exhibition at Roberto Polo Gallery consists of nearly thirty canvases. An eighty-page catalogue was published to mark the occasion, featuring a major part of Xavier Noiret-Thomé’s recent oeuvre, and text by the British art critic Martin Herbert.

    Jérémie Demasy

    1 Bernard Marcadé, 'Les débâcles de la peinture', in Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Analogues, Maison d’édition pour l’art contemporain, Arles, 2012; Hans Theys, 'D’une pratique à l’autre – Conversation avec Xavier Noiret-Thomé', in Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Analogues, Maison d’édition pour l’art contemporain, Arles, 2012; Claude Lorent, 'Une incroyable jubilation picturale', in Arts Libre, Brussels, February 15th, 2013; Martin Herbert, 'Double Image', in 'Ghosts', Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels, 2015.
    8-12 RUE LEBEAU
    1000 BRUSSELS
    Xavier Noiret-Thomé


    In het werk van XAVIER NOIRET-THOMÉ lijken twee kenmerken fundamenteel1: enerzijds de relatie die hij onderhoudt met de geschiedenis van de schilderkunst, de emblematische figuren en werken van alle slag uit die geschiedenis, en anderzijds zijn levenslustige, iconoclastische, oneerbiedige picturale hand. De titel van de expositie in galerie Roberto Polo, Ghosts, belicht het eerste van deze kenmerken. Het tweede komt eerder exclusief naar voren in het beeld, de dynamiek en de gevoelens die zijn werk oproept. Hebben we daarmee inhoud en vorm van zijn werk omschreven ?


    Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Big Mother, 2013–14, acryl, spray, zand en collage

    Het oppervlak van een canvas lijkt voor Xavier Noiret-Thomé (°1971, Charleville-Mézières (F); woont en werkt in Brussel) een uitnodiging te zijn voor een uitgebreide maaltijd. Een soort familiebanket, een beetje ouderwets, waar voorouders en peuters elkaar ontmoeten, en spoken en vrienden langskomen, en in kringen van verre neven enkele evidente maar discrete louche verwantschappen aan het licht komen… Op zijn doeken staan dus zijn genodigden, een referentieparcours van aanroeping, en toegevoegde voorwerpen, bij wijze van oproeping. Door zijn voorgangers te aanroepen plaatst hij zijn picturale handeling in de grandeur die de geschiedenis uitstraalt. Anderzijds roept de aanwezigheid van gevonden voorwerpen het dagelijkse universum van de schilder in zijn atelier op. Zo vertrouwde hij Hans Theys tijdens een lang interview toe, dat zijn schilderspraktijk volledig verankerd is in een flux, die zijn werken condenseren. Bij wijze van voorbeeld: zijn kosmogonisch composities, zoals Quest (2008), omvatten verschillende momenten uit de geschiedenis van de schilderkunst en laten die voortduren: van de Waterlelies van Monet tot Dripping en de All-over traditie, via de abstracte schilderijen van Mondriaan. Naargelang wat hem bezighoudt en waar zijn blik op valt—thema, compositie, materiaalgebruik— kunnen Van Eyck of Matisse opduiken, Eugène Leroy, de Chirico, Beuys of Basquiat. Een veelheid van anekdotes kruisen elkaar in de vorm van motieven, toetsen of texturen… Xavier Noiret-Thomé stelde een schilderkunst-met-laden samen, die soms spiegelend en altijd joyeus en vertrouwd is. De geschiedenis van de vier portretten, E.R, B&E.S, X.N-T et D.Z, belicht de verhouding die de kunstenaar onderhoudt met de meesters die hem beïnvloeden, terwijl hij zich tegelijk van hen distantieert door zijn "iconoclastische" handelingen: als hij oordeelt dat zijn werken te dicht bij hun inspiratiebron zijn gebleven, voorziet hij ze van een laag chroom uit een spuitbus. Op die manier krijgen ze een krachtigere, opener uitstraling, maar tegelijkertijd worden de portretten hierdoor autonoom, door middel van een ingreep die zelf afstandelijk is.
    Vaak loopt de schilderkust van Noiret-Thomé evenzeer over van meerlagigheid als ze barst van de verschillende potentiële lezingen. De blik dwaalt spontaan van de ene naar de andere zone en van infra naar supra. Uitgespaarde motieven flankeren penseelstreken uit de losse hand, onderling contradictorische lagen en de meest heterogene materies, dialogerend op hun hoogste technische en visuele niveau. Over een basis heen, die bestaat in een automatische acryltekening of enkele kleurvlekken, zet het creatieve proces zich in beweging en geven opeenvolgende lagen van verschillende texturen geleidelijk vorm aan object en subject. XNT maakt daartoe gebruik van stencils en penselen, spuitbussen, vernis, lak, glittertjes… Als het maar schildert. Bij La Méduse (2009–2010) bijvoorbeeld, kunnen we deze complexiteit van lagen en grafische effecten goed waarnemen. Hier is goed voelbaar hoe de schilder vele picturale bewegingen, op verschillende ogenblikken uitgevoerd, naast elkaar plaatst. Terwijl enkele snelle streken en kleurdrippings één laag van de afbeelding vormen, op een specifiek tijdstip van creatie, voegen andere motieven, zoals dit kruis hier, en deze duidelijke afbakeningen van verschillende frames op hetzelfde doek, nieuwe lagen toe en vormen ze een meer getemperde gevoeligheid die het schilderij lijkt af te werken tot een geheel.
    In galerie Roberto Polo worden een kleine dertig doeken getoond, geput uit de productie van deze kunstenaar. Ter gelegenheid van de tentoonstelling wordt ook een monografie van tachtig pagina’s uitgebracht, die een overzicht geeft van een belangrijk deel van het recente œuvre van Xavier Noiret-Thomé, evenals een tekst van de Engelse kunstcriticus Martin Herbert.

    Jérémie Demasy

    1 Zie Bernard Marcadé, "Les débâcles de la peinture", in Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Analogues, Maison d’édition pour l’art contemporain, Arles, 2012; Hans Theys, "D’une pratique à l’autre – Conversation avec Xavier Noiret-Thomé", in Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Analogues, Maison d’édition pour l’art contemporain, Arles, 2012; Claude Lorent, "Une incroyable jubilation picturale", in Arts Libre, Brussel, 15 februari 2013; Martin Herbert, "Double image", in Ghosts, Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussel, 2015.
    1000 BRUSSEL
    TOT 7.06.15
    Xavier Noiret-Thomé

  • Xavier Noiret Thomé I 'La puissance impertinente d'une peinture libre', by Claude Lorent, Arts Libre



    La puissance impertinente d’une peinture libre

    Retour marquant et pour tout dire magistral de Xavier Noiret-Thomé en galerie bruxelloise avec l’exposition d’une peinture vigoureuse, décapante autant que débordante d’une vitalité tonique pleine de volupté.

    LA PEINTURE DONT ON REMARQUE enfin l’arrivée en force, se cherche de nouvelles voies en empruntant volontiers au passé avec appui rassurant sur le beau métier ou, au contraire, en accentuant le côté potache comme s’il s’agissait de la dernière arme de destruction massive pour régler ses comptes avec ce passé encombrant. La difficulté en peinture aujourd’hui est de s’assumer pleinement et d’affirmer une position, non de retranchement, mais d’avant-poste en prenant en compte les acquis tant séculaires que modernistes. Xavier Noiret-Thomé est un exemple de ces trop rares peintres qui agissent autant décomplexés et par conséquent inventifs qu’attachés aux valeurs à reformuler sans cesse. Sa nouvelle exposition est un nouvel hymne à la peinture. Il retentit en sonorités vibrantes transmettant un enthousiasme tenant d’une certaine anarchie joyeuse et communicative.

    Irrévérence admirative

    On peut penser que la peinture de Xavier Noiret-Thomé va dans tous les sens tellement on passe, et en formats volontiers monumentaux, ce qui apporte surenchère à l’impression, de l’abstraction lyrique ou construite à la figuration déstabilisante, de la rigueur à la sauvagerie, du portrait iconoclaste positif au paysage revu et corrigé. Pas de doute, c’est précisément son domaine, l’artiste embrasse large avec une délectation jamais feinte. Le bonheur est dans la peinture pour autant que l’on s’y vautre à corps et à coeur, sans retenue, en bravant tous les dangers, tous les interdits, en franchissant toutes les frontières. Et à condition, bien entendu, d’avoir le talent fou pour l’oser et le réussir. La tâche est plus ardue que le résultat ne le laisse supposer. Il faut avoir l’énergie, les formes, les couleurs pour le faire et une panoplie créative jamais figée car tout se base sur la nouvelle image, ni rétro, ni post, mais ici et maintenant. Le principe de ce travail est une liberté d’esprit doublée d’une irrévérence admirative et complice vis à vis du corpus pictural appartenant au meilleur de son histoire.

    Intégrer tous azimuts

    En abordant toute la peinture moderne et contemporaine, Xavier Noiret-Thomé met aussi à son actif la place prise par l’objet dans l’art, la substitution de la représentation par celui-ci,le tabou du style unique, déjoue la prépondérance de l’idée et du concept, adopte le mélangedes cultures savantes et populaires. Il reformule leprincipe de la belle image en insistant sur sa puissance de choc. Il joue hors catégories en pratiquant des intégrationsmultiples et des associations sans bornes ni préjugés. Se donnant ainsi pleinement, libertairement, il brave tous les obstacles et aboutit à une forme dejouissance et d’intelligence picturales régénérescentes.Il remet à l’épreuve ce qu’il aborde et n’hésite jamais à en référer à ses prédécesseurs, non pour les copier, les pasticher, mais pour les faire participer à une sorte de gourmandise partagée de la peinture. Il s’en dégage des saveurs inconnues dans des mets auxquels participent tantôt Duchamp, Miro, Mondrian, tantôt Sol Lewitt, Philip Guston, Robert Gober et d’autres dont Magritte avec une pipe goguenarde qui pourrait être fumée par Monsieur Hulot himself ! La verve métissée qu’il nous livre aussi audacieuse en couleurs qu’en formes associe les générations et les vocabulaires les plus disparates, casse les catégories pour les régénérer, s’exerce dans le plaisir et assure des prolongements imprévisibles à l’acte artistique le plus ancien qui soit puisqu’il occupe les hommes depuis l’époque paléolithique.

    Claude Lorent

    “Je m’empare de tout : de l’Histoire, de la mémoire, des formes cinématographiques autant que spécifiquement plastiques, au travers d’un espace-temps qui n’est pas linéaire mais élastique.”

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé

    Xavier Noiret Thomé, “The Return of the Landscape” (diptyque), 2014, peinture acrylique et bois sur toile, 250 x 400 cm. A droite, “Non-Stop Painting : Purple Wave”, 2015, Acrylique et collage sur toile, 170 x140 cm. En bas, “The Returnof the Landscape :Modernist Episode”, 2015; bois, acrylique, spray, vis, sable et collage sur toile; 170 x 140cm.

    Infos pratiques

    Xavier Noiret Thomé, “Ghosts”. Roberto Polo Gallery, 8-12 rue Lebeau, 1000 Bruxelles. Jusqu’au 7 juin. Du mardi au dimanche de 14h à 18, week-end dès 11h.

    Publication : ouvrage cartonné, 78 pp., grandes illus coul., excellent texte de Martin Herbert.

    Bio express

    Né en France (Charleville-Mézières) en 1971, Xavier Noiret-Thomé passe la frontière belge et vit à Bruxelles après des études à Rennes et à la Rijks d’Amsterdam. Il expose régulièrement depuis le début des années nonante, surtout en France, aux Pays-Bas et en Belgique, avec quelques incursions individuelles en Grèce, en Suisse et au Luxembourg. Publication d’une monographie en 2012. Résidences entre autres à la Villa Médicis (Rome) et au Domaine de Kerguéhennec(Bretagne). Il est professeur à La Cambre.



    The impertinent power of unrestricted painting

    A remarkable and truly masterful come-back by Xavier Noiret-Thomé on the Brussels gallery scene, with an exhibition of vigorous painting that is brash, but also overflowing with stimulating vitality, brimming with sensual pleasure.

    The kind of painting we see arriving in force today is searching for new directions by eagerly borrowing from the past, with the reassuring support of fine art or just the opposite, embracing its irreverent humour as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction to settle the scores with this burdensome past.

    In contemporary painting, the crux is to fully establish oneself, not to take up an entrenched position, but to claim a place in the vanguard by taking centuries-old achievements, as well as modernist ones into account. Xavier Noiret-Thomé is one of a small number of painters who are free of inhibitions and, as a result, very inventive, yet also firmly attached to the values they keep reformulating. His newest exhibition is a hymn to painting. It resonates in vibrant tones, exuding an enthusiasm that radiates a kind of joyous, infectious anarchy.

    Irreverence full of admiration

    One could be forgiven for thinking that Xavier Noiret-Thomé’s painting is all over the place, for that is how wildly his work veers - in decidedly monumental formats, which adds to its impact - from lyrical or constructivist abstraction to a destabilising figuration, from rigour to savagery, from iconoclastic realist portraiture to revised and corrected landscape painting. There can be no doubt that precisely this is his field: the artist casts his net widely, and with unfeigned, joyous vigour. There is happiness in painting, provided it is done wholeheartedly, with no holds barred, without holding anything back, and decidedly breaching barriers.

    Also, of course, provided that the painter has the kind of mad talent that is required to dare and to succeed. This is a much more arduous task than the result may lead us to suppose. It takes energy, forms, colours and a creative range that never becomes rigid, because everything is based on the new image that is neither retro nor post, but here and now. His working principle is independence of mind, in addition to a complicit, admiring irreverence toward the pictorial corpus that belongs to the best in history.

    Integration across the board

    By taking on all modern and contemporary painting, Xavier Noiret-Thomé also takes on board the place of the object in art, the substitution of representation by the object and the taboo of unity of style, thwarts the ascendancy of idea and concept, and adopts the mix of high culture and low culture. He reformulates the principle of the beautiful representation by insisting on shock value. In fact, he defies categorising, by achieving multiple integrations and associations, unhindered by any restrictions or preconceptions. As he gives his all, completely and liberally, he braves all obstacles and achieves a form of regenerative pictorial enjoyment and insight. Whatever he takes on, he puts to the test. He never hesitates to refer to his predecessors, not in order to copy them or do a pastiche, but to allow them to take part in a kind of shared gluttony for painting. New, strange aromas emanate from concoctions featuring contributions by Duchamp, or Miró, Mondrian, Sol Lewitt, Philip Guston, Robert Gober… or any of a hoard of other painters, Magritte for instance, with a mildly ironic pipe Monsieur Hulot himself would have been very pleased with!

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé’s variegated verve, which is bold in colours and shapes, combines the most disparate of generations and vocabularies in order to regenerate them, expresses itself through sheer joy and provides the oldest artistic action practiced by man since the Palaeolithic era with an unforeseeable and unforeseen continuation.

    Claude Lorent

    “I appropriate everything: History, memory, cinematographic forms as well as specifically plastic ones, through a space/time that is elastic, not linear.”

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé

    Xavier Noiret Thomé, 'The Return of the Landscape' (diptych), 2014, acrylic and wood on canvas, 250 x 400 cm. Right: 'Non-Stop Painting: Purple Wave', 2015, acrylic and collage on canvas, 170 x 140 cm. Below: 'The Return of the Landscape: Modernist Episode', 2015, wood, acrylic, spray paint, screws, sand and collage on canvas, 170 x 140 cm.

    Practical information

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé | Ghosts. Roberto Polo Gallery, Rue Lebeau 8-12, Brussels 1000. Until June 7th. Tuesday through Friday from 2PM to 6PM, on weekends from 11AM to 6PM.

    Publication: hardcover book, 80 Pp., large colour illustrations, excellent text by Martin Herbert.

    Short Bio

    Born in France (Charleville-Mézières) in 1971, Xavier Noiret-Thomé crossed the border into Belgium, where he has always lived, after his studies in Rennes and at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. Regular exhibitions since the beginning of the nineties, especially in France, The Netherlands and Belgium, as well as occasionally in Greece, Switzerland and Luxembourg. A monograph was published in 2012. Residences: among others, at the Villa Medici (Rome) and the Domain de Kerguéhennec (Bretagne). He teaches at La Cambre.





    De vrijmoedige kracht van onbegrensde schilderkunst

    Opvallende en zonder meer magistrale terugkeer voor Xavier Noiret-Thomé in de Brusselse galeriewereld, met een tentoonstelling van krachtige schilderijen, die snerpend is maar ook overvloeit van energieke vitaliteit, boordevol wellust.

    DE SCHILDERKUNST DIE WE VANDAAG – als een boemerang – weer zien opkomen, zoekt nieuwe wegen en ontleent daartoe gretig elementen uit het verleden, zich gestoeld wetend op uitstekend vakmanschap, of legt integendeel juist het accent op zijn status als grapjas, als was het laatste massavernietigingswapen om de afrekening met dat hinderlijke verleden af te ronden.

    Bij hedendaagse schilderkunst is het punt nu eenmaal, dat ze in compleet zelfbewustzijn een stelling dient in te nemen, niet in de achterhoede, maar in de voorhoede, door alle verworvenheden, zowel eeuwenoude als modernistische, in rekening te nemen.

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé is een voorbeeld van die al te zeldzame kunstenaars die complexloos zijn (en dus inventief), maar evengoed gehecht aan waarden, die onophoudelijk worden geherformuleerd. Zijn nieuwe tentoonstelling is een nieuwe lofzang op de schilderkunst. Het is een expositie die resoneert in vibrerende kleurklanken, die een enthousiasme overbrengen dat iets heeft van vrolijke, aanstekelijke anarchie.

    Oneerbiedige bewondering

    Mogelijk krijgen toeschouwers de indruk dat de schilderkunst van Xavier Noiret-Thomé alle kanten uitgaat - en dat liefst in monumentale formaten, wat nog bijdraagt tot die indruk - van lyrische of constructieve abstractie tot ontwrichtende figuratie, van strak tot wild, van het iconoclastische realistische portret tot het herziene, gecorrigeerde landschap.

    Het lijdt geen twijfel dat precies deze veelheid zijn domein is: deze kunstenaar omarmt het allemaal, met een vreugde die nooit geveinsd is. Het geluk is te vinden in het schilderen, op voorwaarde je er met hart en ziel in te storten, zonder terughoudendheid, wars van alle gevaren, alle verboden, en dwars door alle grenzen heen.

    Op voorwaarde ook, welteverstaan, dat je beschikt over het onwaarschijnlijke talent om dat te durven en daarin te slagen.

    Deze opdracht is zwaarder dan het resultaat laat vermoeden. Er is energie voor nodig, de vormen- en kleurentaal om ze uit te voeren en een creatief instrumentarium dat nooit stereotypisch of rigide wordt, want alles staat of valt met het nieuwe beeld, dat niet retro is en niet post, maar wel hier en nu.

    De grondslag van dit werk is vrijheid van geest, gepaard gaand met de oneerbiedigheid vol bewondering van de medestander ten aanzien van het picturale corpus dat het beste van zijn geschiedenis behelst.

    Integratie alom

    Door de hele moderne en hedendaagse schilderkunst aan te pakken, weet Xavier Noiret-Thomé zich ook de plek die het voorwerp in de kunst inneemt eigen te maken en de afbeelding erdoor te vervangen, slaagt hij er ook in het taboe van de eenheid van stijl en de hegemonie van het concept te verijdelen, en maakt hij zich het vermengen van Cultuur met grote C te met de populaire cultuur eigen.

    Hij herformuleert het principe van de mooie afbeelding, door nadrukkelijk het schokeffect te laten spelen. Hij speelt buiten alle categorieën, met zijn veelvuldige integraties en associaties zonder limieten of preconcepties. Door zich zo volledig en zo vrijelijk te geven, trotseert hij alle hindernissen en verwezenlijkt hij regenererende vormen van picturale vreugde en inzicht.

    Wat hij aanvat, stelt hij opnieuw in vraag en nooit aarzelt hij om te refereren aan zijn voorgangers – niet om hen na te bootsen of te pasticheren, maar om hen te laten deelnemen aan een soort van gedeelde gulzigheid naar schilderen. Ongekende aroma’s stijgen op uit zijn bereidingen, waartoe de ene keer Duchamp heeft bijgedragen, de andere keer Miro, Mondriaan, Sol Lewitt, Philip Guston, Robert Gober of nog anderen, zoals Magritte, met een persiflage op de pijp die Monsieur Hulot zelf niet zou misstaan!

    De hybride, veelzijdige bezieling die hij ons brengt, die even gewaagd is qua kleurgebruik als qua vormelijkheid, verenigt in zich de meest disparate generaties en technieken, breekt door de muren tussen categorieën om ze nieuw leven in te blazen, uit zich in vreugde en voorziet de oudste kunstvorm die er bestaat – immers een bezigheid van de mens sinds het paleolithicum – van een voortzetting die onvoorzien en onvoorzienbaar was.

    Claude Lorent

    “Ik eigen mij alles toe: uit de geschiedenis, uit de herinnering, uit zowel cinematografische als specifiek plastische vormtalen, en dat

    doorheen een tijd/ruimte die niet lineair, maar elastisch is.”

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé

    Xavier Noiret Thomé, “The Return of the Landscape” (diptiek), 2014, acryl en hout op doek, 250x400 cm. Rechts: “Non-Stop Painting: Purple Wave”, 2015, Acryl en collage op doek, 170x140 cm. Onder: “The Return of the Landscape: Modernist Episode”, 2015, hout, acryl, spray, schroeven, zand en collage op doek, 170x140cm.

    Praktische informatie

    Xavier Noiret Thomé, “Ghosts”. Roberto Polo Gallery, 8-12 Lebeaustraat, 1000 Brussel. Tot 7 juni. Dinsdag tot zondag, van 14u tot 18u, weekend vanaf 11u.

    Publicatie: hardcover, 78 pp., grote kleurillustraties, uitstekende tekst van Martin Herbert.

    Bio express

    Xavier Noiret-Thomé werd geboren in Frankrijk (Charleville-Mézières) in 1971, stak de Belgische grens over en ging na zijn studies in Rennes en aan de Rijksacademie in Amsterdam in Brussel wonen. Hij exposeert geregeld sinds begin jaren negentig, vooral in Frankrijk, Nederland en België, en ocasioneel in Griekenland, Zwitserland en Luxemburg. In 2012 verscheen er een monografie over hem. Residenties in Villa Medici (Rome) en het Domaine de Kerguéhennec (Bretagne). Hij doceert in La Cambre.







    Belgian painter Jan Vanriet is a success from Brussels to Great Britain and on to Moscow

    All is well with Jan Vanriet. After an acclaimed exhibition in Moscow, he now shows work in Brussels. The British Museum has acquired watercolours by him and there are upcoming exhibitions in Warsaw and Birmingham. 'His strength is his autobiographical painting, which simultaneously tackles universal themes', says critic Charlotte Mullins.
    Eric Rinckhout

    'Salted Meat, Vive La Sociale!' (2014), a work of no less than 2 x 5,5 meters.

    The career of Jan Vanriet (67) gained momentum in recent times and this is certainly also due to the dynamic approach of gallerist Roberto Polo who arrived in Brussels a few years ago and has taken on quite a few artists from the north of the country. Roberto Polo opened his gallery in the Sablon quarter of Brussels in November 2012 with an exhibition of Jan Vanriet. The great attention that the French-speaking Belgian press paid to the painter was quite striking.
    But there is also the quality of the work. According to the English art critic Charlotte Mullins, who recently wrote a book about the painter, the power of Vanriet lies in the fact that through his painting, he universalises the personal: "On the basis of a photograph of his dancing parents or his dying uncle, he explores his family history", she says. "At the same time, his paintings are about the destructions of war and they treat universal themes such as memory, remembrance, loss and the complexity of love."
    Mullins makes a comparison between Vanriet's paintings about the war experiences of his family – mother, father and uncle were held in the concentration camps – and the portrait of 'Uncle Rudi' ('Onkel Rudi', 1965) by the famous German painter Gerhard Richter. Richter, according to Mullins, like Luc Tuymans, is primarily interested in images and their different functioning in the media and in painting. "By comparison, Jan Vanriet fully enjoys the possibilities of painting, the pleasure and the power of paint", she says. She sees Vanriet's wide variety of styles and the widely divergent manners in which he explores a theme, as the strength of his oeuvre.

    Instrumental work
    Until March 1st, Jan Vanriet showed forty portraits of Holocaust victims at the Jewish Museum in Moscow. This exhibition, held exactly 70 years after the liberation of the Nazi camps by the Russian army, received both massive attention from the Moscow media and attracted a large number of visitors. In those works, some of which were also shown at the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen towards the end 2013 under the title 'Losing Face', Vanriet restores a murdered people to "a second life". "Now they are present again", he says about them.
    With this series, he clearly touched a raw nerve. The Russian organizer of the exhibition in Moscow said that Vanriet "shows the horror without shocking". Author Stefan Hertmans wrote that with Vanriet "the often tragic content" coincides with "the enormous vitality, inventiveness, sensuality and a painter's pleasure": "the memento mori is a triumph of art". In 2017, the exhibition will travel to the brand new and impressive Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.
    Five of the Holocaust portraits – watercolour paintings - were acquired recently by the Curator of the Modern Collection, Department of Prints and Drawings, of the renowned British Museum in London. To this collection – one of the world's best and most important, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rubens and Rembrandt – also works on paper by Jan Fabre and Luc Tuymans have been added recently. "These acquisitions are part of a broader vision of The British Museum to strengthen the collection in the area of modern and contemporary prints and drawings from Belgium and The Netherlands", says An Van Camp, Curator of Flemish and Dutch drawings, as well as prints. Van Camp calls Fabre, Tuymans and Vanriet "leading contemporary artists".
    But there is more. From May 15th onwards, Jan Vanriet will show in 'Song of Destiny' in the National Museum of Poland in Gdansk, an overview of some fifty paintings from the period 1986-2014. Followed early next year, under the title 'The Music Boy', by an exhibition of paintings and watercolours at The New Art Gallery Walsall near Birmingham.
    Just recently, Vanriet also published a survey of his commissioned works between 1972 and now: 'The Instrumental Image'. All his life, the painter has enjoyed working "in the service of", as he calls it. Inter alia he worked for 'Behoud de Begeerte' ('Keep Desire Intact'), the literary magazine 'Revolver', the 'Willem Elsschot Society' and the newspaper 'De Morgen', for which, Vanriet has for a number of years, from 2000 onwards, regularly provided drawings and watercolors, both for the news pages and for the Saturday supplement 'Zeno'. Vanriet calls his commissioned work "a relic of my journalistic period." In the 1960s, he was Editor of the magazine 'Links' ('Left'), co-founded by his father, and written interviews for the weekly magazine 'Panorama' – then a totally different magazine than today.

