Roberto Polo Gallery

The Gallery will close for Easter on Sunday, April 16th, 2017;


Alternate Text


23 November 2015

Jan Vanriet

The Music Boy
 29 January – 8 May 2016


Thursday 28 January 2016, 6-8pm

The New Art Gallery Walsall is delighted to present the exhibition Jan Vanriet I The Music Boy from the 29 January – 8 May 2016. This exhibition of 30 oil paintings on canvas is the artist’s first in the United Kingdom. A 168-page hardback, illustrated catalogue featuring extensive essays by Andrew Graham-Dixon and Martin Herbert, as well as a foreword by Charlotte Mullins will be published on the occasion. The exhibition is titled after a quadriptych of paintings depicting the artist’s grandmother and his uncle playing an accordion.

Jan Vanriet’s work mainly concerns the memory of history and the construction of pictorial surface. As Martin Herbert writes:

“Vanriet builds up his paintings in layers, and the strata of underpainting have, in his case