    David Hockney
    Notwithstanding all his international success, Jan Vanriet doesn't lose sight of his homeland. He recently bought a new, spacious studio in Antwerp, the city where he will, this coming May, show his latest watercolours at De Zwarte Panter gallery. This is the gallery where he first exhibited in 1973, following his studies at the Antwerp academy.
    In those days, things also went quite fast forward. As a young artist, Jan Vanriet soon joined renowned galleries, such as Lens Fine Art in Antwerp and, in the 1980s, Isy Brachot in Brussels and Paris. At that time, he made colourful, playful work, inspired by the painter David Hockney, but a sharp use of line in the tradition of Picasso and Ingres were his trademark. He was invited to important biennials: São Paulo in 1979 and Venice in 1984. In Venice he exhibited with Jan Fabre, José Vermeersch and Karel Dierickx.
    1986 was a year of key importance. Vanriet painted 'Portrait of an Uncle'. Not a portrait in the strict sense, but a canvas on which he painted an accordion, his uncle's favorite instrument, as if it were the crematorium of the concentration camp of Dachau, which his uncle barely survived. Shortly after World War II, his uncle, his mother's twin brother, died of exhaustion.
    It is as if Vanriet only realised in 1986, at 38, to what extent and how long his family history had already been under his skin and that the horrors of war could no longer be ignored by him. Furthermore, this was period in which painting was no longer taken seriously. The resistance to it in circles of conceptual and minimal art gave Vanriet the strength to continue and to start making his strongest work.
    From then on his work contains several distinct threads that remain nevertheless closely interwoven: war, oppression of the vulnerable individual, domination of ideological systems as Nazism and Communism, and the twisted relationship between artist and politics. Vanriet's opposition to it is made of a generous humanism.

    Vanriet's many voices are evident once more in the exhibition now running in Brussels. Vanriet explores the theme in all its meanings, shapes and sizes. The artist prefers to work in series: "I need a guideline, a theme, however cryptic it may be."
    Roberto Polo's exhibition space in Brussels has almost doubled in size and Jan Vanriet seizes the opportunity to install an almost museum scale exhibition. It starts with a bang. Meat EVERY day: monumental Irish six ribs, very tangibly painted, take over the first space. This is how the artist explores the ancient vanitas theme: the way of all flesh. Vanitas paintings of the 16th and 17th century mainly showed the brevity of life and its earthly pleasures, with symbols like a clock, a skull and a candle on the verge of extinguishing. Vanriet does it by means of corruptible flesh and withered flowers.
    Temporality manifests itself in different ways. For instance, Vanriet paints his parents, based on an old photograph. But their image disintegrates, their faces blur, just as happens with memories. Only the monumentally-painted bracelet of his mother is an imperishable object, no doubt raising many personal memories. There also are paintings with light effects, shadows, silhouettes, puddles and drops. Vanriet strives to capture in paint all that is ephemeral and barely tangible.
    'Vanity' means, not least, 'to be vain': portraits are featured and viewed in museums, where the works of painters – who are also vain – hang on the walls.
    With this excellent and overwhelming exhibition, Vanriet demonstrates that he can express himself in all genres: portrait, still life and cityscapes, figuration and near abstraction. As a spectator, one can only agree with Stefan Hertmans' verdict: Jan Vanriet's oeuvre "deserves its place in between Raveel and Tuymans, as the impressive testimony of a great and passionate painter."

    'Vanity', until April 19th


    The monumental 'Big Bracelet' (2 x 2,6 m, 2014), based on a jewel of Vanriet's mother.
    'The Visitor, MuZee' (2013). Jan Vanriet painted his wife on visits to several museums. Also on view in the exhibition at the Brussels Roberto Polo Gallery.
    'Moszek' from the series of Holocaust portraits, recently exhibited with great success in Moscow. This watercolour is one of five recently acquired by The British Museum.

  • Jan Vanriet, Storyteller, by Muriel de Crayencour | MuCity




    Born in 1948, Antwerp artist Jan Vanriet was the star of the show at the opening of the Roberto Polo gallery in November 2012. This is his second exhibition in this gallery.

    The gallery has almost doubled in area since then, following the addition of the neighbouring retail space. It’s a huge, spectacular three-storey venue – the perfect place to effectively display Vanriet’s large canvasses.

    From the entrance, we see immense paintings depicting pieces of red, bloody meat. It’s a metaphor for the socialist party, says Roberto Polo, smiling. Here, the promises (bright red meat); there, the disappointment (meat turned black). Beyond this symbolism – a bit blunt or subjective –, we relish in the way the artist enjoyed painting these very, very enlarged chunks of flesh in large strokes. The texture, colour and the gesture of the brush make us happy.

    Jan Vanriet loves books, poetry, language and the latter’s relationship with images. He’s a painter but also a poet. Again and again, his paintings take us on a journey into memory. From the same community of painters as Luc Tuymans, Vanriet has consistently painted in a realistic narrative style which could also be described as romantic.

    Vanriet is influenced by his private family history, but also by History with a capital H, which has largely impacted the life of his parents and grandparents, through the tragedy of the Holocaust. His work is most narrative when he evokes this history.

    For example, he painted a couple dancing cheek to cheek or a musician/soldier holding a clarinet – images based on old snapshots. The couple is a recurrent subject in several of his paintings, giving him many opportunities to work with different backgrounds and different scales.

    In the gallery’s basement, a large-sized painting depicts a gold bracelet with large links. For Vanriet, Big Bracelet is an opportunity to render complex materials, working with the reflection of light and, at the same time, deftly conjure up his history, since the bracelet belonged to his mother. In other works on the same theme of the bracelet, he breaks down the reflections to convert them into pure colour: bright yellow, black or an abstract grid.

    In some paintings like Opéra Black, Opéra Blue or his bunches of flowers, we get the feeling that the artist has indulged in the joy of creating a beautiful image. And why not? Other works, such as Emptiness 3, The Promise or Halali, Man, tend to convey intense emotions like sadness or anxiety. Then there’s also this other series, The Visitor, which depicts one or two people in a museum like the MuZee, Kunsthaus, the Yvon Lambert gallery or the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre: lost in an massive space, these individuals become artworks themselves, solemn in the middle of the other artwork exhibited.




    The memory of a bracelet

    Next weekend the exhibition Losing Face by the important Antwerp contemporary painter and poet Jan Vanriet, earlier on view in Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen, will end at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in Moscow. The event reached the local press when Vladimir Putin showed up at the opening night, coinciding with the 70th

    anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

    Vanriet’s confronting yet subtle portraits, all of Jewish and Roma deportees leaving for Auschwitz from the Dossin Barracks, move ondifferent levels. They not only make real people from those who were considered numbers; they are also reminiscent of the

    fact that Vanriet’s very personal, almost autobiographical art is often influenced by the memory of history. His parents, uncle and grandmother were all deported because of their involvement in the Belgian resistance. His mother and father met in Mauthausen

    concentration camp.

    The moving portraits, based on mug shots from Dossin’s photographic archives, were made between 2009 and 2012. What the artist painted afterwards is now to be seen in the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels. The 40-odd oil paintings shown at the exhibition Vanity emphasise the wide range of his art. In the accompanying book, by British art critic Charlotte Mullins, there are more than 100 paintings chaperoned by poems, songs,

    sketches and watercolours, presenting a wider understanding of Vanriet’s motives.

    The poem he wrote last year as a companion to the painting “Bracelet” (pictured ) is especially revealing: ‘Links around her wrist / the gold carat gleam // Rudi Schuricke singing K/ omm zurück / Komm zurück // and the gypsy’s / roving violin / a lark

    warbling / black eyes, fiery eyes / you ruined me // Matinee at

    Billiard Palace: / above our heads / a gilt spider chandelier / and

    my mother and I / we desire nothing more / than magic and

    lemonade. (Translation by Ted Alkins.)

    Pared-down suffering

    Vanriet’s mother died shortly before he painted “Bracelet”. Mullins explains in the prologue of her book: “The bracelet is therefore a lodestone, an embodiment of her and Vanriet’s memories of her, its shiny golden surfaces reminiscent of the polished brass fittings in the theatre, which they frequented together when he was a young child.”

    Vanriet described his “Bracelet” pairings as introverted and controlled. The “Salted Meat” paintings you see when you enter the gallery are anything but. Mullins says they are a metaphor for the body, “paring down all human suffering, and yet remaining full of energy”. The biggest one refers in its bloody big-format rawness to Ensor’s grandeur and political stand. Think social struggle and meat socialism. “These are portraits from the past, but they are also portraits for today, as people are still being persecuted for what they believe and for being who they are,” said Vanriet in his opening speech in Moscow. These new oil paintings talk about the past, the present and the future. Divided into nine series, Vanriet explores what it means to be a painter, but more profoundly what

    it means to be human. “When painting I am busy with colour, composition and aesthetics,” he told Mullins last year. “But the story that I tell is about who I am; I cannot help it.”

    Vanriet | Vanity by Charlotte Mullins is published by Uitgeverij

    Lannoo. The exhibition at Roberto Polo Gallery runs until 19 April

    Antwerp artist Jan Vanriet explores what it

    means to be human at new exhibition

  • JAN VANRIET | 'Do Mention the War', by Sam Steverlynck | H Art



    Jan Vanriet exhibits with Roberto Polo in Brussels and just about everywhere around the world

    Do mention the war

    Jan Vanriet may be nearing retirement but he’s not sitting still. After conquering Moscow, he is now showing a series of new works at the Roberto Polo Gallery. It marks a stream of publication and exhibition launches both at home and abroad.


    These are busy times for the Antwerp artist Jan Vanriet (1948). Recently returned from Moscow, where he had an exhibition at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, he is already presenting a new series of 47 paintings with Roberto Polo. In May, he will display works on paper at De Zwarte Panter Gallery in Antwerp and two weeks later he will hold a major retrospective at the National Museum in Gdansk. There are also a number of new books: on his magazine, newspaper and publishing commissions ('Het Dienstbaar Beeld'/'The Instrumental Image'); on his watercolors; a catalogue for his show in Gdansk; and in January 2016, a new collection of poems.

    As if all this were not enough, in March he moves into his new studio, housed in a former printing plant in the center of Antwerp. It seems like a very busy schedule. "Well, I don't have much of a problem getting myself organized", he says in a relaxed way. But after his exhibition in Moscow, he still needs to unwind. "It was overwhelming. There was a huge interest, both in terms of numbers of visitors and from the media." The artist exhibited some 40 portraits, most of which were previously shown in the Dossin barracks in Mechelen. These were portraits which he painted from the identity photos of Jews and gypsies sent from Mechelen to Auschwitz.

    These moving canvases were displayed in Moscow in a brilliant installation conceived by the famous architect Sergei Tchoban - he drew his inspiration from 'Portrait of an Uncle', a key work from Vanriet’s oeuvre which recalls his accordion-playing deported uncle in an image of a concentration camp crematorium in the form of an accordion. Tchoban used the fully stretched, open, accordion form to make zigzag steps, rendering the oppression and the horror almost physically tangible.

    After Mechelen and Moscow, the exhibition moves on to the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw in 2017. "There are also negotiations for other venues", says the artist. He quickly adds: "But not only with Jewish museums. It is an exhibition that can always be mounted in a modified form. Indeed, there is a pool of work that is not only about these portraits, but is linked to the theme of the Second World War. The proportions of the available space will determine the exhibition."


    And as far as space goes, Vanriet certainly can’t complain about Roberto Polo. With the conversion of a neighbouring property, the gallery has almost doubled in size. Vanriet’s new work on show there is grouped in thematic clusters. Does he often work in series? "Yes, I am a series person. I rarely make a work that stands just on its own. I always try to think in series. Maybe it’s because I’m busy with poetry. When I make a collection, I think in cycles that relate to one other. As a painter I also try to think in cycles. When I make a first painting I also begin asking myself: could I have not interpreted it differently? What possibilities are inherent in this theme? I am not in the comfortable situation of the writer who just saves a version on his computer and invents a new variation. If I continue my thinking, I always have to make new works. It also often happens that I have the idea to paint something, but change direction while painting. The painting itself determines whether I follow another course. And then when the painting is finished, I still tend to start all over again and make the painting which I originally had in mind."

    He goes on. "Here we have hung six to seven series. The series are larger than what you see here. It is a very large gallery, but even here, I cannot show everything. It is with a heavy heart that we had to leave out works from each series. But that was done in function of the space." The sequences also sometimes connect with each other, improving their coherence. "The series are not isolated from one other. There is a common factor, even if it is only myself. My interests and all the things that fascinate me are all in there. So you have the series inspired by the lights that you often see in opera houses. You could link that with the series 'City Lights', which is about scenic imagery from Berlin in the 30s, where lighting was very important. In this exhibition, I deliberately introduced such work into the ‘Opera series’. Then there is 'The Visitor' series, where my wife visits all kinds of exhibitions.”


    The most important series however is 'The Contract'. This is not just in size, but also in terms of theme. The work illustrates how ‘Big History’ is part of Vanriet's personal biography. His parents were both known members of the resistance and met in the Mauthausen camp, which explains Vanriet's fascination with the Second World War. “'The Contract' is based on a family snapshot. In this photograph, we see my parents embracing at the time of their engagement. It all looks happy, but later on ends rather painfully. In this series, I give a vague hint that something is already amiss. The body language already betrays something.”

    Vanriet reused the photograph in a polyptych of 11 smaller paintings. "It definitely was not the intention that it would become a series. I was satisfied with one painting. But then I thought: what if I do this or that? I started to look for other forms of interpretation. After that series was finished, I thought: why 50 by 60 and not 1m50 by 1m10? Still later on, I made another two that are larger in size."

    The artist repeats the same image in different pictorial arrangements. He does this in different colours and styles. But he also plays with focus and framing. So in one of the works, you only see the couple's feet.

    The artist also zooms in and out. This variety within a same series also translates to the other works. Vanriet goes from a classic floral still life to paintings that are more abstract, to meter-high images of steaks. This stylistic variety is typical of his oeuvre. "I am not just one human being. Cees Nooteboom once began an essay about my work with the question: ‘How many Vanriets are there?’ There are a fair number. And here you can see that clearly, because the various spaces of the gallery have given me the opportunity to let diverse themes emerge." And then, he adds, wittily: "I find it has become a nice group exhibition."

    Jan Vanriet, 'Vanriet I Vanity' at the Roberto Polo Gallery until April 19.

    Rue Lebeau 8-12, Brussels. Open Tue-Fri 2-6 pm, Sat-Sun 11 am to 6 pm

    “I rarely make a work that stands just on its own. I always try to think in series. Maybe it’s because I'm working on poetry. When I make a collection, I think in cycles that relate to one other. “

    Jan Vanriet. Photograph Jean-Pierre Stoop

    Salted Meat (diptych), 2014, oil on canvas, 180 x 300 cm

    The Contract, Puddle, 2013, oil on canvas, 150 x 110 cm

  • VANRIET VANITY | "Tous les émois de la vie en peinture" by Claude Lorent | ARTS LIBRE






  • JAN VANRIET | "Color of memory", by Anna Martovitskaya |WWW.ARCHI.RU



    The installation of Jan Vanriet’s exhibition ‘Losing Face’ is designed by architects Sergei Tchoban and Agnia Sterligova.

    Open from January 27th at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, the exhibition is part of the ‘Man and Catastrophe’ project dedicated to the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of prisoners from the concentration camp of Auschwitz. This theme is deeply personal to Jan Vanriet, one of Belgium’s most prominent contemporary artists: many members of his family were subject to repressions. His mother, father, grandmother and uncle participated in the Resistance movement and were camp prisoners. While the young woman managed to survive, her twin brother died shortly after his release from the concentration camp: what is left about him is a few pictures and the family legend of how he loved to play the accordion when he was small. For the artist, the image of his mother’s brother merged forever with this musical instrument: one of Vanriet’s most famous paintings is ‘Portrait of an Uncle,’ which depicts an accordion instead of a man’s face. Its stretched bellows incorporate faceless barracks windows, stairs worn by thousands of feet and a chimney with thick smoke that makes you hopeless. Now this painting can be seen in Moscow; and for the designers of the exhibition—architects Sergei Tchhoban and Agnia Sterligova—this was the inspiration for the exhibition’s installation.

    Forty portraits—part of an ambitious series, ‘Losing Face’ created by Vanriet painting from tiny black and white mug shots of prisoners—are placed in a deep introverted space, with the internal walls painted in dark gray and the external walls covered with the names of victims who transited through the Dossin Barracks. The bulk of the names is in light gray font, while only a few are darker. The meaning of the architects’ message is clear: millions perished in the Holocaust, and little information can be found about only some of the victims.

    The exhibition space is designed as a trapezoid: its sides are built like an accordion with the bellows leading to the narrow butt with the ‘Portrait of an Uncle’ which makes the painting the semantic epicenter of the exhibition. However, the architects’ solution is also based on a foundation of no less importance: “The plan of the Bakhmetyevsky Garage, which houses the Jewish Museum, is based on a similar “comb” principle; and it was very important for our project to pay tribute to the architectural works by Konstantin Melnikov,” Sergey Tchhoban said.

    “In addition, this form is a perfect tool for enhancing the perspective, and an incredibly interesting technique for exhibiting paintings,” the architect says. “When entering the exhibition, the visitor is first involuntarily completely intrigued by the central painting, while the faces on the sides are seen only partially, ‘in passing.’ However, as the visitor moves along the walls, the portraits gradually show up, and when you find yourself inside of the installation, all of these people are looking at you and telling you their tragic history.” The exhibition designers also found the optimal height of walls: the four-meter fence visually completely isolates you from the exhibition space of the museum, repeatedly reinforcing the effect of becoming immersed in Vanriet’s story.

    The final and, perhaps, the most emotionally devastating chord is the two children’s portraits, which are placed by the architects at the rear end of the hall. These are much larger canvases (1x2 meters, whereas all the portraits of adults are 40x50 cm), literally dominating the exhibition. While all adult prisoners are mostly pictured as “the head on a white background,” the two boys are shown in full. One of them, Hermann, who is at most five years old, is a well-dressed boy, alone in a photographic studio, on a chair, with a toy. Only the absence of adults around him (and the painting unmistakably lets you understand that they were there originally) can sow a touch of anxiety in this idyllic picture. The second boy is his contemporary Samuel, and his portrait is also based on everyday life; but it shows a small concentration camp prisoner. The difference between the two children is caught by the visitor at a glance, and this glance is an abyss that separates life from life on the verge of death.

    The ‘Losing Face’ exhibition will run until March 1, 2015.

    Text: Anna Martovitskaya




    The most important lifestyle Russian magazine, AFISHA, has selected the exhibition Jan Vanriet I Losing Face, until March 1st at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, as one of the best five exhibitions to see in Moscow, along with the Piero Della Francesca retrospective in Pushkin Museum.

  • Jan Vanriet | The tragedy of illustrations “Man and Catastrophe” in the Jewish Museum, by Elena Kravtsoun | KOMMERSANT




    30 January, Friday



    The tragedy of illustrations “Man and Catastrophe” in the Jewish Museum 
 [PHOTOGRAPH] Photograph: Sergey Kiselev, Kommersant 

    The project “Man and Catastrophe” has opened in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, timed for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the prisoners from Auschwitz concentration camp. It includes three exhibitions: "Losing Face" by the Belgian artist Jan Vanriet, the series "Signs" by the Russian photographer Egor Zaika, and also the exhibition "Architecture of Death: drawings of Auschwitz-Birkenau". ELENA KRAVTSUN tells us.

    Visitors are met by the Russian photographer Egor Zaika’s exhibition "Signs". Photographs, dazzling in their sunlit appearance and rich colouring hang on both walls of a narrow corridor. They are distinguished from the photographs which the dandyish Egor takes in great quantities for glossy magazines only by their load of meaning. The harmless-looking little houses with toy-like tiled roofs, the quiet valleys and piercing sky have a terrifying history. The names of these places are synonyms not only of the Second World War but also of the most terrible tragedy in the history of mankind. Zaika has been photographing views of the surroundings of Oswiecim, Dachau, Treblinka, Sobibor and other death camps as they are today for three years and still cannot stop, it is such a vast theme. The local pastoral landscapes with blossoming trees, reminiscent of touching watercolours, begin to be associated with these sea anemones — beautiful alluring predators which bring destruction, if you are close to them.


It was precisely in these surroundings that there were buildings that looked like ordinary factory buildings, designed to the slightest details by German architects for lethal purposes. The architecture of murder on 15 pages of architectural documentation, drawn up pedantically and accurately, the lack of emotion of which makes one feel uneasy, was made available for the exhibition in Moscow by the archives of the Israeli memorial complex "Yad Vashem". The drawings of Auschwitz-Birkenau were found in Berlin a few years ago, and then came into the public domain. From the rectangular huts, the designs for the watchtower, gas chambers, crematorium and gates in the form of an arch made of yellowing sheets with the signature of Heinrich Himmler, which is what the double Latin letters "HH" stand for, you can re-create in detail the appearance of Auschwitz. 

    An industry of death was technically created and grew, set up as a production line. The disgust felt at each new detail is, nevertheless, mixed with a spell cast by the catastrophe. It is in this way that someone may look at an approaching tsunami, no longer able to resist inexorable fate. The cruel statistics of victims, which are given here, next to the drawings, are, in actual fact, not something you are really aware of and they remain, however horrifying, just a figure, until your eyes meet the faces of the people who might have lived. 

    Before depersonalising the future prisoners of the death camps and forcibly depriving them of their individuality, the town’s Immigration Police photographed them for the documents. From these black and white archive photographs, the Belgian Jan Vanriet, guided by his intuition, began to draw portraits, in which he engaged in glorifying vibrant unattainability and pure colours. His forty pictures under the name "Losing Face" show his Flemish heritage, thinking in series and in small forms. However, despite the good intentions of giving eternity in oils on canvas to the heroes of the photographs, who died in the camps, Vanriet’s pictures, one after another, breathe a deadly poison of melancholy, and not in the last place due to the monotonous manner. Here, it would seem, there are physically attractive women, whose names are given as Miriam or Jeanne, painted posing dramatically, but you do not have the strength to remember them or, even more so, to hold them in your heart. The portrait of Abraham is perceived as a collective image of a philosophical Jew in round-lens spectacles with a poetic diagnosis in his glance, and there is no small number of people like this in Vanriet’s series, and only the image of Sarah disputes everything around her with her hedonistic, flirty smile, transforming her thanks to her beauty from a victim to the mistress of the situation. At some time all these faces become so familiar that they merge into a single commemorative and archetypal Kaddish. 

    Jan Vanriet: I gave new life to these people through my portraits. On the international day of remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust, the Belgian artist JAN VANRIET’s exhibition "Losing Face" opened in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center. The artist presented the exhibition himself and answered ELENA KRAVTSUN’s questions.


    Vendredi 30 janvier

    Kommersant Tragédie en images 
Inauguration du projet « L'Homme et la catastrophe » au Musée juif de Moscou. 

    Photo : Sergey Kiselev, Kommersant


L'Histoire sur tableau 
Le Musée juif et Centre de tolérance de Moscou vient d'inaugurer le projet « L'Homme et la catastrophe », un hommage à l'occasion du 70e anniversaire de la libération d'Auschwitz. Trois expositions font parties de ce projet : "Losing Face" du peintre belge Jan Vanriet, la série "Signes" du photographe russe Egor Zaïka, ainsi que l'exposition Architecture de la mort : les plans d'Auschwitz-Birkenau. Un récit d'Elena Kravtsoun. 

    Tout d'abord, le visiteur est accueilli par l'exposition "Signes", du photographe russe Egor Zaïka. Les deux parois du corridor étroit affichent des photographies qui éblouissent par leur luminosité et leurs couleurs. Des clichés que le dandy couche abondamment sur pellicule pour leur côté lustré, il n'en extrait que le sens profond. Des maisonnettes inoffensives chapeautées de petits toits de tuiles, des vallées paisibles et un ciel strident qui contient une histoire bien sombre. Le nom de ces lieux évoquent désormais non seulement de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, mais sont synonymes de la pire tragédie dans l'histoire de l'humanité. Durant trois années, Egor Zaïka a photographié ce qu'il reste de l'horreur à Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka, Sobibor et autres camps de la mort, et il ne peut s’arrêter : le sujet est vaste. Des paysages locaux pastoraux illustrant des arbres en fleurs, tels une aquarelle touchante, son associés avec des anémones de mer, de beaux et attirants prédateurs, porteurs de mort, dès que l’on s’approche un peu.

    C'est dans un tel décor que l'on découvre des bâtiments d'usine ordinaires, conçus dans les moindres détails par des architectes allemands à des fins meurtrières. L'architecture de la mort en 15 pages de documentation technique, rédigées avec soin et précision, et dont le manque d'émotion vous met mal à l'aise, a été prêtée à l'exposition par les archives du mémorial israélien de Yad Vashem. Les plans d'Auschwitz-Birkenau ont été trouvés il y a quelques années à Berlin, puis rendus publics. D'après les casernes rectangulaires, des projets de tour de guet, de chambres à gaz, de crématorium et de portes en arc de cercle couchés sur des feuilles jaunies signées Heinrich Himmler, abrégé « HH », vous pouvez recréer l'apparence d'Auschwitz en détail, pour vous rendre compte que l’industrie de la mort a été créée et a grandi, prenant une ampleur industrielle. Le dégoût, qui vous écœure à chaque nouveau détail, n'en est pas moins mêlé à une forme de fatalité. Quand l'homme regarde le tsunami s'approcher du rivage, il n'est déjà plus en mesure de résister à l'inexorabilité fatale. Le nombre atroce de victimes, visible à côté des plans, ne parvient pas tout à fait à nous rendre compte de l'ampleur de la catastrophe, il n’en est pas moins terrible, mais cela reste des chiffres. Tant que l’on ne croise pas le regard de ceux qui auraient pu vivre...


Eux, ces futurs prisonniers des camps de la mort que la police d'immigration photographiera pour leurs registres, avant de les dépersonnaliser et de les priver de leur individualité. Jan Vanriet a parcouru ces photos d'archive en noir et blanc, guidé par son intuition, et s'est mis à peindre des portraits chantant l'inaccessibilité ambiante et les couleurs claires. Ses quarante tableaux composant "Losing Face" révèle la génétique flamande de l’artiste, pensant en gris et en petites formes. Alors que Vanriet se veut sincèrement offrir l'éternité à coup de peinture à l'huile aux héros de ces photographies qui ont péri dans les camps nazis, ses portraits qui défilent les uns après les autres ont un goût de profonde mélancolie, principalement en raison de la monotonie de l’approche. Ainsi, on peut voir des femmes physiquement attirantes, identifiées comme Myriam ou Jeanne, dessinées de manière spectaculaire avec une jolie pose, mais sans avoir la force de s’en souvenir et encore moins de les porter en son cœur. Le portrait d'Abraham est considéré comme une image collective du philosophe juif qui porte des lunettes rondes encerclant toute la poésie de son regard. Des images comme celles-ci, il y en a beaucoup chez Vanriet, et seul le portrait de Sarah contredit les autres, par son hédonisme, son sourire coquin, et sa beauté qui la transforme de victime en conquérante. À un certain moment, tous ces visages deviennent si familiers qu’ils fusionnent en un kaddish récité par des milliers de voix à l’unisson.


Vrijdag 30 januari

    De tragiek van illustraties
"Mens en Ramp" in het Joods Museum 

    Expositie van de geschiedenis 
In het Joods Museum en het Centrum voor Tolerantie is het project “Mens en Ramp” geopend ter gelegenheid van de 70ste gedenkdag van de bevrijding van het concentratiekamp Auschwitz. Het project bestaat uit drie exposities: “Gezichtsverlies” van de Belgische schilder Jan Vanriet, de serie “Tekens” van de Russische fotograaf Yegor Zaika en de expositie “Architectuur van de dood: bouwtekeningen van Auschwitz-Birkenau”. Aan het woord is ELENA KRAVTSUN. 

    De bezoekers worden verwelkomd door de expositie “Tekens” van de Russische fotograaf Yegor Zaika.
Beide wanden van de smalle gang zijn behangen met foto’s die de bezoeker verblinden door felle en rijke kleurschakeringen. Van de zovele foto’s die de dappere Yegor heeft geschoten vanwege de sprankelende plaatjes, onderscheiden ze zich slechts door hun beladen betekenis. Achter die onschuldige huisjes met hun pannendakjes, stille valleien en helderblauwe hemel gaat een afschuwelijk verhaal schuil. De plaatsnamen zijn niet alleen synoniemen geworden voor de Tweede Wereldoorlog, maar ook voor de meest afschrikwekkende tragedies in de geschiedenis van de mensheid. Zaika maakt al drie jaar foto’s van het huidige panorama rond Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka, Sobibor en andere kampen des doods en kan er nog steeds geen genoeg van krijgen, het thema is akelig uitgebreid. De plaatselijke pastorale landschappen met bomen in bloei, waarvan je een vertederende aquarel zou kunnen maken, ga je associëren met zeeanemonen: prachtige lokkende roofdieren die zodra je in hun onmiddellijke nabijheid verkeert, dood en verderf brengen. 
Juist in deze entourage werden de op het oog gewone fabrieksgebouwen door de Duitse architecten tot in het kleinste detail ontworpen voor hun dodelijke doeleinden. De architectuur van de moorden in 15 vellen technische documentatie voor de expositie in Moskou, zorgvuldig en nauwkeurig samengesteld met een onverbiddelijkheid die ongemakkelijk aanvoelt, werd verstrekt door het archief van het Israëlisch herdenkingsinstituut Yad Vashem. De bouwtekeningen van Auschwitz-Birkenau zijn een paar jaar geleden ontdekt in Berlijn en zijn vervolgens publiek domein geworden. Aan de hand van de rechthoekige barakken, de wachttorens, gaskamers, crematoria en de boogvormige poort op de door Heinrich Himmler ondertekende vellen, althans zo wordt de combinatie van de Latijnse letters HH gelezen, kan het aanzicht van Auschwitz tot in detail worden gereconstrueerd en kan worden nagegaan hoe het productiebedrijf van de dood vakkundig werd gebouwd en uitgebreid en werd geïndustrialiseerd voor productie. De walging die zich met ieder nieuw detail verder opdringt, wordt toch vermengd met de fascinatie voor de ramp. Net zoals je bij het kijken naar een naderende tsunami geen weerstand meer kunt bieden aan het niets ontziende onheil. De choquerende aantallen slachtoffers vlak naast de tekeningen kun je toch niet volledig bevatten en blijven, hoewel verschrikkelijk, een getal, zolang je niet oog in oog hebt gestaan met hen die in leven hadden kunnen blijven. 

    Zij die naar de vernietigingskampen werden gedeporteerd, werden voordat zij werden gedepersonaliseerd en met geweld werden beroofd van hun individualiteit, door de stedelijke vreemdelingenpolitie gefotografeerd voor hun dossier. Naar aanleiding van die zwart-wit foto’s uit het archief is de Belg Jan Vanriet intuïtief portretten gaan schilderen, waarmee hij het steeds terugkerende gemis en de zuivere kleuren vertolkt. 

    In zijn veertig schilderijen getiteld “Gezichtsverlies” manifesteert hij zich als een genetische Vlaming die denkt in series en kleine vormen. Ondanks zijn goede bedoelingen om de in de kampen gestorven personages op de foto’s te vereeuwigen in olieverf op doek, maken zijn schilderijen één voor één wel een dodelijk verlangen los, niet in de laatste plaats door de eentonigheid van zijn schilderstijl. 

    Het lijkt wel of lichamelijk aantrekkelijke vrouwen, aangeduid als Miriam of Janna, dramatisch en theatraal zijn neergezet, maar je hebt de kracht niet om ze te onthouden of ze in je hart te sluiten. Het portret van Abraham wordt gezien als het collectieve beeld van de filosoferende jood met een rond brilletje en een poëtische distinctie in zijn blik, en zo zijn er heel wat in de serie van Vanriet, en alleen de afbeelding van Sara botst met alle anderen door haar gelukzalige, flirtende glimlach, waardoor zij dankzij haar schoonheid verandert van een slachtoffer in iemand die de situatie meester is. Op enig moment worden al deze gezichten zo vertrouwd dat zij samenvloeien in één archetypisch kaddisj-monument. 

 Jan Vanriet: ik heb deze mensen door mijn portretten een nieuw leven gegeven. 

    Op de Internationale Herdenkingsdag voor de Holocaust is in het Joods Museum en Centrum voor Tolerantie in Moskou de expositie “Gezichtsverlies” geopend van de Belgische schilder JAN VANRIET.
 De schilder heeft de expositie persoonlijk getoond aan ELENA KRAVTSUN en heeft haar vragen beantwoord.


Krant "Kommersant" №15 van 30.01.2015, pag. 11

  • Jan Vanriet | En Bref, by Claude Lorent | La Libre






    Article rédigé par SAM STEVERLYNCK

    Après le succès de l’exposition ‘Losing face’ à la Kazerne Dossin à Malines, l’exposition de Jan Vanriet se déplace à Moscou. Parmi les nombreux intéressés, et non des moindres, le président Vladimir Poutine.

    Même si Vladimir Poutine était sans doute le grand absent à la cérémonie commémorative du soixante-dixième anniversaire de la libération du camp de Auschwitz-Birkenau, il n’aurait pas voulu laisser passer l’occasion de commémorer l’événement. Dans son propre pays, il a ainsi rendu visite au Musée juif et Centre de tolérance, avec ses 8’000 m² le plus grand musée juif au monde. Le musée fut inauguré il y a deux ans dans un ancien dépôt de bus, dessiné en 1926 dans un style constructiviste par Konstantin Melnikov. Avant cela, il abritait dans ‘The Garage’, un musée privé et domaine de prédilection de l’épouse de l’oligarque Roman Abramovich qui, tout comme Poutine, a royalement investi dans le Musée juif. Hormis une exposition permanente et interactive sur l’histoire du judaïsme, s’y dérouleront des expositions temporaires. Parmi celles-ci, l’exposition ‘Losing Face’ de Jan Vanriet.
    Comment l’artiste est-il arrivé jusqu’à Moscou? « A l’origine, un collectionneur russe très enthousiaste à propos de mon œuvre avait partagé son enthousiasme avec quelques personnes clés dans le monde de l’art. Et à partir de là le projet a fait son chemin jusqu’à m’inviter à Moscou », raconte Vanriet à la presse, largement représentée. « Le musée répondait aussi à l’endroit idéal. Pour le soixante-dixième anniversaire de la libération d’Auschwitz on était à la recherche de quelque chose de spécial. En 2017, l’exposition s’ouvrira sous une autre configuration au Musée juif de Varsovie. »

    Des visages uniques
    La Deuxième Guerre mondiale est un sujet important dans l’œuvre de l’artiste. Ceci s’explique par des raisons autobiographiques : son père comme sa mère faisaient activement partie de la résistance, ce qui leur valut d’être internés dans le camp de concentration de Mauthausen. C’est là qu’ils ont appris à se connaître et qu’ils ont décidé de se marier après la libération, une romance impossible. C’est aussi à cela que réfère Vanriet dans la série ‘The Contract’, qui sera exposée à la Roberto Polo Gallery à Bruxelles à partir de la semaine prochaine. Dans une série de onze tableaux, l’artiste reprend à chaque fois la même photo d’archives avec ses parents faisant quelques pas de danse. ‘Losing Face’ est, quant à elle, sa série la plus étendue sur le thème de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. La série est basée sur une publication d’environ vingt mille photos de portraits de juifs et de tziganes envoyés à Auschwitz à partir de la Kazerne Dossin. A partir de celles-ci Vanriet a réalisé quelque soixante-dix tableaux et autant de dessins. Parmi ceux-ci, 36 portraits sont exposés à Moscou, qui sont à leur tour complétés par d’autres œuvres. Les portraits sont pour Vanriet une manière de rendre un visage aux victimes. L’impression de retenue que produit la série se traduit aussi dans la palette de couleurs restreintes. Certains portraits sont rendus de manière détaillée, tandis que d’autres sont restés à l’état d’esquisse. Les personnes dont il a tiré le portrait sont à chaque fois représentées de manière unique. Ce sont ainsi des individus avec chacun leur propre histoire. Certains portent des noms typiquement juifs tels que Israël, Isaak ou Abraham, d’autres s’appellent simplement Hans ou Wolfgang.
    « Comment avez-vous opéré votre sélection? » s’enquiert un journaliste de TV Russia 1. « Quand j’étais en train de feuilleter ces livres de photos, il m’a semblé que c’était comme si j’avais déjà rencontré certaines personnes en rue ou au café. Certaines d’entre elles me fascinaient pourtant plus que d’autres, mais j’ai surtout pensé à réaliser un bon tableau, » explique Vanriet.

    L’exposition n’est cependant pas une réédition de l’exposition à Malines. Vanriet a opéré une autre sélection en fonction de la scénographie spécialement conçue par le célèbre architecte russo-allemand Sergei Tchoban, qui s’était inspiré de l’œuvre clé ‘Portrait of an Uncle’. Le tableau représente un crématoire en forme d’accordéon. La cheminée et les rails confèrent au tableau des associations lugubres avec un camp de concentration. L’œuvre réfère à l’oncle de Vanriet, un résistant et joueur d’accordéon qui a été déporté dans un camp à l’âge de dix-huit ans. Tchoban a repris la forme d’un accordéon ouvert pour sa scénographie. Les parois, dont chacune compte un seul portrait, constituent une espèce de forme en escalier qui devient de plus en plus étroit jusqu’à aboutir en un V inversé à ‘Portrait of an uncle’. L’œuvre centrale capte entièrement le regard. La scénographie particulière élève l’ensemble à ce qu’on pourrait appeler une œuvre d’art totale. C’est un monument, un îlot de calme et de réflexion, loin des foules et du chaos de Moscou. Epoustouflant !

    Jan Vanriet, ‘Losing Face’, jusqu’au 1/03 au Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Moscow. ‘Vanity’, du 6/02 au 19/04 à la Roberto Polo Gallery, Bruxelles.



    Following the success of the exhibit 'Losing Face' in the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen (Belgium), the Jan Vanriet exhibition is now traveling on to Moscow.

    Among the many interested none other than Vladimir Putin. Jan Vanriet before his portraits in Moscow. The accordion structure of the installation has been borrowed from the central work (below).

    Vladimir Putin might have been the notable absentee at the commemoration ceremony of the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, he nevertheless would not miss the opportunity to commemorate the event. He did so in his own country with a visit to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, with its 8,000 m² the largest Jewish museum in the world. The museum opened two years ago in a former bus depot, designed in 1926 in constructivist style by Konstantin Melnikov. Previously it housed in The Garage, a private museum and vocation of the wife of oligarch Roman Abramovich, who, just as Putin, generously funded the Jewish Museum. In addition to a permanent, interactive exhibition about the history of Judaism, there are also temporary exhibitions. And thus now the exhibition Losing Face by Jan Vanriet.
    How on earth did the artist end up in Moscow? 'A Russian collector who was very enthusiastic about my work has told it around here to people who mean something in the art world. So the plan has grown to bring me to Moscow tells Vanriet under great press interest. 'This museum turned out to be the perfect location. And for the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz something special was wanted. In 2017 the exhibition will travels in an expanded version to the Jewish Museum in Warsaw.'

    Unique faces
    The Second World War is an important subject in the artist's oeuvre. And this also has autobiographical reasons. Both his father and his mother were active in the resistance movement, which made them end up in the concentration camp of Mauthausen. They got to know each other there and married after the liberation. An impossible romance. Vanriet also refers to this in the series 'The Contract', as of next week on view in Brussels at Roberto Polo Gallery. In a polyptych of eleven paintings the artist repeatedly reuses the same archive photograph of his dancing parents. But Losing Face is his most extensive series around the Second World War. The series is based on a publication of about twenty thousand portrait photographs of Jews and gypsies who were sent to Auschwitz from the Dossin Barracks. Vanriet made seventy odd paintings and as many drawings of these. In Moscow 36 portraits are now on view, supplemented with other works. For Vanriet the portraits are a way to give back a face to the victims. The subdued atmosphere of the series also translates into a restrained color palette. Some portraits are rendered in detail, others more sketchily. The portrayed are always rendered in a unique way. They are one by one individuals with their own story. Some have typically Jewish names like Israël, Isaak or Abraham, others are called simply Hans or Wolfgang.
    'How did you make the selection?' a female journalist from TV Russia 1 wants to know. 'When I leafed through those books with photographs, it almost seemed as if I had already met some people in the street or a café. Some persons are simply more fascinating to you than others. But in the first place it has to yield a good painting', says Vanriet.

    The exhibition however is not a remake of his exhibition in Mechelen. Vanriet made a different selection in function of the scenography especially designed by the well-known Russian-German architect Sergei Tchoban. He was inspired by the key work 'Portrait of an Uncle'. The painting shows a crematorium in the form of an accordion. By means of the chimney and the rails it calls up grisly associations with a concentration camp. The work refers to an uncle of Vanriet, a resistance fighter and accordion player who landed as 18-year old in a camp. Tchoban reused the form of an unfolded accordion for his scenography. The walls, each carrying one portrait, form a kind of ever narrowing staircase form ending in a reverse V looking onto 'Portrait on an Uncle'. The central work pulls your view in. The special scenography lifts the totality to what nearly resembles a total work of art. It becomes a monument, an island of rest and reflection, far away from the bustle of chaotic Moscow. Breathtaking!

    Jan Vanriet, ‘Losing Face’, till 1/03 in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Moscow. ‘Vanriet I Vanity’, from 6/02 to 19/04 in Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels.

  • "Jan Vanriet shows the horror without shocking", by Eric Rinckout | De Morgen



    « Jan Vanriet expose l’horreur sans choquer »
    Moscou impressionnée par les portraits de l’Holocauste du peintre belge au Musée juif.


    Jan Vanriet face aux portraits qu’il réalisa de ceux qui n’ont pas survécu à l’Holocauste. « Je leur rends un visage.”

    Exactement soixante-dix ans après la libération des camps nazis, le peintre belge Jan Vanriet expose quarante tableaux évoquant l’Holocauste au Musée juif de Moscou. « L’exposition traite de persécutions et de terreur, autrefois et de nos jours ».
    « Aujourd’hui encore, des hommes sont persécutés pour ce qu’ils pensent et ce qu’ils sont. J’espère que ce message sera compris. Par Poutine aussi.

    La presse russe dans son ensemble s’intéresse à l’exposition « Losing Face » de Jan Vanriet (66) au Musée juif de Moscou. Entre-temps le président Poutine lui-même a rendu visite à l’exposition.
    Jan Vanriet expose quarante tableaux principalement d’hommes, de femmes et d’enfants juifs qui, au cours de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, furent déportés de la Kaserne Dossin de Malines vers le camp d’extermination d’Auschwitz-Birkenau. Entre 1942 et 1944, au total 25’484 Juifs et 252 Tsiganes sont partis de Malines. Sur la base de photos récupérées, Vanriet rend à ces victimes un nom et un visage : ainsi il rompt l’anonymat et annule la Vernichtung que les nazis ont cherché à atteindre.

    Sujet tabou
    Vladimir Ostroverkhov, qui fut à l’initiative de l’exposition à Moscou, avait vu les portraits de l’Holocauste de Vanriet à Malines et en était resté fortement impressionné. « J’étais convaincu qu’il fallait exposer ces œuvres à Moscou. Le Musée juif est l’endroit idéal pour cela. Il reste à Moscou une communauté juive très importante (600.000 sur une population de 11,5 millions d’habitants) et la problématique de l’Holocauste y est toujours vivante ». « Dans bien des familles juives parler de l’Holocauste était impossible » réagit Vanriet. « On voulait tout simplement recommencer une nouvelle vie en taisant, voire en oubliant les drames trop douloureux. Dans ma propre famille ce n’était pas le cas. Ma mère et mon père, qui s’étaient connus dans le camp de concentration de Mauthausen, ont divulgué leur histoire et ont activement participé à des congrès internationaux. J’ai grandi avec leurs récits atroces des camps. »
    Ostroverkhov se félicite de l’approche de Vanriet : « L’Holocauste est une tragédie humaine. Pourtant, Jan ne montre pas des tas de cadavres, le visiteur n’est pas effrayé. Ses superbes tableaux traduisent une manière non agressive de montrer ce qui s’est passé. Les Russes sont suffisamment sensibles pour comprendre son message ».
    Poutine aussi a visité l’exposition de Vanriet, aux côtés de deux rabbins.
    Mardi soir, à l’improviste, le président Vladimir Poutin rendit visite à l’exposition de Jan Vanriet au Musée juif, sans toutefois rencontrer l’artiste. Sa visite faisait suite à la controverse née en Russie à l’occasion de la commémoration du soixante-dixième anniversaire de la libération des camps de concentration. Poutine n’avait pas été invité à la cérémonie qui avait eu lieu à Auschwitz (Pologne). De plus, le ministre des Affaires étrangères polonais, Grzegorz Schetyna, avait déclaré la semaine précédente que ce n’étaient pas les Russes mais bien les Ukrainiens qui avaient libéré Auschwitz. Une remarque nullement innocente à la lumière des relations actuelles particulièrement tendues entre la Russie et l’Ukraine. Entre-temps The Moscow Times annonça que le camp fut libéré par un bataillon de l’Armée rouge, sous le commandement du major soviétique Shapiro, un Juif ukrainien, à l’époque citoyen soviétique. Au lieu d’Auschwitz, le président Poutine rendit visite au Musée juif de Moscou, où il déclara : « Il y a toujours des tentatives pour diviser l’humanité sur des bases ethniques, raciales ou religieuses. » Et il alluma des bougies à la mémoire des victimes de l’Holocauste.
    Avec les portraits, Jan Vanriet souhaite « donner une seconde vie » aux personnes assassinées : « Je leur donne une nouvelle identité, de sorte qu’elles soient à nouveau présentes. Le titre ‘Losing Face’ concerne aussi l’ensemble de l’humanité qui, avec de semblables cruautés, lui fait perdre la face » déclare le peintre. « Cette exposition traite de la cruauté et de la terreur au cours de la Deuxième guerre mondiale, mais aussi de nos jours. Aujourd’hui encore des hommes sont persécutés pour ce qu’ils pensent et ce qu’ils sont. J’espère que le message sera entendu, y compris par le président Poutine. Mais je suis plutôt pessimiste. On ne tire jamais les leçons de l’histoire. »
    Le soixante-dixième anniversaire de la libération des camps et la controverse qu’il déclencha ont suscité un vif intérêt dans la presse russe pour l’artiste Jan Vanriet et son exposition, allant des journaux comme Isvestia, Kommersant, The Moscow Times et The Art Newspaper Russia, jusqu’aux chaînes de télévision et des sites d’info comme TV Russia, MIR et Smyrna. « Je suis complètement subjugué. Je ne savais pas à quoi m’attendre » nous livre l’artiste.

    Assez d’œuvres choquantes
    Pourtant Vladimir Ostroverkhov estime qu’il y a plus. « Il y a à Moscou un très vif intérêt pour l’art contemporain et, plus particulièrement, pour l’art en provenance de l’Europe occidentale. On y trouve de grands collectionneurs qui disposent d’importants capitaux. Jan Vanriet est un nom nouveau, qui suscite indéniablement une grande curiosité. En outre, bien des amateurs d’art en ont assez de l’art choquant, ostentatoire. L’art de Jan Vanriet choque lui aussi, mais en douceur et avec délicatesse ».
    De plus, l’exposition a lieu au Musée juif, un musée ultramoderne, qui a ouvert ses portes en 2012, qui est très populaire, stimulant et qui propose toutes sortes de nouveautés en matière d’interactivité. Il raconte l’histoire de deux cents ans de vie juive en Russie, et les pogroms n’y sont nullement occultés. Le musée est abrité dans un ancien dépôt de bus datant de 1927, conçu par les architectes modernistes Melnikov et Shukov. Pendant quelque temps, le bâtiment a fait office de centre d’art contemporain, « The Garage », pour le pétromilliardaire Roman Abramovitsj, propriétaire entre autres du club de foot Chelsea . Il fit restaurer le bâtiment il y a quelques années.
    La scénographie de l’exposition de Vanriet est entre les mains de l’architecte russe Sergei Tchoban, créateur de la plus haute tour de Moscou. Son concept très astucieux donne lieu à une expérience sobre mais oppressante et à un jeu subtil avec les trois cents noms sur les murs.
    Grâce à Vanriet, Samuel, Baruch, Abraham, Jeanne et Ida on retrouvé un visage. Pour qu’on ne les oublie jamais.

    L’exposition ‘Losing Face’ se tient jusqu’au 1er mars. La semaine prochaine la grande exposition ‘Vanriet I Vanity’ montre de nouvelles œuvres de Vanriet à la Roberto Polo Gallery à Bruxelles.

    "Jan Vanriet shows the horror without shocking"

    Moscow impressed by Holocaust portraits by the Belgian painter in the Jewish Museum

    Jan Vanriet in front of the portraits he made of people who didn't survive the Holocaust. 'I give them back a face.'
    Exactly seventy years following the liberation of the Nazi camps the Belgian painter, Jan Vanriet, shows forty paintings about the Holocaust in the Jewish Museum of Moscow. "The exhibition is about persecution and terror, then and now."
    “People continue to be persecuted for what they think and who they are. I hope one understands this message. And Putin also.” Jan Vanriet

    The Russian press pays massive attention to the exhibition Losing Face of Jan Vanriet (66) in the Jewish Museum of Moscow. Meanwhile even the Russian president Putin visited the exhibition. Jan Vanriet shows forty paintings of mainly Jewish men, women and children, who during World War II were deported from the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen (Belgium) to the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In total 25,484 Jews and 252 gypsies were put on transport from Mechelen between 1942 and 1944. On the basis of recovered photographs Vanriet gives these victims again a face and a name: thus he breaches the anonymity and undoes the annihilation the Nazi's strove for.

    Vladimir Ostroverkhov, initiator of the exhibition in Moscow, had seen the Vanriet Holocaust portraits in Mechelen and was heavily impressed. "In my opinion we had to bring these works to Moscow. The Jewish Museum is the perfect place for this. Moscow still has a very large Jewish community (600,000 on a population of 11,5 million) and the Holocaust issues are still alive."
    "In rather a lot of Jewish families, the Holocaust was unmentionable", reacts Jan Vanriet. "One simply wanted to start a new life and conceal and forget the painful dramas. In my family this was different. My mother and father, who met in the concentration camp of Mauthausen, disseminated their stories and actively participated in international congresses. I grew up with their horrific camp stories."
    Ostroverkhov praises Vanriet's approach: "The Holocaust is a human tragedy. But Jan doesn't show piles of corpses, the viewer isn't scared away. His magnificent paintings are a non-aggressive way to show what happened. The Russians are sufficiently sensitive to understand his message."

    Putin visited the Jewish Museum on the side of two rabbis.
    Also Putin looks at Vanriet Russian president Vladimir Putin quite unexpectedly visited the Jewish Museum and Jan Vanriet's exhibition Tuesday evening, without meeting the artist however. That visit was a result of the controversy that has arisen in Russia about the commemoration of 70 year liberation of the concentration camps. Putin had not been invited to the ceremony held the day before yesterday in Auschwitz (Poland). Moreover, Polish Foreign Minister, Grzegorz Schetyna, declared last week it was Ukrainians and not Russians who liberated Auschwitz. No innocent remark in light of the tense relations between Russia and Ukraine. The newspaper The Moscow Times meanwhile reported that the camp was liberated by a battalion of the Red Army, led by Soviet Major Shapiro, a Jewish Ukrainian, but then a Soviet citizen. Instead of Auschwitz president Putin visited the Jewish Museum in Moscow, where he declared that "there are again and again attempts to divide humanity on the basis of ethnic, racial and religious grounds". He lit candles to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.
    With the portraits, Jan Vanriet wants to give the murdered people "a second life": "I give them a new identity, now they are present again." The title Losing Face also implies "the whole of humanity loosing its face with such atrocities", the painter says. "This exhibition is about atrocity and terror, in the Second World War and now. Still people are persecuted for what they think and who they are. I hope this message will be understood, even by president Putin. But I am rather pessimistic. No lessons are learned from history." The seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the camps and the surrounding controversy made for massive press interest in artist Jan Vanriet and his exhibition - from newspapers as Isvestia, Kommersant, The Moscow Times and The Art Newspaper Russia to TV stations and news sites as TV Russia, MIR and Smyrna. "I'm completely overwhelmed", the artist says. "I had no idea what to expect."

    Shocked enough
    But there is more to it, says Vladimir Ostroverkhov. "In Moscow there is great interest in contemporary art and certainly for art from Western Europe. We have big, wealthy collectors. Jan Vanriet is a new name, therefore the curiosity. Moreover, many art lovers are sick of shocking and overwhelming art. The art of Jan Vanriet shocks, but in a soft, beautiful way."
    Furthermore the exhibition takes place in the Jewish Museum, an ultramodern and wildly popular experiential museum with all manner of new interactive gadgetry that opened in 2012. It tells the story of two hundred years of Jewish life in Russia whereby the pogroms not go unmentioned. The museum is located in a former bus depot from 1927, a design by the modernist architects Melnikov and Shukov. The depot for a time served as The Garage, a centre for contemporary art of the oil billionaire Roman Abramovitsj, inter alia the owner of football club Chelsea, who restored the building in previous years.
    The scenography of Vanriet's exhibition is from the hand of the Russian architect Sergei Tchoban, designer of the highest tower in Moscow. His sophisticated concept ensures an austere, haunting experience and a subtle play with three hundred first names of Holocaust victims on the walls.
    Samuel, Baruch, Abraham, Jeanne and Ida got, thanks to Jan Vanriet, a face again. Thus they will never be forgotten.

    The exhibition 'Losing Face' runs until March 1st. Next week, the large exhibition Vanriet I Vanity opens with new work by Jan Vanriet at Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels.

  • Jan Vanriet | 'Holocaust Exhibit Gives Faces to the Victims' by Layli Foroudi | THE MOSCOW TIMES



    Holocaust Exhibit Gives Faces to the Victims By Layli Foroudi | Jan. 28 2015 Jan Vanriet / Jewish MuseumThe portrait of Holocaust victim in Jan Vanriet series “Losing Faces.” Visitors to the new exhibit at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre enter through a dark corridor. Hundreds of names are written in different shades of gray on walls and seem to fade in and out of the darkness. In the exhibit itself, some names of Holocaust victims are given faces in portraits by Belgian artist Jan Vanriet. "Each painting is an individual," said Vanriet. "It is the personality that dictates the painting." The exhibit, called "Man and Catastrophe," opened Tuesday to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and brings together the portraits of Vanriet, modern landscapes of concentration camp areas by Russian photographer Yegor Zaika and blueprints and documents from Auschwitz. "Each part of the exhibit puts forward the Holocaust from a different point of view: [from the] murder, the victim and today's perspective," said curator Maria Nasimova. Jan Vanriet / Jewish Museum One part of the exhibit, called the "Architecture of Death," shows how Auschwitz was designed by the Nazis. Nasimova called it the most "most important part of the exhibition for her" as it showed how the "machine for murder" was created and how the Nazis were "humans who surrendered their morality." President Vladimir Putin was one of those to attend the exhibit opening. Vanriet's pictures are of people whose mug shots are now held in the Kazerne Dossin archive which stores documents related to the Holocaust in Belgium and northern France. "These are portraits from the past, but they are also portraits for today, as people are still persecuted for what they believe and for being who they are," said Vanriet in a speech at the opening. Many of the people depicted in the paintings, made between 2009 and 2012, are originally from Eastern Europe and Russia and Vanriet said that was important to him. "Their roots are here. It is an honor to return them to where they are from." Vanriet's series is called "Losing Face" and these paintings, said Anna Treskunova, executive director of the museum, document the loss of character, the loss of lives and the loss of the faces of these people. "It returns these faces and these people and it reminds us that they are humans," said Treskunova. Jan Vanriet / Jewish Museum The museum, as its name suggests, is in part dedicated to building bridges between all people. Similarly, the exhibit contains a universality, depicting the Holocaust as a crime concerning all of humanity. "Everyone can relate to it because it is art," Nasimova explained, "how people react to it will be different, for example a child will understand a painting differently to an adult." The brightly colored photography of Zaika show how areas connected to the Holocaust —Auschwitz, Lublin, Treblinka — look today. "Every since childhood I thought and drew about the second world war. It was part of my upbringing," he said, "As an adult, I wanted to present a current and living picture. We live in color and so this should be presented in color too." The photos show scenes which could be anywhere and Zaika writes by the photos that the "lack of a specific reminder should serve as remembrance." The everyday can be infused with impending death, he writes, as when the Nazis would play music in camps or place a banal object in a room to lull victims into a sense of security. The museum has a host of events to accompany the exhibit, including film shows and concerts with music composed by those who died in the camps. "Man and Catastrophe" runs until March 1. Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre. 11 Ulitsa Obraztsova. Metro Marina Roshcha. Tel. 495-645

  • Vanriet in Jewish Museum Moscow, by FRANK HEIRMAN | Gazet van Antwerpen



  • Jan Vanriet | “It may be that people will be able to learn lessons from the past”, by DARYA PALATKINA | The Art Newspaper Russia




    The Art Newspaper

    Moscow, Russia

    Jan Vanriet, “It may be that people will be able to learn lessons from the past”


    The project “Man and Catastrophe” has opened in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, timed for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the prisoners from Auschwitz concentration camp. It includes three exhibitions: "Losing Face" by the Belgian artist Jan Vanriet, the series "Signs" by the Russian photographer Egor Zaika, and also the exhibition "Architecture of Death: drawings of Auschwitz (Oswiecim)-Birkenau". Just before the opening, I talked to Jan Vanriet, the author of a series of portraits of concentration camp prisoners and the founder of Belgian narrative art, about his project, family memories and the renaissance of art based on history.

    The press release for your exhibition says that you are the founder of narrative art. Could you tell us what you mean by this concept?

    First of all, I am, of course, not an art critic and not a theoretician of art, but I can say that I have always been an artist for whom the content of a picture is important. When I was a student in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in the late 1960s, my teachers created abstract works, and they could not understand why, among their students, there were people who wanted to paint pictures with a story. Then I told them that I am a literary artist. It may be that I said this in a challenging way, and now I am marked with a sort of brand as a narrative artist. At that time narrative art was not considered something “high” and, in general, in the 1970s in Belgium many people declared that painting was dead because of the tsunami of conceptual art which had crashed down. Only a few people continued to work in painting and resisted this trend with the help of narrative, and I am one of the survivors. We are now observing the return of narrative art, and it is more topical than ever.

    How did the idea of your project “Losing face” arise?

    I think that the idea arose in 2008. In 2010 the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp, which has a world famous collection of works of Rubens and many others, was closed for reconstruction (apparently it is going to open in 2018). So, they asked me to have a last exhibition, in which my works would be combined with the museum’s collection. This exhibition ended with the first works of the “Losing Face” series. They were displayed in the hall opposite enormous rooms with full-scale Rubens canvasses. In one of the two halls I put two works, each 4 m in size — “black pictures”, in which only flaming torches were depicted, referring to the Nazi marches in Germany in 1933. In the present exhibition there will also be a “black picture”, 3 m high, in which only stones are depicted. We included these pictures in the exhibition then, because I think that the works of Rubens, Jordaens and others are propaganda: they demonstrated the strength of Catholicism as compared with Protestantism. Thus I displayed the work with flaming torches and the work with stones, which refers to the Jewish tradition of placing stones on graves. This was the beginning of the “Losing Face” series

    Could you tell us about its concept in greater detail?

    Since the 1980s I have been regularly creating works connected to history, especially the Second World War. Another important theme of my pictures was that of artists’ attitudes to politics. I painted many portraits of German artists, popular singers and actors, who collaborated with the Nazis, and of those who could not work at that time, those who were sent to the concentration camps. At that time I already knew about the existence of an archive of 20,000 photographs from the cases of people who had gone through the transit camp [in Belgium], and I had the idea of making a series of their portraits — not all of them, of course! It would be impossible to do all of them, but many of those who were deported and died in the concentration camps, because in my country, as in others, the memory of these events is disappearing. Fewer and fewer people remain who know about what happened then; and there is also the fact that the Belgians themselves took part in the deportations, and these are among the main reasons why I wanted to raise this question. When one begins to paint, there exists not only the historical aspect, but also the need to express oneself in art in a consistent way, in a good sense, — that is the second level. It is on this level, also, that such questions are decided as, for example, from what side to approach the work, what to do with it and in what form.

    Your parents went through the camps. How has this affected your creative work, and, in particular, this project?

    I grew up with the knowledge of my family’s history and I have to say that I do not consider it a very good educational approach to take children to concentration camps and to films about all these atrocities. When I was a young artist, I was involved in many processes, including political ones, but I decided to leave this theme out of my creative work. I wanted my works to be lighter. This was a time in life, the 1960s, the time of the Beatles, and I particularly liked the British pop art of Peter Blake, David Hockney, Richard Hamilton — it is much lighter than its American equivalent, and, in addition, they are both very narrative. That is, I excluded all painful themes from my creative work, they were present in my personal life, but not in my art. And it was very strange when I once created a work about the oppression of artists and two days later I painted “Portrait of an Uncle”, which will also be in the exhibition. This was in the mid 1980s. And this event was the key which opened the door to my new self-expression, reflection of my family’s history and things like that. I needed to be a sufficiently mature person to make such works — I was about 40. I was helped by the fact that at that time I painted very many — really an enormous number — of portraits of Mayakovsky, which also express the artist’s attitude to society. In this series it has all come together: politics, history and my personal past.

    What do you think, will this project be topical for Russia at the present time, and why?

    There are people who think that art can change the world. I consider that is too pretentious and quite naive. I only hope that art can enlighten the world. It may be that people will be able to learn lessons from what happened, but I do not know.

    Sergei Tchoban was the architect of the exhibition of your works.
    Please tell me how the work went and what was done.

    I met Sergei in Antwerp and was immediately inspired by one of his suggestions, because it was not just the concept of an interior in which paintings were hanging, but an object which emphasised the idea of the series and was a work in itself. I also very much liked the reference to the picture “Portrait of an Uncle” (it shows the accordion, which my uncle, who died after the concentration camp, used to play, lying flat – it looks like a crematorium). Sergei was inspired by this form, it turned out to be an object turned inwards, from the outside of which you cannot see the paintings, but, as soon as you go inside, the portraits look at you when you move forward, and, when you turn back, they look at you again.


    The Art Newspaper Russia

    Jan Vanriet : « Les gens parviendront peut-être à tirer des leçons du passé. »

    Texte : Darya Palatkina

    Le Musée juif et Centre de tolérance de Moscou vient d'inaugurer le projet « L'Homme et la catastrophe », un hommage à l'occasion du 70e anniversaire de la libération d'Auschwitz. Trois expositions font parties de ce projet : ‘Losing Face’ du peintre belge Jan Vanriet, la série ‘Signes’ du photographe russe Egor Zaïka, ainsi que l'exposition ‘Architecture de la mort : les plans d'Auschwitz-Birkenau’. La vieille de l'inauguration, le mensuel The Art Newspaper Russia s'est entretenu avec Jan Vanriet, auteur d'une série de portraits de prisonniers de camps de concentration et créateur de la peinture narrative belge, au sujet de son projet, des souvenirs de sa famille et du renouveau de la peinture porteuse d'histoire.

    - Le dossier de presse de votre exposition vous présente comme le créateur de la peinture narrative. Pourriez-vous expliquer ce que signifie ce concept ?

    Avant toute chose, je dois dire que je ne suis bien évidemment ni un critique d'art ni un théoricien, mais je peux dire que j'ai toujours été un artiste qui accordait beaucoup d'importance à ce que contiennent les tableaux. Quand j'étais étudiant à l'Académie royale des beaux-arts d'Anvers, à la fin des années 1960, mes professeurs ne créaient que des œuvres abstraites et ne pouvaient comprendre pourquoi parmi les étudiants, l'un d'entre eux voulait absolument peindre des tableaux qui racontent une histoire. Alors je leur ai dit que j'étais un peintre littéraire. Peut-être l'ai-je dit de manière provocatrice, et maintenant on me colle une étiquette d'artiste narratif. À l’époque, la peinture narrative n’était pas considérée comme noble, et en général, dans les années 1970 en Belgique, nombres de personnes ont déclaré la peinture morte parce qu'elle a été frappée de plein fouet par l'art conceptuel. Seules quelques personnes ont continué à peindre et à résister à cette tendance en utilisant le récit. Et moi, je suis l'un de ces survivants. Aujourd'hui, on assiste au retour de l'art narratif, il est plus actuel que jamais.
    - Quand a surgi l'idée du projet « Losing Face » ?

    Je dirais qu'elle est apparue en 2008. En 2010, le Musée royal des beaux-arts d'Anvers, qui détient des collections de Rubens et d'autres peintres connus dans le monde entier, a fermé ses portes pour rénovation (à ce qu'il paraît, il devrait les rouvrir en 2018). Ils m'ont demandé de mettre sur pied une dernière exposition qui rejoindrait les autres œuvres du musée. Cette exposition se clôturait par les premiers portraits de la série Losing Face. Ceux-ci étaient présentés en face de murs gigantesques où étaient exposées les toiles monumentales de Rubens. Dans l'une des deux salles, j'avais exposé deux tableaux de 4 mètres chacun, des « tableaux noirs », qui représentaient uniquement des flambeaux, pour faire référence aux marches des nazis en Allemagne en 1933. Dans cette nouvelle exposition, il sera également question d'un « tableau noir », d'une hauteur de 3 mètres, qui ne représentera que des pierres. À l'époque, nous avions inclus ces peintures dans l'exposition parce que j’attribue une dimension de propagande à l'œuvre de Rubens, de Jordaens et d'autres : ils démontraient toute la puissance du catholicisme face au protestantisme. De cette manière, j'ai exposé le tableau illustrant des flambeaux, des pierres, des symboles liés à la tradition juive de placer des pierres sur les tombes. Ce fut les prémices de la série Losing Face.
    - Pourriez-vous nous en raconter plus sur sa conception ?

    À partir des années 1980, j'ai commencé à intégrer l'histoire à mon travail de manière récurrente, et principalement la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Par ailleurs, l'autre thème important qui transparaît dans mes tableaux était la relation entre artistes et politique. J'ai peint de nombreux portraits d'artistes, de chanteurs populaires et d'acteurs allemands, ceux qui ont collaboré avec les nazis, et ceux qui n'ont pas pu travailler durant cette période et ont été envoyés dans des camps de concentration. À ce moment-là je connaissais déjà l'existence de plus de 20 000 photographies d'archive représentants des hommes et des femmes qui ont transité dans un camp en Belgique, et c'est là que j'ai eu l'idée d'en faire toute une série de portraits – pas de chaque personne évidemment ! – c'était impossible, mais de nombre d'entre elles qui ont été déportées et ont perdu la vie dans des camps de concentration parce que dans mon pays, comme dans d'autres, les gens ont tendance à oublier. Il reste de moins en moins de personnes qui savent ce qu'il s'est passé avec exactitude à cette époque ; il faut dire aussi que des belges eux-mêmes ont participé aux déportations, c'est d'ailleurs l'une des principales raisons qui m'a poussé à soulever la question. Lorsque vous commencez à peindre, votre esquisse ne porte pas seulement sur l'aspect historique, mais également sur la nécessité d'une expression artistique cohérente, dans le bon sens du terme – c’est un second niveau. C'est également lors de ce même second niveau que l'on discute de questions telles que la façon d'aborder le travail, qu'en faire et sous quelle forme ?
    - Vos parents ont été déportés dans des camps. En quoi cet épisode a-t-il influencé votre œuvre, et en particulier sur ce projet ?

    J'ai grandi en connaissant l'histoire de ma famille et je dois dire que je ne trouve pas très pédagogique d'emmener des enfants voir des camps de concentration et des films relatant ces atrocités. Quand j'étais jeune et déjà artiste, je m'impliquais dans de nombreux domaines, y compris en politique, mais j'ai décidé de laisser ce thème en dehors de mon art. Je voulais que mes tableaux soient plus légers. C'était une époque animée, les années 1960, les Beatles, j'aimais particulièrement le pop-art britannique de Peter Blake, David Hockney, ou encore Richard Hamilton : beaucoup plus léger que le pop-art américain, mais quoiqu'il en soit, les deux sont très narratifs. Donc j'ai exclu tous les sujets difficiles de mon œuvre, ils étaient présents dans ma vie privée, mais pas dans mon art. Et ce fut très étrange lorsqu'un jour, j'ai dessiné un tableau sur l'oppression des artistes et deux jours plus tard, j'ai peint le Portrait d'un oncle, qui est également exposé à Moscou. C'était dans les années 1980. Cet événement a été la clé qui m’a ouvert la porte d'une nouvelle expression de soi, un reflet de l'histoire de ma famille, et ainsi de suite. Il faut être suffisamment mature pour réaliser de tels tableaux ; j'avais environ 40 ans. Ce qui m'a aidé, c'est qu'à cette époque, je peignais de très nombreux – et c’est peu de le dire – portraits de Maïakovski, qui exprimaient également les liens entre l'artiste et la société. Dans cette série, tout était réuni : la politique, l'Histoire et le passé de l’artiste.
    - À votre avis, à l'heure actuelle, est-ce que ce projet est opportun en Russie ? Pourquoi ?

    Il y a des gens qui pensent que l'art peut changer le monde. Je crois que c'est trop prétentieux et plutôt naïf. J'espère seulement que l'art puisse éclairer le monde. Les gens parviendront peut-être à tirer des leçons du passé, mais je n'en suis pas sûr.
    - C'est Sergueï Tchoban qui a mis en forme votre exposition. Comment s'est déroulée la collaboration ? Qu'avez-vous fait concrètement ?

    J'ai rencontré Sergueï à Anvers et j'ai immédiatement été séduit par l'une de ses propositions, parce qu'il ne s'agissait pas simplement d'une conception d'un intérieur où l'ont pend des tableaux, mais d'un lieu qui met en exergue la série de tableaux et s'avère véritablement une œuvre en soi. J'ai également beaucoup aimé la référence au tableau Portrait d’un uncle (il représente un accordéon déposé sur le sol qui ressemble à un crématorium, il s’agit de celui avec lequel jouait mon oncle, décédé des suites de son emprisonnement en camp de concentration). Sergueï s'est inspiré de cette forme pour créer un lieu introverti en dehors duquel il est impossible de voir les tableaux ; il faut donc prendre la peine de rentrer pour voir comment les tableaux vous regardent quand vous avancez. Et comment ils vous regardent quand vous reculez.
    Source :

    27 Januari 2015

    Jan Vanriet: “Misschien kunnen mensen lering trekken uit het verleden”

    In het Joods Museum en het Centrum voor Tolerantie is het project “Mens en Ramp” geopend ter gelegenheid van de 70ste gedenkdag van de bevrijding van het concentratiekamp Auschwitz. Het project bestaat uit drie exposities: “Gezichtsverlies” van de Belgische schilder Jan Vanriet, de serie “Tekens” van de Russische fotograaf Yegor Zaika en de expositie “Architectuur van de dood: bouwtekeningen van Auschwitz-Birkenau.” Aan de vooravond van de opening spraken wij met Jan Vanriet, de schilder van een serie portretten van concentratiekampgevangenen en de grondlegger van de Belgische narratieve schilderkunst, over zijn project, het familiegeheugen en de wedergeboorte van de verhalende schilderkunst.

    In het persbericht over de expositie is gezegd dat u de grondlegger bent van de narratieve schilderkunst. Zou u kunnen vertellen wat daaronder wordt verstaan?

    Allereerst ben ik natuurlijk geen kunstcriticus of -theoreticus, maar ik kan wel zeggen dat de inhoud van de schilderijen voor mij als schilder altijd belangrijk is geweest. Toen ik eind jaren 60 student was aan de Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerpen maakten mijn docenten abstracte werken en zij konden niet begrijpen dat er studenten waren die een kunstwerk wilden schilderen met een verhaal erachter.
    Toen heb ik hen gezegd dat ik literair schilder was. Mogelijk heb ik dat toen uitdagend gezegd en nu ben ik dus gelabeld als narratieve schilder. De narratieve schilderkunst werd dus destijds niet als een hoogstaande kunstvorm beschouwd, en de schilderkunst in de jaren 70 werd in België als gevolg van de niet te stuiten vloedgolf aan conceptuele kunst in principe door velen dood verklaard. Slechts een enkeling bleef zich verzetten tegen die ontwikkelingen en ging door met verhalend schilderen en ik heb mij als een van de weinigen staande weten te houden. Nu maken wij de wedergeboorte van de narratieve schilderkunst mee en die trekt meer aandacht dan ooit te voren.

    Hoe is het idee voor het project “Gezichtsverlies” ontstaan?

    Volgens mij is het idee ontstaan in 2008. In 2010 zou het Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerpen dat een wereldberoemde collectie van Rubens en vele anderen in zijn bezit heeft, zijn deuren sluiten wegens een verbouwing (het zou, meen ik, pas weer opengaan in 2018). Op dat moment werd ik gevraagd om de laatste expositie te verzorgen waarin de museumcollectie zou verenigd worden met mijn werk. De expositie eindigde met mijn eerste schilderijen van de serie “Gezichtsverlies”. Zij werden geëxposeerd in de zaal tegenover de enorme ruimtes met de kolossale doeken van Rubens. In een van de twee zalen heb ik twee doeken van ieder 4 m opgehangen uit de serie “Zwart”, waarop alleen maar fakkels zijn afgebeeld die verwijzen naar de marsen van de nazi’s in Duitsland in 1933. De huidige expositie bevat ook een werk uit de serie “Zwart”, dat 3 m hoog is en waarop alleen stenen zijn afgebeeld. Wij hebben die schilderijen destijds in de expositie opgenomen, omdat ik vind dat de werken van Rubens, Jordaens en anderen propagandistische kenmerken hebben: zij zijn het toonbeeld van de kracht van het katholicisme ten opzichte van het protestantisme. Juist daarom exposeerde ik mijn schilderij met de fakkels en dat met de stenen, die verwijzen naar de joodse traditie om stenen op graven te leggen. Dat was het begin van de serie “Gezichtsverlies”.

    Zou u kunnen ingaan op het concept van uw werk?

    Sinds 1980 heb ik regelmatig werk gemaakt dat een relatie heeft met de geschiedenis, vooral met de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Een ander belangrijk thema van mijn schilderijen was de relatie kunstenaar-politiek. Ik heb veel portretten geschilderd van zowel Duitse kunstenaars, populaire zangers en acteurs die hebben samengewerkt met de nazi’s, alsook van artiesten die in die tijd werden getroffen door het Berufsverbot of die naar het concentratiekamp werden gestuurd. Toen wist ik al van het bestaan af van het archief met 20.000 foto’s uit de persoonsdossiers van de mensen die in het doorgangskamp [in België] hadden verbleven, en zo is bij mij het idee ontstaan om daarvan een serie portretten te maken, uiteraard niet van alle foto’s! Van alle foto’s zou dat niet mogelijk zijn, maar wel van een behoorlijk aantal gedeporteerden die later in de concentratiekampen zijn omgekomen, omdat de herinnering aan die gebeurtenissen net als in andere landen ook in België vervaagt. De belangrijkste redenen waarom ik deze kwestie onder de aandacht wilde brengen, zijn dat er zo langzamerhand steeds minder mensen zijn die weten wat er toen is gebeurd, en ook omdat de Belgen zelf hebben meegewerkt aan de deportaties. Als je begint te schilderen is er niet alleen de historische kant van het verhaal, maar heb je ook behoefte aan consistente artistieke expressie, in de goede zin van het woord – dit is dan in tweede instantie.

    In diezelfde tweede instantie valt bijvoorbeeld ook de beslissing hoe je het werk gaat aanpakken, wat je precies gaat doen en in welke vorm je het giet.

    Uw ouders hebben ook in het kamp gezeten. Welke invloed heeft dat gehad op uw werk, en in het bijzonder op dit project?

    Ik ben opgegroeid met de wetenschap wat mijn ouders is overkomen en ik moet zeggen dat ik het niet bepaald een goede pedagogische benadering vind om kinderen mee te nemen langs de concentratiekampen en naar films over al die gruwelijkheden. Als jonge kunstenaar was ik betrokken bij veel maatschappelijke en politieke ontwikkelingen, maar ik heb juist dat thema doelbewust buiten mijn werk gehouden. Ik wilde dat mijn schilderijen lichtvoetiger zouden zijn. Dat was een levensfase, de jaren 60, de tijd van de Beatles, en ik hield toen vooral van de pop-art van Peter Blake, David Hockney en Richard Hamilton die veel speelser is dan de Amerikaanse pop-art, bovendien maakten ook zij verhalend werk. Ik liet dus alle zware thematiek weg uit mijn werk: deze was alom aanwezig in mijn persoonlijke leven, maar niet in mijn kunst. En het was heel eigenaardig dat ik, toen ik op een dag een doek had gemaakt over de onderdrukking van kunstenaars, twee dagen later “Portret van Oom” schilderde, dat ook te zien zal zijn op de expositie. Dat was midden jaren 80.
    Dat was de sleutel voor mijn nieuwe vorm van zelfexpressie, waarin mijn familiegeschiedenis en dergelijke tot uiting zou komen. Om zulk werk te kunnen maken, moet je een zekere rijpheid hebben bereikt, ik was toen bijna 40.
    Wat mij destijds heeft geholpen, is dat ik in die periode een groot aantal – echt veel – portretten van Majakovski heb geschilderd, waarin ook de relatie kunstenaar-maatschappij tot uitdrukking kwam. In die serie kwam alles bij elkaar: politiek, geschiedenis en mijn eigen verleden.

    Wat denkt u: zal dit project op dit moment actueel zijn voor Rusland en waarom?

    Er zijn mensen die geloven dat je met kunst de wereld kunt veranderen. Ik denk dat dat te zeer vooringenomen en nogal naïef is. Ik kan alleen hopen dat je met kunst de wereld kunt verlichten. Misschien kunnen mensen lering trekken uit de geschiedenis, maar ik weet het niet.

    De expositie-architect van uw schilderijen is Sergei Tsjoban. Vertelt u eens hoe het werk is verlopen en wat er is gedaan.

    Ik heb Sergei in Antwerpen ontmoet en ik was direct enthousiast over één van zijn voorstellen, want dat betrof niet gewoon een concept van het interieur waar de schilderijen zouden komen te hangen, maar een object waarmee het idee van de serie zou worden geaccentueerd, dat op zichzelf al een kunstwerk is. Bovendien was ik in mijn nopjes met zijn knieval voor het schilderij “Portret van Oom” (daarop is een accordeon afgebeeld, het instrument dat werd bespeeld door mijn oom die overleed ten gevolge van het concentratiekamp, platgelegd en lijkend op een crematorium). Sergei werd geïnspireerd door deze vorm en zo is het object ontstaan. Van buitenaf zijn de schilderijen in het object niet zichtbaar, maar je hoeft maar binnen te geraken of alle portretten kijken je aan, ook als je doorloopt en je omdraait, blijven ze je volgen.


  • Jan Vanriet | “Many Jews refused to discuss the Holocaust – it is too painful” | IZVESTIYA




    IZVESTIYA -27 January 2015 “Many Jews refused to discuss the Holocaust – it is too painful”

    The Belgian artist Jan Vanriet talks about his series of paintings “Losing Face” and the unlearned lessons of the XXth century.
    [Photograph] Photo: Jan Vanriet

    On 27 January, on the International Day of Commemoration of Victims of the Holocaust, the project “Man and Catastrophe” is being presented in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in the capital city. One of its central events will be the Belgian artist Jan Vanriet’s exhibition, “Losing Face”. Among its exhibits are 40 portraits of prisoners of the “Dossin Barracks” transit camp, painted from the motifs of real archive photographs. Jan Vanriet told “Izvestiya” about how he had chosen the heroes of his pictures from over 25,000 photographs.

    —When did the theme of the Holocaust first appear in your art?
    —The first work — “Portrait of an Uncle” — was painted in the mid 1980s. It is one of the central ones in the Moscow exhibition. My mother and uncle were twins. At the age of 16 they joined the Belgian Resistance movement against Nazism. They had just finished school, were very naïve and did not have experience of life. After they were betrayed by a Nazi who had penetrated the ranks of the Resistance, they found themselves in prison and, during the Second World War, in concentration camps. They survived, but two years after his liberation my uncle died — he had become too weak during his imprisonment. My uncle always played the accordion. In the picture dedicated to him, this musical instrument is depicted, and the outline of its bellows suggests the fence of a camp. I have many Jewish friends whose relations went through the Dossin Barracks and died in the concentration camps. The picture “Samuel”, the portrait of the uncle of one of my closest friends, will be shown in the exhibition. Among over 25,000 archive photographs which have survived, I managed to find his photograph. The work done by me motivated his heirs to study their family’s history in much greater depth: previously they, like many Jewish families, refused to discuss the theme of the Holocaust, because it was too painful.
    [Photograph] Jan Vanriet. Photograph. Samuel. 2013 Извести

    —How do you select the heroes of your portraits from the thousands of photographs which are available to you?
    —I am moved by an emotional, intuitive feeling. When I look at a photograph, I have the feeling that I am getting to know the person depicted in it. If there is a certain feeling of closeness, then I paint the portrait.

    —What meaning do you attribute to the series itself and to its name — “Losing Face”?
    —There is historical meaning in my work. I pay the tribute of my respect to the people who died. But the most important aim for me is to create high quality works of art. The source images are small black and white photographs, and my paintings are in colour. Each of the photographs directs me to a particular method of drawing, and dictates what colours and what types of brush-strokes to use. And I see several meanings in the name. On the one hand, I am drawing faces which have disappeared from reality. On the other — and this is the most important premise, by performing such horrific actions as during the time of the Holocaust, mankind loses face.

    —You grew up not far from the Dossin Barracks. Do you remember when you first went there, what emotions this visit left with you?
    —I knew about these barracks from my childhood, but I went there first about 10 years ago. My parents were always connected to the movement against the Holocaust, and so, from the age of seven, they took me to various concentration camps, for example to “Natzweiler” in North-East France, where my father was imprisoned during the war. So from my childhood I saw places that were more terrible than the “Dossin Barracks”, which were just a transit camp.

    —In your opinion, with what awareness does the young generation today perceive the events of the Holocaust?
    I can judge only about Belgium: there I can see growing indifference and ignorance of historic realities. The facts about what actually happened are dealt with very lightly in the media today.

    —What do you think, is there a risk of repetition of the Holocaust in future?
    —I am not sufficiently optimistic to say that the lessons of the ХХth century have been learned.

    [Photograph] Jan Vanriet. Photograph. Herman. 2013 [Photograph] Jan Vanriet. Photograph. Sarah B. 2013

    Izvestia - 27 janvier 2015 « De nombreux Juifs refusaient de parler de l'Holocauste ; c'était trop douloureux. »
    Entretien avec le peintre belge Jan Vanriet sur sa série de peintures Losing Face et les leçons que le XXe siècle n'aura pas réussi à nous apprendre.

    Le 27 janvier dernier, à l'occasion de la Journée internationale de commémoration à la mémoire des victimes de l'Holocauste, le Musée juif et Centre de tolérance de Moscou a présenté le projet « L'Homme et la catastrophe ». L'un des temps forts de cet événement est l'exposition Losing Face du peintre Jan Vanriet, une série composée entre autres d'une quarantaine de portraits de prisonniers du camp de transit de la « Caserne Dossin » qu'il a peints d'après de véritables photographies d'archive. Jan Vanriet se confie au quotidien Izvestia sur la manière dont il a choisi les héros de ses tableaux parmi plus de 25’000 clichés.

    —Quand le thème de l'Holocauste est-il apparu dans votre œuvre ?
    —J'ai réalisé le tout premier tableau sur ce thème, Portret van een oom (Portrait d’un oncle), au milieu des années 1980. Il s'agit de l'une des pièces maîtresses de l'exposition moscovite. Ma mère et mon oncle étaient jumeaux. À l'âge de 16 ans, ils sont entrés dans la résistance belge. Ils venaient tout juste de finir l'école et étaient très naïfs ; ils n'avaient aucune expérience de la vie. Après avoir été dénoncés, ils ont été jetés en prison et pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, ils ont été envoyés dans des camps de concentration. Ils y ont survécu, mais mon oncle est décédé deux ans après sa libération car il avait été trop affaibli durant sa détention. Mon oncle a toujours joué de l'accordéon. Le tableau qui lui est dédié représente l'instrument de musique, dont les contours du soufflet ne sont pas sans rappeler les clôtures d'un camp de concentration. J'ai de nombreux amis juifs, dont la famille est passée par la « Caserne Dossin » et a perdu la vie dans des camps de concentration. L'exposition présentera le tableau "Samuel", le portrait d'un oncle de l'un de mes amis les plus proches. Je suis parvenu à retrouver sa photo de plus de 25’000 clichés d'archive conservés. Mon travail a permis à ses descendants de se plonger au plus profond de l'histoire de leur famille. Avant cela, à l'instar de nombreuses familles juives, ils refusaient de parler de l'Holocauste, parce que c'était trop douloureux.
    Jan Vanriet. Photographie : Samuel. 2013

    —Comment avez-vous choisi les héros de vos tableaux parmi les milliers de photographies que vous aviez à votre disposition ?
    —Je fonctionne à l'émotion, au sens intuitif. Quand je regarde une photo, j'ai l'impression de connaître la personne représentée. Si je ressens une certaine affinité, j'en peins un portrait.

    —Quel est le sens que vous attachez à la série-même et à son intitulé, "Losing Face"?
    Mon travail comporte une dimension historique, je rends hommage aux morts. Mais l'objectif le plus important pour moi est de créer des œuvres d'art de très haute qualité. Alors que je suis parti de petits clichés en noir et blanc, mes tableaux sont en couleurs. Chaque image me guide vers une certaine technique de dessin, me dictant quelles couleurs utiliser et quelle épaisseur de trait appliquer. Le nom de l’exposition a plusieurs sens. D'une part, je dessine une personne qui a disparu de notre monde. Et d'autre part – et c'est le message le plus important – l'humanité, qui a commis des actes horribles, telles que durant la période de l'Holocauste, perd la face.

    —Vous avez grandi non loin de la « Caserne Dossin ». Vous rappelez-vous de la première fois où vous vous y êtes rendu ? Cette visite vous a-t-elle marqué ?
    —Je connaissais l'existence de ces casernes depuis que j’étais petit, mais je les ai vues pour la première fois l'âge de 10 ans. Mes parents avaient toujours été impliqués dans la lutte contre l'Holocauste, c'est pourquoi dès l'âge de 7 ans, ils m'ont emmené dans différents camps de concentration, comme à Natzwiller, dans le nord-est de la France, où mon père avait été emprisonné durant la guerre. Ainsi, depuis mon enfance, j'ai vu des lieux bien plus affreux que la « Caserne Dossin » qui n'était qu'un camp de transit.

    —D'après vous, la jeunesse d'aujourd'hui a-t-elle conscience de ce qu'il s'est passé pendant l'Holocauste ?
    —Je ne peux me prononcer que sur le cas de la Belgique : je remarque une indifférence croissante et une ignorance des faits historiques. Aujourd'hui, les médias peuvent très facilement brouiller la réalité.

    —Pensez-vous qu'un épisode tel que celui de l'Holocauste pourrait à nouveau surgir à l'avenir ?
    —Je ne suis pas optimiste au point de dire que nous ayons tiré des leçons du XXe siècle.

    Jan Vanriet. Photographie : German. 2013 Jan Vanriet. Photographie : Sara B.. 2013

    “Veel joden wilden niet over de Holocaust praten, omdat dat te pijnlijk was”
    De Belgische schilder Jan Vanriet naar aanleiding van de serie schilderijen “Gezichtsverlies” en de niet geleerde lessen van de 20ste eeuw.

    Op 27 januari, de Internationale Herdenkingsdag voor de Holocaust, wordt in het Joods Museum en Centrum voor Tolerantie in Moskou het project “Mens en Ramp” geopend. Een van de hoogtepunten van het project wordt de expositie “Gezichtsverlies” van de Belgische schilder Jan Vanriet. Zijn expositie bestaat uit 40 portretten van gevangenen uit het doorgangskamp “Kazerne Dossin”, die zijn geschilderd naar aanleiding van authentieke foto’s uit een archief. Jan Vanriet liet de krant Izvestia weten hoe hij de personages voor zijn schilderijen uit meer dan 25.000 foto’s heeft geselecteerd.

    —Wanneer is het thema van de Holocaust voor het eerst in uw werk verschenen?
    Het eerste werk, “Portret van Oom” is halverwege de jaren 80 geschilderd. Dit portret neemt een belangrijke plaats in op de expositie in Moskou. Mijn moeder en oom waren een tweeling. Zij werden lid van de Belgische verzetsbeweging toen zij 16 waren. Ze kwamen vers uit de schoolbanken en waren heel naïef en hadden geen levenservaring. Nadat ze waren verraden door een in het verzet geïnfiltreerde nazi-aanhanger, kwamen ze in de gevangenis terecht en vervolgens in een concentratiekamp. Ze hebben het overleefd, maar mijn oom is twee jaar na de bevrijding overleden, hij was te fel verzwakt tijdens zijn gevangenschap. Mijn oom speelde altijd op zijn accordeon. Op het schilderij dat ik aan hem heb gewijd, is dat muziekinstrument afgebeeld. De blaasbalg van de accordeon doet denken aan de afrastering van het kamp. Ik heb veel joodse vrienden wier familieleden via “Kazerne Dossin” op transport zijn gegaan naar de concentratiekampen en daar zijn overleden. Een ander schilderij op de expositie is “Samuel”, het portret van de oom van een van mijn beste vrienden. Het is mij gelukt zijn foto te vinden tussen de meer dan 25.000 in dat archief bewaard gebleven foto’s. Door mijn schilderij zijn zijn erfgenamen veel dieper in hun familiegeschiedenis gedoken: vroeger wilden zij net als zovele andere joodse gezinnen niet over de Holocaust praten, omdat dat te pijnlijk was.
    Jan Vanriet. Foto: Samuel. 2013

    — Hoe kunt u uit die duizenden foto’s die u tot uw beschikking heeft de personages voor uw portretten selecteren?
    — Ik word gedreven door emotie en intuïtie. Als ik naar een foto kijk, komt er bij mij een gevoel op dat ik kennis maak met de mens die daarop is afgebeeld. Als ik voel dat hij mij na staat, schilder ik zijn portret.

    — Welke betekenis hecht u aan de serie zelf en aan de naam “Gezichtsverlies”?
    — Er zit een historische betekenis in mijn werk en ik breng hulde aan overleden mensen. Maar mijn belangrijkste doel is het maken van kwalitatief hoogstaande kunst. De originele foto’s zijn klein en in zwart-wit en mijn schilderijen zijn in kleur. Ieder fotootje brengt mij tot een bepaalde schildertechniek en dicteert mij welke kleuren en penseelstreken ik moet aanbrengen. De naam is voor meerdere verklaringen vatbaar. Enerzijds schilder ik gezichten die werkelijk zijn verloren gegaan. Anderzijds – en dit is de belangrijkste boodschap – lijdt de mensheid gezichtsverlies door de gruweldaden tijdens de Holocaust.

    — U bent vlakbij Kazerne Dossin opgegroeid. Weet u nog wanneer u daar voor het eerst bent geweest en welke indruk dat bezoek op u maakte?
    — Ik wist sinds mijn kindertijd van het bestaan van die kazernes, maar ik heb ze pas een jaar of 10 geleden voor het eerst gezien. Mijn ouders waren altijd betrokken bij de Holocaust, daarom hebben zij mij vanaf mijn zevende meegenomen langs verschillende concentratiekampen zoals bijvoorbeeld Natzweiler in Noordoost-Frankrijk, waar mijn vader tijdens de oorlog gevangen had gezeten. Daarom had ik al sinds mijn jeugd plaatsen gezien die veel verschrikkelijker waren dan Kazerne Dossin, die slechts een doorgangskamp was.

    — Hoe bewust gaan jongeren volgens u om met de Holocaust?
    — Ik kan alleen oordelen over België: daar bemerk ik een groeiende onverschilligheid en onwetendheid ten aanzien van historische realia. In de media worden de werkelijk gebeurde feiten tegenwoordig heel gemakkelijk verdraaid.

    — Wat denkt u, bestaat het risico op een herhaling van de Holocaust in de toekomst?
    — Ik ben niet zo optimistisch dat ik kan zeggen dat er lering is getrokken uit de lessen van de 20ste eeuw.

    Jan Vanriet. Foto: Herman. 2013 Jan Vanriet. Foto: Sara B. 2013




  • Werner Mannaers | 'Toute la force libertaire de la peinture', by Claude Lorent | La Libre, Arts Libre






    Werner Mannaers présente de nouvelles œuvres à la Roberto Polo Gallery à Bruxelles.


    Werner Mannaers est un peintre né qui ne correspond pas aux catégories usuelles. Chez Roberto Polo, il présente un ‘corps’ varié d’œuvres, où il passe allègrement d’un style et d’une écriture à l’autre. Le résultat donne des tableaux à plusieurs strates sur lesquelles il a parfois collé des fragments découpés d’œuvres précédentes. C’est ce qu’il appelle le « cannibalisme plastique ».


    Même si Werner Mannaers a été ‘révélé’ dans son propre pays après y être resté une trentaine d’années à l’ombre (grâce entre autres à Wim Waumans de Pocketroom et a Philippe Van Cauteren du S.M.A.K.), l’artiste n’a jusqu’à présent pas encore bénéficié de renommée internationale, contrairement à ce que son œuvre polyvalente mérite. Espérons que l’actuelle exposition au titre poétique ‘The Scent of Mimosa’ chez Roberto Polo Gallery à Bruxelles puisse y contribuer. Car ce que Mannaers nous montre ne laisse pas d’impressionner. Son exposition fait non seulement preuve d’une grande productivité, mais aussi d’une fantaisie débridée. Mannaers passe allègrement du figuratif à l’abstrait (« pour moi cette frontière est ténue »). Son style n’est pas à proprement parler un style particulier, mais plutôt un pluriel de styles.
    Change-t-il délibérément de style pour échapper à toute catégorisation ? « Délibérément n’est pas le terme approprié. Je n’ai pas échafaudé de théorie. Lorsque je commence une œuvre, je sais seulement quelles couleurs je vais utiliser. Rarement ce que je vais peindre. Quel style ? Comment allez-vous appeler l’abstraction que vous voyez ici ? Géométrique ? Abstraction lyrique ? Chez moi, les changements s’opèrent en phases. Mais pour leur coller un nom… cela me semble un peu tiré par les cheveux. En fait, ceci n’a aucune importance pour moi. »

    Son approche a quelque chose de postmoderne, bien que Mannaers abhorre les comparaisons, sans parler des ‘ismes’. Son œuvre a été associée à l’ennui à ‘l’appropriation art’. Mannaers va en effet glaner dans l’histoire de l’art. Mais aussi dans sa propre œuvre, qu’il prend ici au pied de la lettre. Ainsi, il a découpé des morceaux de ses anciennes toiles qu’il colle ensuite sur ses nouvelles œuvres. Un geste bien radical. « Je parle moi-même de cannibalisme plastique. On ne peut pas se passer d’histoire. Ici je suis en train de reconstituer ma propre histoire. Certaines de ces représentations, qui ont été reprises dans les catalogues de mes expositions au S.M.A.K. à Gand ou à De Garage à Malines, sont reconnaissables pour le spectateur, mais il les voit maintenant dans un nouveau contexte. » Par exemple ‘Sweat Flower for Tacha’. Il s’agit d’un motif floral qui semble flotter au-dessus de motifs stylisés sur fond gris, qu’il a partiellement repeint. « C’était mon carton d’invitation pour mon exposition à Pocketroom à Anvers. J’ai utilisé les mêmes éléments mais je les ai agencés d’une autre façon. L’œuvre en toile de fond est un tableau des années nonante que je n’ai jamais montré auparavant. »
    Dans ‘I Have (No) Criminal Intentions’ il fait appel à des roses d’une toile précédente, qu’il colle au-dessus d’une fleur stylisée. Il s’agit de gouaches de roses qu’il a fait agrandir et réaliser en impression jet d’encre sur toile. Il s’agit presque d’une reproduction de ce qu’il a peint avant. Et ainsi, Mannaers bouscule sans cesse de manière ludique sa propre œuvre et l’histoire de l’art. N’éprouve-t-il donc pas de remords à planter les ciseaux dans des tableaux réussis et les détruire en quelque sorte ?
    « On peut y voir aussi bien leur mort que leur résurrection. Ce cannibalisme n’a rien de douloureux. C’est un nouveau début. Je ne donne pas de coups de ciseaux dans la toile comme Fontana. Je réutilise ces fragments. Je n’ajoute rien, mais je les reconstruis dans un nouveau contexte. »

    Les tableaux de Mannaers portent des titres comme ‘No Flowers No Mushrooms’ ou ‘To make Meringue you must Beat the Egg’. D’où sort-il donc ses titres ?
    « Je ne cherche pas de titres, je les trouve. Dans la littérature, la musique ou des revues. Ce sont parfois des bribes de titres ou de phrases, des fragments combinés que je collectionne. J’ai ainsi des centaines de titres qui attendent d’être utilisés pour une œuvre. Ils se trouvent parfois depuis plus d’un an à ma disposition avant que je ne les utilise. J’ai alors une œuvre qui correspond au titre. Tout comme dans un poème, un vers rime ou ne rime pas. Généralement il paraît absurde, je l’appelle le ‘non-sens du contenu poétique élargi'. Les gens regardent l’œuvre et souvent, ils font un pas en arrière lorsqu’ils ont lu le titre. Ils regardent alors autrement. »
    Parfois différentes œuvres portent un même titre, comme trois tableaux abstraits avec des formes organiques qui s’intitulent tous les trois ‘Samedi le treize’. Le titre intrigue d’emblée le spectateur. Mais le titre ne confère-t-il pas, lui aussi, une orientation aux œuvres ? Ne met-il pas le spectateur exprès sur la mauvaise voie ? « Non, pas du tout. J’opère ainsi pour élargir l’œuvre afin de pouvoir la regarder de manière plus libre. »
    L’aspect linguistique, tant comme source d’inspiration sous-jacente que comme résultat final semble pourtant important dans son œuvre. Mais n’utilisait-il pas davantage de texte dans son œuvre autrefois ? « Cela ne s’est plus produit depuis les années nonante ! Les gens qui écrivent ceci n’ont pas bien regardé mon œuvre ! »

    A chaque tableau, il semble réinventer – chaque fois à nouveau – la peinture. Et c’est ce qui lui réussit à merveille. Prenons une œuvre telle que ‘The Swiss Painting’ où il entoure la toile d’un gros trait bleu. Comme une fenêtre sur le monde. Less is more, même si de Mannaers on s’attend plutôt à ‘Less is a bore’ (le moins c’est l’ennui). Remarquables aussi les ‘Sunday Painting’ (1) et (2). Avec quelques cercles, rectangles et une poignée de couleurs, Mannaers réalise sans crier gare une œuvre rafraîchissante sur toile, sans se préoccuper du poids de l’art géométrique. Les deux tableaux portent le titre ironique ‘Sunday Painting’, même s’il est douteux qu’un peintre du dimanche réalise une telle œuvre. « Ce sont des peintures du dimanche qui ont de la classe », s’accorde-t-il à dire. Mannaers peut bien sembler faire la part belle au côté ludique, il n’empêche que ces frivolités ont un fond tout à fait sérieux. « Tantôt je ressemble à Motherwell, tantôt à Dolly Parton, » affirme-t-il dans un de ces nombreux aphorismes. Son humour est par ailleurs plutôt sérieux. « Mais je n’ai rien à voir avec l’humour de Walter Swennen. Nous admirons nos œuvres mutuelles et nous nous sommes rencontrés quelquefois, mais au niveau plastique nous n’avons rien en commun. Son humour est plus corrosif. » Et aussi plus bruxellois, truffé de petits jeux linguistiques ? « Oui, comme chez Broodthaers et Magritte. Il est aussi plus influencé par la bande dessinée. Je n’ai, quant à moi, pas grand-chose en commun avec la bande dessinée. » Comprend-il que les gens voient beaucoup de ressemblances entre les deux œuvres ? « Non, en fait, je ne le comprends pas. Pourquoi n’arrive-t-on pas à regarder des œuvres pour ce qu’elles sont ? Je veux montrer les tableaux tels qu’ils sont et le seul qui puisse leur imposer quelque chose, c’est moi. »

    ‘The Scent of Mimosa’ jusqu’au 1er février à la Roberto Polo Gallery, rue Lebeau 6-8, Bruxelles. Ouvert ma-ve de 14h à 18h, sa-di de 11h à 18h,




  • Werner Mannaers | A GENIUS 'BUNGLER' | DeMorgen



    Traduction française: UN GÉNIE ‘MALADROIT’
    English translation: A GENIUS 'BUNGLER'


    The Antwerp artist Werner Mannaers (Schoten, 1954) admits that he is a bit of a 'bungler'. Technical perfection and virtuosity are not his goals. When working on colour fields in an abstract painting, he fixes masking tape on the wet paint, so that upon removal, it leaves an imprint and the clean edge is broken in unpredictable ways.

    His figuration is striking thanks to its only apparently elementary, cartoonish style, overlapped with layers of incongruous words. The artist does not prejudice a seemingly childish and unskilled look. His ostensibly unpolished style gives his eclectic work a visual tension that shocks, grabbing the open-minded viewer by the throat.

    The complexity of his work brings to mind Walter Swennen, but Mannaers is rawer and more brutal artist. He can edge towards the grotesque and scabrous, evoking American artist Mike Kelley and the humorous playfulness of Dadaist collages.

    Mannaers also experiments genially. Since he began painting intensively in 1989, he has quoted art history and philosophy. His painting practice now nourishes itself.

    Mannaers' antagonist imagery is true as a rough diamond. Coarse and rugged, it springs forth daily from his profound, tormented artist's heart.

    L’artiste Anversois Werner Mannaers (Schoten, 1954)
    admet être un brin ‘maladroit’. Il ne recherche pas la perfection technique et la virtuosité. Il colle le ruban adhésif sur la peinture fraîche quand il fait les champs de couleur dans une peinture abstraite de telle façon quelorsqu’il le retire, il laisse une empreinte et la frange est brisée de manières imprévisibles.

    Sa figuration est frappante grâce à son style caricatural humoristique, semble-t-il élémentaire, surmonté de mots incongrus. L’artiste ne nuit pas à un regard apparemment enfantin et non qualifié. Son style ostensiblement imparfait donne à son travail éclectique une tension visuelle saisissantà la gorge le spectateur à l’esprit ouvert.

    La complexité de son travail évoque Walter Swennen, mais Mannaers est un artiste plus cru et plus brutal. Il peut tendre vers le grotesque et le scabreux qui pourraient rappeler l’artiste américain Mike Kelley et l’espièglerie chargée d’humour des collages Dadaistes. Mannaers expérimente aussi avec génie. Depuis qu’il a commencé à peindre de façon intensive en 1989, il cite l’histoire de l’art et la philosophie. Sa peinture se nourrit maintenant de façon autonome. L’imagerie antagoniste de Mannaers est comme un diamant à la fois vrai et brut. Rugueuse et robuste, elle jaillit tous les jours de son cœur d’artiste profond et tourmenté.

  • Karin Hanssen | COMPELLING IMAGES OF PAST AND PRESENT, by Marc Ruyters | H Art



    Karin Hanssen in Roberto Polo Gallery

    In the early September issue of H ART #130, as a starter for the new season, we highlighted the work of eight different artists, seven women and one man (a happy coincident). We have now selected, entirely subjectively, the work of one woman, which we aim to explore more in depth. Because we believe this is strong work, which however also requires some explanation. That is the function of 'the art press'. We are talking about Karin Hanssen, who is having a remarkable solo show in the Brussels Roberto Polo Gallery.
    Marc Ruyters

    "Every painting is a frame. It can be positive or negative: you can either focus on something, or leave it out, hide it.’"

    The series ‘A Room of One's Own’ (2011-2014) consists of 22 works on one particular theme: their inspiration is the eponymous essay published by Virginia Woolf in 1929. Woolf was asked to give lectures on the subject of ‘women and fiction’. Those readings became the basis for the famous essay ‘A Room of One's Own’. Karin Hanssen read this essay and combined the experience with something she has been doing since the early nineties: studying and interpreting photographs from the fifties in magazines such as 'Life' and 'Time', among others.

    Karin Hanssen: "I am fascinated by the period that runs from the end of WWII until the first real economic crisis, in the mid-seventies. It was the period of the reconstruction of society, with a lot of optimism, everything seemed rosy. The tenor then was house-garden-car-payed vacation. But this also brought on much mutual competition among people: they bought themselves an identity through consumption; their cars, TV, and so on had to be more expensive and better than those of their neighbours. That coincided with the democratisation of the image: everyone started making photographs, made amateur films. At the same time it was also the period of the Cold War and later the Vietnam War. I was fascinated by this conflicting period, part of which I lived through in my childhood. I was actually raised with Doris Day and co, with the screwball comedies in which everything was portrayed larger than life, but which simultaneously and covertly also tried to foist a stringent moral message onto us."

    But all that optimism also had a dark side, especially for women. Two pictures from 'Life' entirely reflected that atmosphere and eventually led to two large canvases Hanssen painted: 'Living Room' shows a woman reading in a chair, surrounded by much furniture and accessories in a model design interior.

    Hanssen: "That woman almost acquires the status of a fruit bowl on a table." 'RecreationRoom’, on the other hand, shows the housewife in a subservient role, dividing her attention between the three kids in the room. "She does not claim any space for herself. That is also what the book by Virginia Woolf is about: women framed by and through fiction. They were unable to define their own meaning. This is an idea I already explored in a previous series, ‘The Borrowed Gaze/Variations GTB’. Woolf said: if a woman wants to write, she needs an income and a room of her own, ‘A Room of One's Own’. In 1929 that was perhaps not all that obvious, and even if today it is not, it does not follow that emancipation has been achieved." The matter is rather more complex. "There is no use in having a room of one’s own if one doesn’t have a free mind."

    ‘Living Room’ and ‘Recreation Room’ are the two main works, Hanssen calls them the "mother paintings". Twenty other, smaller works zoom in or out on details taken from these two interiors. The 22 works are scattered throughout the ground floor and the first floor of the gallery. These are spaces with windows, unlike the basement in which are hung, as a counterpoint, a number of 'exteriors’. So the interiors are hung in open spaces, the exteriors in an enclosed space. At least, that’s how it seems.
    Karin Hanssen: "Every painting is a frame. It can be either positive or negative: you can focus on something or rather omit something, or hide it. But a room, a space is also a frame, like a window, but in 3D. It is a passage; yet at the same time an obstacle. All this, I took into consideration in the disposition of the works. The way people experience you is the way you frame yourself, or are framed."

    I am concerned with the emancipation of the image and the figures. Karin Hanssen: "That's why I played with those twenty fragments. Those fragments, as parts of the two 'mother paintings’, are dependent on the whole, they fulfil their function and support the totality of the picture, they have no autonomy. By isolating them, they become independent paintings, they become detached from their defining context, they lose their supportive function, they play their own leading role. This led to the central work in the exhibition: ‘A Room of Her Own’. The girl that is drawing or painting was an element in ‘Recreation Room’, but here she creates her own space, a room of her own. She draws in an active manner, claims a role of her own, and frees herself from her determining context.’

    "I didn’t paint the 'mother paintings' first, I started with the fragments. In that way, these could determine their own format. I didn’t hang them near their ‘mother painting’ either, to emphasise their independence. Fragments also require “a room of their own”, create their own context. Through this system of dividing and distributing I make sure that they do get a space for themselves, like the characters in them. The basic idea is: frame and de-frame by taking the images out of their oppressive contexts. This creates a new frame from which a new, free image emerges. That is, in fact, also what the Cubists did. By using an object in always different ways, for example, showing it from a different perspective, one questions the static identity of the image while creating several other identities and meanings."

    In Hanssen’s case, this can be quite extreme, as in the works ‘Window 1’ and ‘Window 2’: these are paintings based on photographs (i.e. frames in themselves) of windows (again a frame) that are also depicted in the mother paintings (another frame). She does something similar with paintings of small sections of walls taken from the mother paintings, to which are added the connotations ‘mural’ or ‘wall painting’. Or take the work ‘Time’: a fifties clock from ‘Recreation Room’ captured in a separate fragment: "I go back in time to the fifties, on the clock, time stands still, the use of the painting medium also makes that the experience of the time of the image is slower than in the original photo, even if it is the same representation, while meanwhile time here is ticking away."

    Remarkable is the haze that seems to float over every painting. Hanssen: "I do that to create distance between the painting and the viewer, who is allowed to watch the scene from a safe distance, like a voyeur. These are not nostalgic images, I aim to present an image that is recognisable, yet still removed enough so as to allow the viewer to reflect upon it." What technique does she use to that end? "I cannot say, because I don’t really know. I can say that it happens sometime during the painting process. And, more specifically, at a very precise moment. That's why I work on a painting for so long; it is only when I reach that moment that I know the work is finished."

    The eyes of the characters remain vague as well. "That is how I create the absence of the gaze. As a spectator, you are pushed in the position of a voyeur. They are also anonymous figures, which makes them easier to identify with. It is about seeing and being seen, but I contrast that with the action and the freedom of spirit. Look, more generally speaking, a lot of things in your life and experience are determined by someone or something else. But you should not just accept that, I think, you should make sure you have a strong sense of awareness. Those are the triggers that I try to convey in my work. I use images from the past to reflect on the present."

    A counterweight to the series ‘A Room of One's Own’ is on view in the basement of the gallery. These are works with exteriors from the earlier series ‘Now = The Time’ (2006-2009) which, apart from one particular work, has not been previously shown in Belgium. In the installation conceived by Hanssen, these works form part of the macrocosm of the exhibition. The basement also presents a play of reflections, albeit in the literal sense. The canvas 'Burn Baby Burn', for example, shows five people sitting at the shores of a pond. Hanssen turned the image upside down and painted the reflection that fades into a Cézannesque group of trees.

    Hanssen: "A reflection is an image, but it is also a wall, a mirror, a barrier. It shows something that is not there, and takes away the transparency of the water." Presented here also are ‘Origin 1’ and ‘Origin 2’, a diptych based on old photographs of girls on a visit to a natural history museum.
    Hanssen: "They stood before a wall painting of extinct species. And they looked like apostles. Truly a combination of religion and science. ‘Origin 1’ stands for Darwinism, ‘Origin 2’ for creationism, or if you want it can be the other way around. And obviously, there's also a reference to Courbet. And that’s how I always play with layers and meanings" (smiles). And then there is the most atypical painting in the entire exhibition: ‘Full 20’. It shows a herd of deer in an Arcadian landscape. Hanssen: "That is taken from the 1973 movie 'Soylent Green' by Richard Fleischer, in which the protagonist is morally forced into euthanasia because he is no longer useful to society. He chooses the longest euthanasia session, which takes twenty minutes and which presents him with idyllic, bucolic images of a world that no longer exists."

    The world of the fifties and golden sixties no longer exists either. And today's world hasn’t changed for the better. Using images from the past, Hanssen whisks us back to the present, where we, in our lesser moments, hope that also our images will come to be cloaked with a comforting haze. Accompanying the exhibition is the book ‘Karin Hanssen | The Borrowed Gaze’, published by Lannoo, with an explanatory text by the British art historian and essayist Charlotte Mullins. She gives an overview of Hanssen’s entire oeuvre of the past 25 years, which so far consists of thirteen series of works, all of which revolve around the presence and absence of the gaze, the borrowed gaze, the retrospective gaze, the fifties, the manipulation of images, emancipation and stereotypes... The book opens with a mask-like self-portrait of Karin Hanssen and ends with the portrait of a young woman looking away from the book. This gaze is present throughout all the intervening pages, in all the forms and modes in which the world observes and is observed. Karin Hanssen triggers in a very intelligent manner.

    'Karin Hanssen | A Room of One's Own’ from 12 September to 16 November
    at Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, Brussels, Open Tue-Fri 2-6PM, Sat-Sun 11AM-6PM

    'Karin Hanssen | The Borrowed Gaze' with a text by Charlotte Mullins, Lannoo
    Publishers, 2014, ISBN 9789401420426

    Karin Hanssen, ‘Recreation Room’, 2013-2014, courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery
    Karin Hanssen, ‘Bear’, 2012, courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery
    Karin Hanssen, ‘Time’, 2013, courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery

    Karin Hanssen à la galerie Roberto Polo

    Pour le lancement de la nouvelle saison, début septembre, H ART 130 a mis en valeur l'oeuvre de huit artistes, sept femmes et un homme (heureux hasard). De manière totalement subjective, nous choisissons maintenant l'oeuvre d'une femme pour en approfondir la connaissance. Car nous pensons que cette oeuvre est forte mais qu'elle a besoin d'être mise en lumière. C'est le rôle de la presse artistique. Il s'agit de Karin Hanssen qui présente une remarquable exposition en solo à la galerie Roberto Polo de Bruxelles.
    Marc Ruyters

    “Chaque peinture est un cadre. Positif ou négatif: l'on peut se focaliser sur quelque chose ou l'ignorer, le dissimuler.”

    La série 'A Room of One's Own' (2011-2014) comporte 22 oeuvres traitant d'un thème précis extrait de l'essai éponyme de Virginia Woolf publié en 1929. Woolf avait été invitée à donner des conférences sur le thème 'femmes et fiction'. La préparation des conférences aboutit au célèbre essai 'A Room of One's Own'. Karin Hanssen a associé la lecture de cette oeuvre à l'étude et l'interprétation des photos des années soixante extraites de magazines comme 'Life', 'Time' et d'autres, qu'elle mène déjà depuis les années 90.

    Karin Hanssen: "Je suis fascinée par la période qui court de la seconde guerre mondiale jusqu'à la première vraie crise économique, au milieu des années 70. C'était la période de la reconstruction de la société, avec une grande dose d'optimisme; on voyait la vie en rose. La petite maison, le petit jardin, l’auto, le congé payé en faisaient le sel. Mais une forme de compétition commença à s'installer aussi entre les gens: ils s’achetaient une identité par le biais de la consommation. Leur auto, leur télé devaient coûter plus cher et être meilleures que celles de leurs voisins. En même temps, l’image se démocratisait: on se photographiait, on faisait des petits films d’amateurs. C’était aussi la période de la guerre froide et puis de la guerre du Vietnam. J’étais fascinée par cette période contradictoire qui fut celle de mon enfance. J’ai grandi avec Doris Day & co, les 'screwball' comédies où tout était représenté en plus grand que la vie et dont on recevait en même temps un puissant message moral sous-jacent."

    Mais il y avait aussi, malgré cet optimisme, un aspect plus sombre, surtout pour la femme. Deux photos de 'Life' le rendaient totalement et amenèrent Hanssen à peindre ces deux grands toiles: 'Living Room' montre une femme, lisant dans un fauteuil, recluse parmi un tas de meubles et de bibelots constituant un intérieur supposé élégant.

    Hanssen: “Le statut de cette femme est assimilé à celui de la coupe de fruits sur la table. Et 'Recreation Room' montre la femme d'intérieur appliquée à son humble rôle, attentive aux trois enfants dans la pièce. Elle n'exige aucun espace pour elle-même. C'est ce dont il s'agit dans le livre de Virginia Woolf: des femmes encadrées par et dans la fiction. Elles ne peuvent se donner à elles-mêmes leur propre sens. C'est l'idée que je développais déjà dans une précédente série, 'The Borrowed Gaze/Variations GTB'. Woolf disait que si une femme voulait écrire, il fallait qu'elle ait un revenu et une chambre à soi, 'A Room of One's Own'. En 1929, ce n'était pas évident; aujourd'hui peut-être bien mais ce n'est pas pour autant que l'émancipation est entièrement acquise. Tout est donc un peu complexe. Il ne sert à rien d'avoir une chambre à soi, si on n'a pas un esprit libre."

    'Living Room' et 'Recreation Room' sont les deux œuvres maîtresses, Hanssen les appelle "les tableaux mères”. Vingt autres, de plus petits tableaux, zooment sur ou à partir de détails des deux intérieurs. Les 22 tableaux sont exposés au rez-de-chaussée et au premier étage de la galerie. Ce sont des pièces avec des fenêtres, en contraste avec les caves où l'on trouve quelques 'extérieurs'. Les intérieurs sont exposés dans des espaces ouverts, les extérieurs dans des espaces fermés. Karin Hanssen: “Chaque peinture est un cadre. Positif ou négatif: l'on peut se focaliser sur quelque chose ou l'ignorer, le dissimuler. Mais une chambre, un espace est aussi un cadre, comme une fenêtre, mais alors en 3D. C'est un passage en même temps qu'un obstacle. La disposition des oeuvres m'a permis ce jeu d'échange. On se sent encadré ou non selon sa propre sensibilité.”

    Il s'agit de l'émancipation de l'image et des personnages. Karin Hanssen: “C'est pourquoi je joue avec ces vingt fragments. Eléments de ces deux 'tableaux mères'; ces fragments sont indépendants, ils ont leur rôle et soutiennent la totalité de l'image, sans autonomie propre. En les isolant, ils deviennent des images indépendantes, ils se dépouillent du contexte imposé, ils perdent leur rôle de soutien et jouent leur rôle principal." On en vient à l'oeuvre centrale de l'exposition: 'A Room of Her Own'. La petite fille qui dessine ou peint était un élément de la 'Recreation Room' mais ici elle crée son propre espace, sa chambre а soi. Elle dessine de manière active, impose son rôle et s'éloigne de l'être qu'elle était dans un contexte déterminé. "

    Je n'ai pas peint ces deux 'tableaux mères' en premier lieu: je suis partie des fragments. Ils ont pu ainsi imposer leur propre format. Je ne l'expose pas juste à côté de son 'tableau mère' afin de préserver son indépendance. Les éléments aussi exigent leur 'chambre à soi', créant leur propre contexte. Avec ce système de parties et partitions, je veille à ce que chacun ait bien son espace propre, comme je le fais pour les personnages des tableaux. L'idée de base est: cadrer et décadrer en arrachant les images de contextes angoissants. Ainsi naît un nouveau cadre où surgit une nouvelle image, une image libre. Les cubistes procédaient de la même manière. En représentant par exemple un objet à chaque fois différemment, selon une autre perspective, on met en question une identité statique et on fait naître d'autres identités et d'autres significations."

    Et cela peut aller loin chez Hanssen, comme dans les oeuvres 'Window 1' et 'Window 2': ce sont des peintures à partir de photos (donc des cadres en soi), de fenêtres (de nouveau un cadre), que l'on retrouve sur les 'tableaux mères' (encore un cadre). Elle fait de même avec les petites peintures de morceaux de murs extraits des 'tableaux mères', où s'ajoute alors encore la connotation de peinture murale. Ou le petit tableau 'Time': une horloge des années cinquante extraite de 'Recreation Room' et posée dans un fragment séparé: "Je remonte le temps, vers les fifties, le temps est inscrit sur l'horloge; par le moyen de la peinture, l'expérience du temps est ralentie plus que dans la photo originelle, même s'il s'agit de la même représentation et entretemps le temps s'écoule ici, plus loin dans l'espace."

    On est frappé par le voile qui semble recouvrir chaque peinture. Hanssen: "Je le fais pour créer une distance entre la peinture et le spectateur qui peut ainsi contempler la peinture d'une distance sûre, comme un voyeur. Ce ne sont pas des images nostalgiques; mon but est de montrer une image reconnaissable mais avec la distance qui permet au spectateur de réfléchir." Et avec quelle technique? "Je ne peux pas le dire, car je ne le sais pas vraiment moi-même. Je peux seulement dire que cela se passe pendant que je peins et à un moment bien déterminé. C'est pourquoi je travaille si longuement sur une toile, jusqu'à ce moment et je sais alors que l'oeuvre est prête."

    Les yeux des personnages restent vagues également. "Je crée ainsi l'absence du regard. Le spectateur devient forcément voyeur. Il s'agit aussi de personnages anonymes, ce qui rend l'identification plus aisée. Il s'agit de regarder et d'être regardé mais j'intègre également l'action et la liberté d'esprit." Plus généralement: "Beaucoup de choses dans la vie nous sont imposées par quelqu'un ou quelque chose d'autre. Mais il ne faut pas s'y résigner. Il faut veiller, je crois à en avoir conscience. J'essaie de l'atteindre par mon travail. J'utilise des images du passé pour réfléchir sur le présent."

    On peut voir un contrepoids à la série 'A Room of One's Own' dans le sous-sol de la galerie. Ce sont des tableaux d'extérieurs de la série précédente: 'Now=The Time' (2006-2009) qui n'avaient pas encore été exposés en Belgique. La disposition que Hanssen a conçue permet d'inclure ces tableaux dans l'ensemble de l'exposition. Au sous-sol, on fait jouer la réflexion mais cette fois au sens littéral. La toile 'Burn Baby Burn' montre, par exemple, cinq personnes assises au bord d'un étang. Hanssen retourne l'image et peint la réflexion, qui se prolonge dans une frondaison à la Cézanne.

    Hanssen: "Une réflexion est une image mais aussi un mur, un miroir, une barrière. Elle montre quelque chose qui n'est pas là, qu'emporte la transparence de l'eau." Le diptyque 'Origin 1 & 2' sont exposés ailleurs; ce sont deux peintures à partir d'anciennes photos de petites filles en visite dans un musée d'histoire naturelle. Hanssen: "Elles se trouvent devant une fresque représentant des espèces animales disparues. Elles ont l'air d'apôtres. Un mélange de religion et de science. 'Origin 1' évoque le darwinisme, 'Origin 2' le créationnisme, ou inversement. Et il y a aussi naturellement une allusion à Courbet. Ainsi je joue tout le temps avec les couches et les significations" (sourire). Enfin, il y a la peinture la plus atypique de toute cette exposition: 'Full 20''. Elle montre un troupeau de cerfs dans un paysage arcadien. Hanssen: "Je m'inspire du film 'Soylent Green' de 1973 de Richard Fleischer, où le personnage principal est moralement poussé à l'euthanasie, convaincu que la société ne lui est plus d'aucune utilité. Il choisit une séance d'euthanasie la plus longue, qui dure vingt minutes, pendant laquelle il est confronté à des images idylliques et bucoliques d'un monde qui n'existe plus pour lui depuis longtemps."

    Le monde des fifties et des golden sixties n'existe plus non plus. Et le monde d'aujourd'hui n'est pas devenu tellement meilleur. Hanssen nous projette avec ces images hors du passé vers le présent. On trouve à l'exposition le livre 'Karin Hanssen | The Borrowed Gaze', édité par Lannoo, avec un texte de l'historienne de l'art et essayiste anglaise Charlotte Mullins. Elle parcourt toute l'oeuvre de Hansen des 25 dernières années, qui comprend treize séries d'oeuvres qui tournent toutes autour de la présence et de l'absence du regard emprunté, du regard en arrière, des fifties, de la manipulation des images, de l'émancipation et des stéréotypes... Le livre s'ouvre avec un autoportrait masqué de Karin Hanssen et se termine avec le portrait d'une jeune femme qui regarde hors du livre. Dans les pages intermédiaires, le regard plonge sur toutes les formes et les qualités à travers lesquelles le monde regarde et est regardé. Karin Hanssen le saisit avec intelligence.

    'Karin Hanssen | A Room of One's Own', du 12 septembre au 16 novembre, Roberto Polo Gallery, Rue Lebeau 8-12, Bruxelles. Ouvert du mardi au vendredi de 14 à 18 heures, le samedi et le dimanche de 11 à 18 heures.

    'Karin Hanssen | The Borrowed Gaze' avec un texte de Charlotte Mullins, Lannoo Éditeur, 2014, ISBN 9789401420426

    Karin Hanssen, ‘Recreation Room’, 2013-2014, courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery
    Karin Hanssen, ‘Bear’, 2012, courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery
    Karin Hanssen, ‘Time’, 2013, courtesy Roberto Polo Gallery

  • Karin Hanssen | ESCAPE ROUTES ON CANVAS, by Jozefien van Beek | De Morgen



    Antwerp artist Karin Hanssen paints an ode to the free spirit
    'A Room of Her Own', the title painting of the exhibition and a reference to the feminism of Viginia Woolf.
    Expo. In 'A Room of One’s Own', Karin Hanssen celebrates the power of the imagination. It helps women, like her inspiration Virginia Woolf, to break out of societal restraints. Although men need their own space as well, one in which they can be themselves.
    Jozefien Van Beek
    "The characters I portray are not vic­tims that need to be rescued. They take action themselves."
    'Living Room' (2013)
    "The woman seems trapped in her interior, but the book offers an opportunity for escape."
    Recreation Room:
    "The woman who denies herself for her family."

    A girl, reminiscent of Sally Draper from 'Mad Men' – ponytail, yellow shirt with puff sleeves, blue skirt – is standing with her back to us while drawing an abstractIon in chalk on a blackboard. By drawing on the blackboard, the girl creates a space for herself. "Like 'Alice in Wonderland', she steps into her own world", says Karin Hanssen. "That is the power of imagination." The painting is called 'A Room of Her Own', both a reference to the title of the exhibition and to Virginia Woolf's feminist essay 'A Room of One's Own'.
    "Both my and Woolf’s premise is feminist. She says you need a space for yourself and a salary to be independent and to write. She wrote that in 1929. Today, things have fortunately changed. However, imposed gender roles are still maintained through social expectations, religion and unspoken social rules. The independence which Woolf writes about has still not been achieved.’"
    While Hanssen was reading Woolf's essay, her eye fell on an old magazine that was lying around in the house, an issue of 'Life'. "In it I saw two large photographs of modernist interiors. Posing in-between the furniture is a woman who is in this way turned into a sort of stage prop."
    This was the basis for the series 'A Room of One's Own': Hanssen elaborated the idea of a space for oneself on the basis of the two photographs from 'Life' that she painted on canvas. The first image: a living room where a woman, alone, is reading at a table on which two coffee cups are set, waiting to be filled. The second image: a playroom where a woman is seen playing with children and tidying up. Both women seem to be trapped in their interiors. The first one, however, can easily escape: the fictional world of the book she is reading is her escape. Hanssen: "The other woman has a more supportive function. She denies herself completely, does not make space for herself, and becomes completely subservient in this way."
    But by isolating fragments taken from the two large 'mother paintings’, as Hanssen calls them, she creates separate spaces for each character. "In the smaller paintings I create segmentations. That is how I give both the women and the children a space for themselves. Emancipation occurs because I omit the original context. By placing the woman tidying up in a separate painting, different associations emerge. Suddenly she is no longer subservient to someone else, but you see a woman lost in thought and therefore in her own world, even if it is only in her mind. For me, it is a positive story. The characters I portray are not victims who have to be rescued. They take action themselves."

    Breaking patterns
    "Just to be clear, it goes beyond the feminist story, because the boys are equally trapped in patterns of expectation that society imposes on them. They are also given their own space in their separate paintings." It is mainly about possible escape routes. Detailed paintings of walls with doorways and windows also present opportunities for escape. Apertures as windows on a different reality.
    "How can you break out of the patterns that have been imposed through society, religion and morality? The mind plays a crucial role in this. Your imagination, escaping by thinking."And this brings us back to the girl in front of the blackboard. Trapped in her sixties outfit, but free in her mind. A small 'Alice in Wonderland'. Dorothy who dreams of a place, far from the grey reality ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. Or, as John Milton aptly describes in his 'Paradise Lost', on the power of the mind: "The mind is its own place, and in itself. Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n."

    'A Room of One’s Own', until 16 November in Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels

    'Karin Hanssen | The Borrowed Gaze', with text by Charlotte Mullins, Lannoo, 240 Pp. € 34.99.

    Born in 1960
    Studied Germanic languages and painting at the Academy of Antwerp and at HISK
    Had solo exhibitions in Berlin and London

    L'artiste anversoise Karin Hanssen peint une ode à l'esprit libre

    'A Room of One's Own' "La peinture-titre de l'exposition, allusion au féminisme de Virginia Woolf."
    Expo. Dans 'A Room of One's Own' Karin Hanssen célèbre la puissance de l'imaginaire. Celle qui pousse les femmes, comme Virginia Woolf son inspiratrice, à briser le corset de la société. Encore que les hommes aient aussi besoin d'un lieu où se retrouver.

    Jozefien Van Beek
    Les personnages que je représente ne sont pas des victimes qu'il faut sauver. ils se prennent en charge eux-mêmes
    'Living Room' (2013)
    "Une femme semble recluse dans son intérieur, mais le livre lui offre la possibilité de s'évader."

    'Recreation Room'
    "Une femme dévouée à sa famille."

    Une petite fille qui rappelle Sally Draper dans 'Mad Men' – queue de cheval, chemise jaune à manches bouffantes, petite jupe bleue – nous tourne le dos tandis qu'elle exécute un dessin abstrait sur un tableau. En dessinant, la petite fille crée un espace qui lui appartient. "Comme 'Alice au pays des merveilles', elle descend dans son propre monde", dit Karin Hanssen. "C'est le pouvoir de l'imaginaire". La peinture s'appelle 'A Room of Her Own', allusion au titre de l'exposition et à l'essai féministe de Virginia Woolf 'Une chambre à soi'.
    "Mon point de vue est aussi féministe que celui de Woolf. Woolf dit que l'on a besoin d'une chambre à soi et d'un salaire pour être indépendante et écrire. Elle l'écrit en 1929. Aujourd'hui, les choses ont heureusement un peu changé. Cependant, les attentes de la société, la religion et les règles sociales implicites induisent toujours des rôles bien établis pour les hommes et les femmes. Nous n'avons pas encore du tout atteint l'indépendance dont parle Woolf.”

    Pendant que Hanssen lisait l'essai de Woolf, elle est tombée sur un vieux magazine qui traînait à la maison, une édition de ‘Life’. "J'y ai découvert deux grandes photos d'intérieurs modernes où une femme pose entre les meubles comme si elle était un élément du décor."

    Ce fut le point de départ de la série 'A Room of One's Own': Hanssen a interprété sur la toile l'idée d'un espace à soi d'après les deux photos de ‘Life’.

    Première image: une pièce où une femme est assise seule en train de lire près d'une petite table où deux petites tasses de café attendent d'être remplies. Autre image : une salle de jeux où une femme joue avec les enfants et met de l'ordre. Les deux femmes semblent recluses en leur intérieur. Encore que la première puisse facilement s'échapper: le monde imaginaire du livre lui offre cette évasion.

    Hanssen: "L'autre femme a une fonction plus significative. Elle s'oublie elle-même, ne s'accorde pas d'espace propre et devient donc entièrement soumise."

    Mais en isolant certains éléments des deux grandes 'tableaux mères' comme les appelle Hanssen, elle crée des espaces séparés pour chaque personnage. "Je les répartis sur de plus petites peintures. Ainsi j'attribue aux femmes autant qu'aux enfants un lieu qui leur est propre. Un espace est ainsi créé pour l'émancipation du fait que je fais abstraction du contexte d'origine. En isolant la femme dans une peinture séparée, je peux obtenir des associations très différentes. Du même coup, ce n'est plus un autre qui lui attribue une fonction ; on voit alors une femme plongée dans ses pensées, donc dans son monde, même si c'est uniquement dans son esprit. C'est donc pour moi une histoire positive. Les personnages que je représente ne sont pas des victimes que l'on devrait sauver. Ils prennent en charge eux-mêmes."

    Briser les carcans
    “Soyons clairs: cela va plus loin qu'un récit féministe car les jeunes eux-mêmes sont prisonniers des attentes que la société leur impose. Ils bénéficient ainsi de leur propre espace dans des peintures séparées.”Il s'agit donc surtout d'éventuelles voies d'évasion. Les détails peints sur les murs, passages et fenêtres, offrent des possibilités de fuite. Des fenêtres sont ainsi créées en tant qu'ouvertures sur une autre réalité.

    “Comment peut-on sortir des carcans imposés par la société, la religion et la morale? L'esprit joue un rôle crucial. L'imaginaire permet l'essor de la pensée. Nous revenons à la petite fille devant le tableau. Prisonnière de la mode des sixties mais libre dans son esprit. Une petite 'Alice au pays des merveilles'. Une Dorothy qui rêve d'un lieu, loin de la grise réalité ‘Quelque part au delà de l'arc-en-ciel’. Ou comme John Milton dans son 'Paradis perdu' qui décrit remarquablement la force de l'esprit: “L'esprit est à soi-même sa propre demeure. Il peut faire en soi un Ciel de l'Enfer, un Enfer du Ciel."

    'A Room of One's Own', jusqu'au 16 novembre, Roberto Polo Gallery. Bruxelles,

    'Karin Hanssen | The Borrowed Gaze', avec des textes de Charlotte Mullins, Lannoo, 240 p. 34,99 €

    Née en 1960
    A étudié les langues germaniques et la peinture à l'Académie d'Anvers et au HISK
    A exposé en solo à Berlin et à Londres

  • Karin Hanssen | Troublante Karin Hanssen, by Roger Pierre Turine | La Libre Arts Libre



  • Karin Hanssen | Regard sur les Golden Sixties, by Steven Van Garsse | AGENDA magazine



    A Look at the Golden Sixties Steven Van Garsse

    Karin Hanssen presents at Roberto Polo Gallery new works and works never shown before in Belgium. For this Flemish artist born in 1960, time is never innocent. At first glance, her paintings resemble idyllic scenes, beautifully brushed, with middle-class families in nature or in comfortable homes, or women occupied doing their household chores. Hanssen paints images of the 50s and 60s borrowed from fashion magazines and the feminine press. This is precisely what charges her paintings with meaning. She imports universal images to the present, but not without generating controversy. The 50s and 60s were a period of protest and hypocrisy. Hanssen only painted the beautiful aspect of this era, as it was imposed on us at the time and as it is etched in the collective memory. But it was also the era of the Arms Race and the Cold War. However, she does not show us these images. And even her idyllic 'censored' scenes are dysfunctional, because woman is often represented in her traditional role. Many also say that Hanssen's work is feminist.

    Hanssen lived the 60s in her youth, but her painting is not autobiographical. She says herself that she grew-up in an atypical family. Her father was a former chaplain, her mother was Austrian. Her family is far from resembling the images that she presents today to a ceaselessly increasing (international) public.

    To achieve this temporal shift, Hanssen uses a technique that she calls calls 'The Borrowed Gaze'. The scenes are seen through the eyes of the photographer at the time. Simultaneously, she is tributary to seventeenth century painting, namely of genre scenes. This combination produces a strangeness. It renders Hanssen's paintings timeless, one can see them incessantly, again-and-again, without tiring. Hanssen, who organised her first exhibition in Brussels at Dolle Mol, wants to further pry into this notion of time and pursues a doctoral degree in fine art in which the following question is central: does the flashback exist in painting? It is already a complex query for her own work, because her œuvre is devoid of all narrative element.

    Een kijk op de gouden jaren 60

    Steven Van Garsse

    Karin Hanssen toont bij Roberto Polo nieuw werk en werk dat nooit eerder in België getoond werd.
    Voor deze Vlaamse kunstenaar, geboren in 1960, bestaat er niet zoiets als een onschuldige tijd. Haar schilderijen lijken op het eerste gezicht idyllische taferelen, mooi geschilderd, met families erop uit de middenklasse, in de natuur of in comfortabele huizen, of met vrouwen die bezig zijn met het huishouden.
    Hanssen haalt de beelden die ze schildert uit modemagazines en de feministische pers van de jaren 50 en 60. En dat is precies wat haar beelden betekenis geeft. Ze importeert universele beelden naar het heden, maar niet zonder een controverse te genereren. De jaren 50 en 60 waren een periode van tegenstellingen en hypocrisie. Hanssen schildert enkel het mooie van deze periode, zoals we het toen verondersteld waren te ondergaan en zoals we het ons herinneren in ons collectieve geheugen.
    Maar het was ook de periode van de wapenwedloop en de koude oorlog. Hiervan toont ze ons niets. En zelfs haar idyllisch 'gecensureerde' scènes zijn disfunctioneel omdat de vrouw er vaak in haar traditionele rol wordt voorgesteld. Sommigen zeggen dat Hanssens werk feministisch is.

    Hanssen is een kind in de jaren 60, maar haar schilderijen zijn niet autobiografisch. Zelf zegt ze dat ze in een atypische familie opgroeide. Haar vader was een voormalige kapelaan, haar moeder was Oostenrijkse. Haar familie lijkt helemaal niet op het beeld dat ze vandaag aan een voortdurend groeiend (internationaal) publiek laat zien.

    Om deze verschuiving in de tijd zichtbaar te maken gebruikt Hanssen een techniek die ze zelf 'De Geleende Blik' noemt. De taferelen worden gezien door de ogen van een toenmalige fotograaf. Tegelijkertijd is ze schatplichtig aan de 17e eeuwse genreschilderkunst. Deze combinatie veroorzaakt een vervreemding. Het maakt Hanssens schilderijen tijdloos, men kan er onophoudelijk naar kijken, telkens opnieuw zonder er genoeg van te krijgen. Hanssen, die haar eerste solotentoonstelling in Brussel in de Dolle Mol had, wil zich verder met dit begrip van tijd bezig houden. Ze werkt aan een doctoraat in de kunsten met de volgende centrale vraag: bestaat de flashback in de schilderkunst? Het is alvast een complexe vraag voor haar eigen oeuvre want haar werk bevat geen verhalende elementen.

  • Karin Hanssen | Visions of an Idyllic Childhood, by SANDRA SMETS | NRC HANDELSBLAD



    Karin Hanssen, 'A Room of One's Own'
    Until November 16th in Roberto Polo Gallery,
    Rue Lebeau 8-10, Brussels

    Visions of an Idyllic Childhood

    Autumn is back, and for those seeking warmth in this season, Karin Hanssen's exhibition is a must see. For years on end she has been painting small mountain lakes and forest landscapes, deep green waters and pale blue skies. In this exhibition, these nature scenes fill the basement floor of the gallery, making her idyll all the more unlikely in the closed space. More recent paintings hang upstairs: stylish interiors from the fifties with design furniture, in ochre, aubergine, autumn red. The same housewife figures in all of them, book in hand, or among her two children playing at home
    with all in good order.

    Whether a mountain lake or a living room, Hanssen paints everything with subtle brushstrokes, making it difficult for the viewer to find expressiveness. It is a model world in which characters do not communicate with each other. Her nature scenes are also desolate. It is not until one knows that her painting with deer is based on a science fiction film about a grim concrete future, where a dying man is allowed to view a film about nature, that one begins to understand why this painting
    expresses such sadness and longing. This world is so beautiful, but it cannot be for real.

    Equally exciting are her small paintings, each showing a fragment from those bigger interiors: a small table, a clock, a girl painting, seen from the back and therefore forever anonymous. The exhibition's title 'A Room of One's Own', refers to an essay by Virginia Woolf about the lack of space women have in the world. Hanssen's housewife is also a prisoner, in one painting a shadow
    moves over her anonymous face.

    But there is more to it. That girl painting is Hanssen herself. She portrays her young self in an imaginary home with a loving mother, but in reality, she grew up in an orphanage. Her work is not just sceptical. One feels a real longing, but while Hanssen is painting this ideal world, it only becomes more unreal and unattainable. The more visible her dream becomes, the more it shatters.
    She's unequalled in expressing this tragedy.

    Karin Hanssen, «Une chambre à soi» Jusqu’au 16 Novembre à la Roberto Polo Gallery,
    Rue Lebeau 8 – 10, Bruxelles

    Visions d’une enfance idyllique

    L’automne est de retour, et pour ceux qui cherchent la chaleur en cette saison, l’exposition de Karin Hanssen est un must. Durant des années, elle a peint des petits lacs de montagne et des paysages forestiers, les eaux d’un vert profond et le ciel bleu pâle. Dans cette exposition, ces scènes de la nature remplissent le sous-sol de la galerie, ce qui rend son idylle d’autant plus improbable dans l’espace fermé. Les peintures les plus récentes pendent à l’étage : des intérieurs
    élégants des années cinquante avec un mobilier design, dans les tons ocre, aubergine, rouge automne. La même femme au foyer figure dans chacune d’elles, un livre à la main ou entre deux enfants jouant dans une maison parfaitement en ordre.

    Qu’il s’agisse d’un lac de montagne ou d’une salle de séjour, Hanssen peint tout avec une touche douce, ce qui rend difficile pour le spectateur de trouver de l’expressivité. Il s’agit d’un monde modèle dans lequel les caractères ne communiquent pas les uns avec les autres. Ses scènes de la nature sont également désolées. Ce n’est pas jusqu’à ce que l’on sache que son tableau représentant des cerfs est basé sur un film de science-fiction sur un avenir sombre, où un homme mourant est autorisé à voir un film sur la nature, que l’on commence à comprendre pourquoi cette peinture exprime tant de tristesse et nostalgie. Ce monde est si beau qu’il ne peut être vrai.

    Tout aussi excitants sont ses petits tableaux, chacun montrant un fragment de ces intérieurs : une petite table, une horloge, une fille en train de peindre, vue de dos et donc anonyme pour toujours. Le titre de l’exposition « Une chambre à soi », se réfère à un essai de Virginia Woolf sur le manque d’espace que les femmes ont dans le monde. La femme au foyer de Hanssen est une prisonnière : dans un tableau, une ombre se déplace sur son visage anonyme.

    Mais il y a plus que cela. La petite fille en train de peindre, c’est Hanssen elle-même. Elle se peint elle-même dans une maison imaginaire avec une mère aimante, mais en réalité, elle a grandi dans un orphelinat. Son travail n’est pas seulement septique. On sent un réel désir, mais quand
    Hanssen peint ce monde idéal, celui-ci devient plus irréel et inaccessible. Plus son rêve devient visible, plus il se brise. Elle est inégalée dans l’expression de cette tragédie.

  • Karin Hanssen cher Roberto Polo, by Roger Pierre Turine | L'EVENTAIL ARTS&CULTURE



  • Karin Hanssen | A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN, by Sam Steverlynck | H Art



    Karin Hanssen La plus grande expo jusqu’à présent en Belgique chez Roberto Polo


    Les tableaux de Karin Hanssen trouvent souvent leur origine dans des représentations datant des années 1950-1970. Plutôt que de vouloir susciter un sentiment de nostalgie, Hanssen met à nu le discours qui sous-tend l’époque. Elle ne déroge pas sur ce point de sa dernière série pour laquelle elle part d’un essai célèbre ‘A Room of One’s Own’ (1929) de Virginia Woolf.

    Pour sa nouvelle exposition chez Roberto Polo, Karin Hanssen (Anvers, 1960) s’empare de tout l’espace de la galerie. Elle intègre l’architecture dans son concept global de l’exposition. Ainsi, huit de ses œuvres, où la nature joue le rôle principal, sont exposées au sous-sol (sans aucune fenêtre). Aux deux autres étages, l’artiste expose à chaque fois un tableau central d’où sont extraits une vingtaine de fragments. ‘Living Room’ représente un salon typiquement moderniste, où une femme est en train de lire un livre. Dans ‘Recreation Room’, d’où émane une ambiance rétro similaire, on observe quelques enfants dans la salle de jeux aux côtés de leur mère.
    « L’exposition est structurée autour de ce que je désignerais comme deux tableaux ‘mères’ », explique Hanssen. « Je suis partie de deux photos, des annonces publicitaires pour intérieurs. Le concept sous-jacent de cette série est par contre l’essai ‘A Room of One’s Own’ de Virginia Woolf. Dans le livre, Woolf développe la nécessité pour les femmes de disposer de leur propre espace. A l’époque, la femme était surtout reléguée au rôle de servante. Elle devait tout partager, être un appui pour les autres et s’effacer. C’est également ce qu’on observe dans ces annonces. J’ai isolé des fragments des tableaux ‘mères’ afin qu’ils expriment quelque chose par eux-mêmes. Ainsi, ils deviennent autonomes et ils s’émancipent des tableaux ‘mères’, tout comme la femme qui y est représentée. »


    Hanssen réalise en quelque sorte un zoom sur le réel. Une coupe de fruits en toile de fond devient, dans une composition de plus grandes dimensions, une nature morte autonome. Une femme qui joue avec un petit garçon réapparaît plus tard dans un portrait à part. Il ne s’agit jamais d’une copie conforme de la représentation de l’œuvre d’origine. Selon Hanssen « chaque détail demande une approche particulière, afin de permettre aux tableaux de s’émanciper. Je n’ai pas commencé à peindre les tableaux ‘mères’, sinon les fragments en deviendraient trop dépendants. Je leur ai donc accordé un format propre. Il y a à chaque fois un autre traitement et façonnage du tableau. Ainsi, les fragments deviennent d’un coup les acteurs principaux. Car, dans l’œuvre d’origine, ils ont une fonction d’appui comme la femme qui, sur la photo, est réduite à une pièce de décor. »

    Les fragments ne sont cependant pas disposés à côté de la composition centrale. « Je l’ai fait de manière consciente car les tableaux doivent exiger eux-mêmes leur place. Parfois il arrive qu’ils se trouvent dans les environs du tableau ‘mère’, mais en général ce n’est pas ce qui se passe. » Ses tableaux invitent-ils dès lors le spectateur à les regarder de plus près ? « C’est sans doute ce qui se passe automatiquement car je travaille sur la répétition. En se fragmentant, chaque tableau reçoit une autre signification. C’est quelque chose qui me préoccupe car en peignant à nouveau une même représentation, elle peut acquérir une tout autre signification. Et il en va de même pour une image photo traduite en peinture. Le contexte est toujours important pour déterminer une image. C’est le cadre à travers lequel nous percevons les choses. »


    Ceci vaut également pour le cadre historique des représentations d’origine. « Si une œuvre coïncide avec son époque, il est beaucoup plus difficile d’en déceler le cadre. La distance permet justement de déceler des phénomènes qui se produisent, voire se répètent. Il devient dès lors plus facile d’adopter une distance critique par rapport à l’image photo. » Avec sa série, Hanssen révèle donc également le schéma de comportement dicté par le rôle social de l’époque. En sélectionnant certains éléments, elle libère les personnages post factum et elle leur accorde l’attention qu’ils méritent. C’est le cas dans l’œuvre clé ‘A Room of Her Own’, qui figure également sur la couverture du nouveau livre ‘The Borrowed Gaze’, un aperçu d’une œuvre de 25 ans. « La fillette tourne le dos au spectateur devant un tableau d’école sur lequel elle trace un dessin à la craie. Nous la découvrons en pleine action. Elle adopte la position de l’artiste qui crée sur le tableau vide un nouvel espace. Le personnage vu de dos, le ‘Rückenfigur’ est un motif bien connu. Songeons au tableau de Johannes Vermeer ‘L’Art de la peinture’. L’artiste s’y manifeste dans une représentation allégorique. Il rompt à la fois l’allégorie et déplace le sujet vers la force de la peinture. A travers cette même force du processus créatif, la fillette peut se libérer de l’espace dans lequel elle se trouve. »

    Karin Hanssen, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ du 12 septembre au 16
    Novembre 2014 à la Roberto Polo Gallery, Rue Lebeau 6-8, Bruxelles, ouvert mar-ven de 14h à18h, sam-dim de 11h à 18h
    ‘The Borrowed Gaze’ texte de Charlotte Mullins, Lannoo
    Publishers, 2014, ISBN 9789401420426

    Karin Hanssen’s most important exhibition in Belgium to date at Roberto Polo


    Karin Hanssen’s paintings are often inspired by found images from the 1950’s -1970’s. It is never her intention to evoke feelings of nostalgia: Hanssen reveals the discourse underlying the visual manifestations of this period. She made use of this procedure to create her latest series of paintings, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s influential essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ (1929).

    For her latest exhibition at Roberto Polo’s, Karin Hanssen (Antwerp, 1960) has appropriated every inch of gallery space and made use of the architecture by turning it into a meaningful element of her overarching exhibition concept. She chose the –windowless – basement floor to show eight works in which the outdoors plays a major role. On each of the higher floors, the artist is showing one central painting, accompanied by a series of paintings featuring fragments extrapolated from this central work. ‘Living Room’ represents a typical modernist living room in which a woman is reading a book. ‘Recreation Room’, which exudes a similar retro atmosphere, features a couple of children and their mother in a playroom.

    “The exhibition is built around these two ‘mother paintings’, as I call them,” Hanssen says. “I started from two photographs which I had found, ads for interiors. The underlying concept for the whole of the series was Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’. Woolf argues that a woman should have money and a room of her own in order to be able to be creative. At the time, women were supposed to fulfill a subservient role, to be prepared to share, to be content with a supporting role and to be self-effacing. This attitude permeates the ads I chose. I excised details from these images and allowed them to take on a life of their own. The fragments became autonomous images, separate from the mother paintings – the way the woman represented in these images becomes the main subject of the portrait.”


    Hanssen zooms in on these details. A fruit bowl standing somewhere in the background in the original composition becomes an autonomous still life. A woman playing with a little boy becomes the subject of a portrait. These fragments are not exact copies of details from the mother painting. “Each of these details requires an individual treatment”, Hanssen explains. “In order to allow the images to emancipate, I did not start by painting the mother picture. Had I done so, that would have meant allowing the excisions to became too dependent on this ‘larger picture’. So I made sure to grant them each their own appropriate size. All these ‘secondary’ images were adapted and treated in different ways, thus ensuringthey shed their supporting role to become protagonists. Hence the portrait of the woman who is merely part of the scenery in the photograph.”

    The fragments were not placed next to the two central compositions. “I did this on purpose, as all the paintings have to demand and command their own space. I may have allowed some of them to remain in the vicinity, but most of them have been placed elsewhere.” Is this meant as an invitation to the viewer to make the effort, to look more attentively? “The invitation is probably given out automatically because repetition is an essential part of my work. The content of each of the paintings changes depending on the way I fragmented it. This is a preoccupation of mine: multiple meanings. As I paint the same image again, it becomes endowed with a completely different meaning. The same goes for a photographic image that is translated into painting. Context is always a decisive factor in the selection of an image. It is the frame through which we look at it.”


    This is also relevant with regard to the historical background of the original pictures. “If you, as a person, coincide with your period, it is much harder to really see this frame. With hindsight, phenomena occurring or repeating themselves in a given period become more clearly visible. This makes it easier to observe critical distance from the photographic image.” In the present series of paintings, Hanssen unveils the unspoken patterns of gender role attitudes of the period. By highlighting certain elements, she liberates the characters post factum and gives them the attention they rightfully deserve. A fine example is ‘A Room of Her Own’, a key work featured on the cover of ‘The Borrowed Gaze’, the new book covering Hanssen’s work of the past 25 years. “The girl is standing with her back to the viewer in front of a blackboard. She is making a drawing with a piece of chalk. Her position is really that of the artist, as she creates a new reality on the empty blackboard. The ‘Rückenfigur’ is an established motif – remember for instance Johannes Vermeer’s allegorical work ‘The Art of Painting’, where the artist represents himself seen from behind, yet simultaneously puts forward the power of art as the true subject of the painting. It is this power of the creative process that also allows the girl to break free from the space in which she finds herself.”

    Karin Hanssen, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ from September 12th to November 16th at Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 6-8, Brussels, Open Tu-Fr 14-18, Sa-Su 11-18.
    ‘The Borrowed Gaze’, text by Charlotte Mullins, Lannoo Publishers, 2014, ISBN 9789401420426

  • Michaël De Kok | Paysages oniriques, by Roger Pierre Turine | La Libre | Arts Libre



  • Michaël de Kok | Oneiric Landscapes, by Eric Rinckhout | De Morgen DMCity






  • Karel Dierickx | L'Aspiration au sublime pictural, by Claude Lorent | La Libre | Arts Libre



  • Karel Dierickx | Feast for the Eye, By Eric Rinckhout | De Morgen



    Traduction francaise
    Le peintre Karel Dierickx nous convainc avec ses paysages et ses natures mortes à la Roberto Polo Gallery

    Une vraie fête pour les yeux

    Karel Dierickx a 73 ans. Il a peint toute sa vie et pourtant, cette éminence grise de la peinture belge ne jouit, tout à fait à tort d’ailleurs, que d’une célébrité toute relative. La galerie bruxelloise Roberto Polo présente certaines œuvres du peintre, pleines de vivacité et vibrant de couleurs. Le moment pour Dierickx de se faire connaître du grand public.
    Eric Rinckhout

    Karel Dierickx Handballet
    Jusqu’au 18 mai à la Roberto Polo Gallery
    8-10 Rue Lebeau. Bruxelles

    Karel Dierickx, né à Gand (Belgique) en 1940, appartient à une génération de peintres qui, à un moment donné, a connu un parcours semé d’embûches. Dans les années septante et quatre-vingt du 20e siècle, la peinture a traversé une période de crise. Des artistes tels Fred Bervoets, Jan Vanriet et Karel Dierickx continuaient de peindre, alors qu’un grand nombre de musées et de curateurs ne leur témoignaient plus aucun intérêt.
    « Nous avons été chassés dans les années septante et quatre-vingt, » atteste Jan Vanriet en 2008 dans De Morgen. « On nous faisait entendre qu’on ne correspondait pas aux nouvelles tendances en art. Quelle que soit la portée d’une telle phrase, elle a bel et bien perdu certains peintres. Si vous manquiez vous-même de ressort ou que vous ne pouviez compter sur la sympathie des collectionneurs, vous étiez fichu. » C’est à cette époque difficile que Karel Dierickx fait la connaissance du galeriste Heiner Hachmeister. Grâce à sa galerie à Münster, de nombreuses œuvres de Dierickx se trouvent dans des collections et des musées en Allemagne.
    Bien que Dierickx ait continué d’exposer ses œuvres en Belgique (encore récemment au Musée Raveel et à l’exposition Sint-Jan de Jan Hoet à Gand (2012)), il reste un tuyau confidentiel, mais ceci pourrait bientôt changer. Dierickx a attiré le regard du galeriste dynamique Roberto Polo, qui a entre-temps exposé les œuvres d’une série impressionnante d’artistes : des peintres tels que Jan Vanriet, Jan De Vliegher, Mil Ceulemans, Marc Maet ainsi que le photographe Bert Danckaert et des expositions avec Karin Hanssen, Michaël de Kok et Werner Mannaers sont attendues.
    Karel Dierickx semble avoir trouvé un nouveau souffle en Belgique : ses dessins, sculptures et peintures sur les trois niveaux que compte la galerie ne laissent pas d’impressionner. Dierickx se voit lui-même comme un peintre à l’ancienne. Il réfère indubitablement à ses motifs ‘éternels’ tels que les paysages, les marines, les natures mortes et, plus rarement, à l’autoportrait. Ce qui compte, c’est bien sûr ce qu’il fait à partir de là.
    Le nom de Morandi surgit parfois car Dierickx apprécie la nature morte ou encore le nom de Fautrier, car Dierickx pratique aussi l’action painting. Cependant, la comparaison s’arrête là. Le poète Roland Jooris décrit avec pertinence l’œuvre de son ami Dierickx comme une forme de ‘peinture sculptée’. Avec ses doigts, comme s’il voulait pétrir la peinture et lui conférer une troisième dimension. Ainsi, ses tableaux deviennent des sculptures hautes en couleurs et à angles multiples, qui réfléchissent la lumière.
    Cette approche nous conduit vers des artistes tels que Medardo Rosso, Rik Wouters et Alberto Giacometti, qui pétrissaient également leurs œuvres et créaient des tableaux pleins de lumière et de dynamisme. Chez Medardo Rosso, s’ajoute le fait que ses œuvres semblent nées de plâtre et de bronze. Le procédé se retrouve chez Dierickx, mais avec de la peinture. Un enchevêtrement de coups de brosse ainsi qu’un jeu d’éclairs, d’ondes et d’agglutinations génèrent un tableau de Dierickx. A l’origine était la peinture, et le chaos donne naissance à des formes vaguement reconnaissables. La peinture se mue en quelques fruits, la couleur se densifie pour former l’horizon, ou encore une tâche de couleur flottant sur la mer.
    Parfois, il s’agit d’une prolifération de formes, à d’autres moments, la couleur s’entasse dans un coin du tableau. Ses tableaux sont sans cesse en mouvement, en gestation. Ici réside le paradoxe de l’œuvre de Karel Dierickx.

    Images récurrentes
    Dierickx ne peint pas d’après des photos, films ou autres documents. Ce n’est pas un peintre conceptuel tel que Tuymans ni un peintre narrateur tel que Borremans. Dierickx peint de mémoire : ce sont des images récurrentes de ce qu’il a vu ou vécu. Les souvenirs d’une mer et le ressac, du soleil qui perce le brouillard, d’un visage, des fruits sur la table. Un de ses tableaux s’intitule d’ailleurs ‘Memory’. Les souvenirs sont souvent vagues. Ce n’est qu’en réfléchissant longtemps et, dans le cas du spectateur, en scrutant minutieusement, que l’image semble se préciser davantage. Pourtant, les souvenirs, ainsi que les scènes, semblent généralement insaisissables.
    Dierickx peint là où sa main le porte ; une main de maître qui ne craint pas la page blanche. Tout comme dans les tableaux de James Ensor, la lumière semble se trouver dans ses tableaux. L’enchevêtrement de couleurs claires évoque également l’œuvre tardive de Monet et ses variations sur les Nymphéas. Cependant, Monet voulait représenter la réalité visible, alors que Dierickx se désigne comme expressionniste lyrique. Nous pouvons sans doute aussi le voir comme un ‘impressionniste de l’âme’.
    Dans la Roberto Polo Gallery, ses œuvres figurent dans des cadres en bois, comme si elles se trouvaient dans une boîte vide, à offrir comme des cadeaux. En partant à leur découverte, vous verrez par vous-même qu’elles sont une fête pour les yeux.

  • Karel Dierickx | En pleine lumière, by Roger Pierre Turine | L'Eventail



  • Karel Dierickx | Je laisse ma peinture évoluer sous mes mains, en travaillant, by Marc Ruyters | H ART



    Traduction française

    ‘Hand Ballet’ de Karel Dierickx chez Roberto Polo
    ‘Je laisse ma peinture évoluer sous mes mains, en travaillant’

    Décidément, le galeriste Roberto Polo ne voit aucune raison pour prendre du retard: l’artiste suivant pour lequel il organise une exposition solo est Karel Dierickx, l’une des éminences grises de la peinture belge, l’un des peintres les plus connus de l’expressionnisme lyrique. À la Roberto Polo Gallery, ce sont surtout ses dernières œuvres qu’il a voulu montrer.
    Marc RUYTERS

    Image: Karel Dierickx, ‘Dans le miroir’, 2013, huile sur toile, 60 x 50 cm, avec l’aimable autorisation de Roberto Polo Gallery

    D’abord il y avait Jan Vanriet, puis Koen De Cock, ensuite Bert Danckaert, Mil Ceulemans et Marc Maet. Maintenant, c’est au tour de Karel Dierickx, et bientôt suivront Michael de Kok, Karin Hanssen, Werner Mannaers ... la liste des artistes (en grande partie) belges que Roberto Polo sait ajouter à son portefeuille devient très impressionnante. Au début, quand il venait de s’installer à Bruxelles, la confrérie des artistes belges a réagi avec un soupçon de méfiance, mais jusqu’ici il n’y a pas eu de surprises désagréables – bien au contraire. Karel Dierickx vient de fêter son 74e anniversaire, mais il participe toujours et très régulièrement, à des expositions dans son propre pays (récemment au Musée de Deinze et de la région de la Lys et au Musée Roger Raveel). Il est surtout très présent en Allemagne, plus spécifiquement par le biais de sa galerie, Hachmeister à Münster. Comment se fait-il qu’il expose chez Roberto Polo aujourd’hui?

    Karel Dierickx: “Un jour, il a sonné à ma porte. Je ne le connaissais pas du tout. Alors, il a regardé mes œuvres les plus récentes, qui se trouvaient encore chez moi. Puisque la collaboration avec Hachmeister tire un peu à sa fin, je me disais: pourquoi pas?” Les œuvres qu’il montre chez Roberto Polo sont récentes ou plus précisément les tableaux sont récents, mais il y montre aussi des œuvres sur papier qui datent de périodes antérieures.

    Le titre ‘Hand Ballet’ vient de l’auteur Stefan Hertmans, qui a écrit le texte du catalogue. Un très beau titre, d’après nous. Est-ce qu’il signifie que, pour Dierickx, que les mains qui exécutent priment sur le cerveau créatif? Karel Dierickx: “Non, les deux vont de pair. Je suis un peintre assez typique des années quatre vingt: j’ai vécu une longue période pendant laquelle la peinture était considérée comme démodée, un peu ringarde. Toute notre génération en a souffert.

    ‘C’est en grande partie pour cette raison que je suis devenu un expressionniste lyrique. Je tente d’abandonner tout ce qui relève de l’anecdotique. Et en effet, à ces moments-là, c’est surtout ma main qui ‘mène le jeu’, car mon cerveau est ‘éteint’: quand je peins, je ne veux pas théoriser, ni exécuter tel ou tel concept. Aucun de mes tableaux n’est basé sur des faits ou sur une histoire - contrairement à ceux de la génération suivante.’

    ‘J’ai eu beaucoup de difficulté à m’imposer – à survivre, même. Puis à un certain moment, j’ai fait la connaissance de Hachmeister. Il m’a pris en charge à une époque où, ici à Gand, il n’y avait, pour ainsi dire, plus rien à espérer pour des artistes comme moi. J’ai eu de la chance. C’est pour cette raison que beaucoup de mes œuvres se trouvent dans des collections allemandes. La présente exposition sera peut-être une nouvelle chance en Belgique pour moi.”

    Karel Dierickx a enseigné la peinture à Marc Maet, le peintre que Roberto Polo a exposé juste avant lui. Avec Philippe Vandenberg, Fik Van Gestel et Thé van Bergen, Maet formait un groupe de peintres qui pratiquaient une nouvelle variante de l’expressionnisme lyrique, suivant la trace des ‘Neue Wilde’ en Allemagne. Dierickx: “J’ai dix ans de plus qu’eux, mais j’étais en effet influencé par cette génération-là. Je me suis mis à peindre dans un style plus lyrique. Pour moi, c’était une expérience très agréable: voilà une génération qui osait à nouveau tenir un pinceau! Mais pour en revenir à ce ‘Ballet de Mains’: pour moi, en effet, un tableau évolue pendant que je travaille: une nature morte peut devenir un paysage, par exemple. La picturalité et la composition d’une toile peuvent aussi évoluer ‘en cours de route’. Pour la génération suivante, celle de Borremans et Tuymans etc., la composition est probablement figée dès le début, puisqu’ils travaillent d’après des photos, des documents, des séquences de film ...”

    Le dessin a une fonction préparatoire essentielle pour Karel Dierickx. “Ce qui était d’ailleurs encouragé par Hachmeister. Beaucoup de mes dessins se trouvent dans des musées allemands. L’acte de dessiner est plus décontracté pour moi que celui de peindre. J’ai une certaine facilité… Beaucoup de mes tableaux sont basés sur des dessins préalables, mais il y a aussi des dessins autonomes, des carnets illustrés, des gouaches… Je dessine plus que je ne peins.”

    Dierickx fait des paysages, des natures mortes et des portraits qui évoluent vers l’abstraction lyrique. Mais ce qu’il fait est plus que de l’abstraction. Dierickx: “Tout d’abord: la technique est importante. Il faut avoir du métier. Mais en tant qu’artiste peintre, il faut transcender l’aspect technique, il faut savoir oublier la technique. Gustave De Smet faisait cela merveilleusement bien. Il ne s’agit donc pas de l’abstraction en soi, mais bien d’une interprétation plus libre du thème, de l’aspect lyrique. D’où le fait que je me considère comme un expressionniste lyrique, en grande partie. Je tente de me libérer de tout ce qui relève de l’anecdotique. Et en effet, à ces moments-là, c’est surtout ma main qui ‘mène le jeu’, car mon cerveau est ‘éteint’: quand je peins, je ne veux pas théoriser, ni exécuter tel ou tel concept. Aucun de mes tableaux n’est basé sur des faits ou sur une histoire - contrairement à ceux de la génération suivante.”

    N’est-il pas difficile de savoir comment finir une telle œuvre, qui est par définition assez diffuse? Dierickx: “Oui, c’est bien plus facile de la commencer que de la finir, comme le veut le cliché.” La question le rappelle une anecdote mettant en vedette feu le regretté Jan Hoet. Ils ont toujours entretenu de bonnes relations, Karel Dierickx étant un des rares peintres que Hoet a toujours et dès le début inclus dans ses expositions. Dierickx: “Il est venu me voir dans mon atelier deux, trois mois avant sa mort. Il voulait voir mes dernières œuvres, celles qui sont exposées chez Roberto Polo en ce moment. Et il me disait: ‘Regarde, Karel, ceci est un beau tableau. Sauf que, moi, je ferais encore quelque chose là…’. Cela, c’était bien Jan Hoet, c’était tout à fait typique. Mais il ne m’a jamais laissé tomber, comme il l’a fait avec certains autres.”

    ‘Ballet de mains’ de Karel Dierickx, du 28 mars au 18 mai à la Roberto Polo Gallery, 8-10 rue Lebeau, Bruxelles. Ouvert mar-ven de 14 à18 h, sam-dim de 11 à 18 h.

  • Marc Maet | Critique à l’encontre des papes de l’art, by Eric Bracke | De Morgen



    English translation
    Posthumous exhibition of last paintings of Marc Maet

    Critique on Art Popes

    He was said to have been crushed when the late Jan Hoet dropped him. But the paintings Marc Maet (1955-2000) made in the years before he stepped out of life remain extraordinarily captivating. The Brussels Roberto Polo Gallery rightly thought them worthy of a retrospective and a book publication.
    Eric Bracke

    The Aftermath, Marc Maet
    until 23/3 at the Roberto Polo Gallery,
    Lebeaustraat 8, 1000 Brussels

    “All the paintings I have made, are yours. Do with them what you want, but make sure they don’t fall into the hands of the many vultures and dung flies that permeate the art world. If you are very angry with me – and there is every reason you should be – then burn them.”
    This is what Marc Maet wrote in a farewell letter to his wife. The man from Bruges who stuck around in Ghent after his studies was a sensitive soul, but he also suffered a lot of physical pain. So perhaps it was not just the lack of recognition in the art world that led this gifted artist – in the summer of 2000, a few days before his 45th birthday – to end his life. 
The development of Marc Maet ran somewhat parallel to that of his Ghent-born friend Philippe Vandenberg, who also took his own life in 2009. As a young artist, Marc Maet was widely praised. He was invited to exhibitions in Athens, the Biennial of São Paulo and New York. Museums bought his canvases and he became known as a passionate teacher at the Academy in Ghent. But the fact that painting was barely given any attention and was forced to give way to installations and conceptual art started to eat at him.
    Today, however, painting is back, which is more than evident in this posthumous exhibition Aftermath with paintings by Maet from the 1990s at the Roberto Polo Gallery. The work shown at the Brussels gallery belongs to Maet’s last period. Initially, Maet adhered to a spontaneous, neo-expressionist painting style, which he abandoned in the eighties in favour of a more Neue Wilde-like attitude.

    Maet was disturbed by the fact that painting had to give way to installations and conceptual art
    This movement heralded a heavily brushed return to figuration in response to the often cool and intellectualized conceptual art and strict minimalism. In Maet’s work, this approach evolves into a painterly reflection on modern art from Vincent van Gogh onward, in which words and literary fragments play an important role as well.
    Maet situated himself at the centre of a web of influential artists, including his countrymen René Magritte and Marcel Broodthaers, whom he openly quoted in his work. In addition to being a personally coloured response to the modern canon of art, it is also a critique of the prevailing politics in art. This becomes immediately obvious as one enters the Roberto Polo Gallery.
    The eye catcher is Maet’s version of Picasso's Guernica. At the top, the monumental canvas, painted in shades of brown and black contours, bears the title Kleine Guernica op vrijdag visdag (Small Guernica on Friday Fish Day) (1999). We see a dynamic composition with arms, legs and hands, embellished with icons that refer to Magritte and other artists: the skull as a vanitas symbol, a pipe, a hand mirror, a candle, a mask, a large mussel shell, a high heel ladies’ shoe... Maet, so it seems, is not depicting the devastation of the attack on innocent civilians, but rather the small war that rages inside him.

    The icons he has strewn across the image plane reappear in other paintings as well. This is also the case in De onthoofde schilder (The decapitated painter) (1997), which presents a person lying on the chopping block with his hands tied on his back. The symbols form a vocabulary whose meaning nonetheless remains hidden.
    At times, background knowledge can provide clues, as with the painting of two hares sitting above the written question, moeten de beelden nog aan de hazen worden verklaard? (must the pictures still be explained to the hares?) (1998). Maet here undoubtedly comments on a performance by Joseph Beuys from 1965, in which the German artist was seen walking from artwork to artwork with a dead hare in his arms, muttering unintelligible explanations. Maet provokes reflection by painting a skull between the two facing hares.
    His works demand to be read with a slow, inquisitive gaze, much like the one that characterised the artist himself. He often paints eyeballs on the canvas, using dotted lines to indicate viewing directions. In the publication The Aftermath, Ann M. Dijkstra writes that Maet is fascinated by a verse by Paul Valéry: ‘Je me voyais me voir, sinueuse, et dorais’. I saw myself looking at myself, acquires an autonomous meaning in his work. According to him, the painting looks back as the artist creates it; later, it looks back at the exhibition visitor as well. There is something uncanny about it.

    Maet situated himself amidst influential artists, including Magritte and Broodthaers

    Who was Marc Maet?
    1955: Born in Schoten
    decided to become an artist after seeing modern art at a school friend’s house
    studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent
    1982: won the Europe Prize for Painting in Ostend
    1990: work is shown at Ponton Temse, Jan Hoet’s preparatory exhibition for the Documenta in Kassel in 1992. Maet is ultimately not selected for Kassel.
    his American gallery runs into financial trouble because of the Gulf War
    1994: work is shown in Ric Urmel’s gallery in Ghent, which however quickly closes its doors after a hopeful start
    suffers increasingly more health problems in the course of the 90s
    commits suicide in 2000
    Image on the left page:

    Must the pictures still be explained to the hares?, 1998.
    Here, Maet comments on a performance by Beuys from 1965, in which the German artist was seen walking around with a dead hare in his arms while muttering unintelligible explanations.

    Images on the right page:

    Diary of a painter II, 1995.

    Small Guernica on Friday Fish Day, 1999.
    A dynamic composition with arms, legs and hands, embellished with icons that refer to Magritte and other artists: the skull as a vanitas symbol, a pipe, etc.

    The decapitated painter, 1997.
    The headless painter also shows icons strewn across the picture plane. They form a vocabulary whose meaning remains hidden.

    Traduction en français

    Exposition posthume des derniers tableaux de Marc Maet

    Critique à l’encontre des papes de l’art

    Il ne se serait jamais remis du coup que le regretté Jan Hoet lui avait porté après l’avoir laissé tomber. Cependant, les tableaux que réalisa Marc Maet (1955-2000) durant les années précédant son suicide restent singulièrement captivants. A juste titre, la galerie bruxelloise Roberto Polo Gallery lui consacre une rétrospective et un livre.
    Eric Bracke

    The Aftermath, Marc Maet
    Jusqu’au 23/3 à Roberto Polo Gallery,
    Rue Lebeau 8, 1000 Bruxelles

    « Tous les tableaux que j’ai réalisés sont pour toi. Fais-en ce que tu voudras, mais veille à ce qu’ils ne tombent pas entre les mains des nombreux charognards et mouches à merde qui peuplent le petit monde de l’art. Si tu es très en colère contre moi – et les raisons ne manquent pas –alors brûle-les.»
    Voilà ce qu’écrivit Marc Maet dans une lettre d’adieu à sa femme. Le Brugeois qui s’était installé à Gand après ses études. Il était doté d’une âme sensible et souffrait de douleurs physiques. Sans doute le manque de reconnaissance dans le circuit artistique n’a-t-il pas à lui seul poussé au suicide ce jeune artiste talentueux durant l’été 2000, à peine quelques jours avant ses 45 ans.
    La vie de Marc Maet montre plusieurs points de ressemblance avec celle de son ami gantois Philippe Vandenberg, qui se suicida également en 2009. En tant que jeune artiste, Marc Maet fut porté aux nues. Les invitations pour des expositions à Athènes, la Biennale de São Paulo et New York s’enchaînaient. Les musées achetaient ses tableaux et à l’Académie de Gand, il se fit connaître comme un chargé de cours passionné. Mais simultanément il fut rongé par le fait que la peinture était de plus en plus tenue à l’écart au profit des installations et de l’art conceptuel. Aujourd’hui, la peinture a fait son retour, ce que vient illustrer l’exposition posthume Aftermath avec des tableaux de Maet des années 1990 dans la Roberto Polo Gallery. L’œuvre exposée dans la galerie bruxelloise appartient à la dernière période de Maet. A l’origine, Maet s’inscrit dans une peinture spontanée, néo-expressionniste, avant de travailler dans le sillage des Neue Wilde dans les années 1980.

    Maet était rongé par le fait que la peinture était de plus en plus tenue à l’écart au profit des installations et de l’art conceptuel.

    Ce courant entama à force coups de brosse un retour à la figuration, en réaction à l’art conceptuel et le minimalisme mesuré parfois ressentis comme froid et intellectualiste. Chez Maet, cette approche évolua vers une réflexion picturale sur l’art moderne à partir de Vincent van Gogh, où les mots et les fragments littéraires venaient exiger un rôle important. Maet se situa lui-même parmi des artistes influents, tels que ses compatriotes René Magritte et Marcel Broodthaers, qu’il cite ouvertement dans son œuvre. Hormis une réaction personnelle au canon moderne de l’art plastique, il s’agit aussi d’une critique non voilée de la politique de l’art. D’emblée, c’est ce que vous comprenez en entrant dans la Roberto Polo Gallery. Le tableau qui accroche le regard est sans conteste la version de Maet du Guernica de Picasso. Le tableau monumental, peint dans des teintes de marron aux contours noirs, est intitulé (dans la partie du dessus) « Kleine Guernica op vrijdag visdag (1999) » (Petite Guernica un vendredi maigre). Nous voyons une composition dynamique avec des bras, des jambes et des mains, enrichie d’icônes renvoyant à Magritte et autres artistes : le crâne comme symbole de la vanité, une pipe, un miroir à main, une bougie, un masque, une coquille de moule, un soulier de femme à haut talon,… : Maet semble non pas fixer les ravages d’une attaque sur d’innocents civils, mais la petite guerre qui sévit en lui-même.

    Globes oculaires
    Les icônes qui hantent la surface de son tableau reviennent dans d’autres tableaux. Ainsi, on en retrouve dans « De onthoofde schilder » (le Peintre décapité) (1997) qui est agenouillé sur le billot, les mains liés dans le dos. Les symboles forment un vocabulaire dont le sens reste mystérieux. Parfois, il suffit de connaître le contexte, comme dans le tableau des deux lièvres sous lesquels se trouve la question : les images doivent-elles encore être expliquées aux lièvres ? (1998). Maet commente ici, à n’en pas douter, une performance de Joseph Beuys de 1965 où l’artiste allemand déambula d’une œuvre d’art à l’autre en tenant dans les bras un lièvre mort et en murmurant une explication incompréhensible. Maet incite aussi à réfléchir en interposant un crâne entre les lièvres qui se font face. Ses œuvres exigent un regard lent, inquisiteur, qui caractérisait également l’artiste. Il peignait souvent des globes oculaires sur la toile, où les pointillés indiquaient le sens du regard. Dans le livre, The Aftermath, Ann M. Dijkstra écrit que Maet était fasciné par un vers de Paul Valéry: « Je me voyais me voir, sinueuse, et dorais ». Se regarder soi-même reçoit chez l’artiste un sens autonome. Selon lui, le tableau renvoie le regard, alors que l’artiste le réalise et plus tard, le tableau interroge aussi le visiteur de l’exposition. Cela tient du mystère

    Maet se situa lui-même parmi des artistes influents tels Broodthaers et Magritte

    Qui était Marc Maet?
    1955: né à Schoten
    décida de devenir artiste après avoir vu de l’art moderne chez un copain d’école
    Il étudia à l’Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts à Gand
    1982: emporte le prix de l’Europe de Peinture à Ostende
    1990: son oeuvre est exposée à Ponton Temse, l’exposition préparatoire de Jan Hoet pour Documenta 1992 à Kassel. Maet n’est en fin de compte pas sélectionné pour Kassel. A cause de la guerre du Golfe, sa galerie américaine connaît des ennuis financiers
    1994: son œuvre est exposée à la galerie gantoise de Rik Ummel qui, après des débuts prometteurs, doit assez rapidement fermer les portes. Il a de plus en plus de problèmes de santé au cours des années ‘90
    En finit avec la vie en 2000
    Image de la page de gauche:

    Les images doivent-elles encore être expliquées aux lièvres?, 1998.
    Maet commente ici une performance de Beuys de 1965. L’artiste allemand déambula avec un lièvre mort en murmurant une explication incompréhensible.

    Images de la page de droite:

    Journal d'un peintre II, 1995

    Petite Guernica, un vendredi maigre,1999.
    Une composition dynamique avec bras, jambes et mains, enrichie d’icônes renvoyant à Magritte et autres artistes: le crâne comme symbole de la vanité, une pipe, etc.

    Le peintre décapité, 1997
    Egalement dans «le peintre décapité», des icônes hantent la surface du tableau et constituent un vocabulaire dont le sens reste enveloppé de mystère.

  • Jan Vanriet | De enige vorm van verzet, by Veerle Vanden Bosch | De Standaard



  • Bert Danckaert | Netwerk



  • Mil Ceulemans | Le vertige de la matière, by Anne Hustache | l'Eventail



  • Jan Vanriet | Gezichten die moesten verdwijnen, by Eric Rinckhout | De Morgen



  • Jan Vanriet | Een gezicht voor de doden, by Jan Van Hove | De Standaard



  • Bert Danckaert | Foto's Bert Danckaert: muren om uren naar te turen, by Ludo Bekkers | Knack



  • Wim Waumans: Paraphernalia. On the status of inspirational objects DE GARAGE | H Art



  • Bert Danckaert | Au pied du mur, by Jean-Marc Bodson | La Libre



  • Bert Danckaert fotografeert wat niemand anders opmerkt, by Eric Min | De Morgen



  • Bert Danckaert stelt tentoon in de Roberto Polo Gallery en Bozar. 'Ik creëer een podium voor de betekenisloosheid', by Marc Holthof | H Art



  • Bert Danckaert | La grâce de la banalité, by Anne Hustache | L'Eventail



  • Koen De Cock | La Libre



  • Larry Poons, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London by Jonathan Jones | The Guardian


    United States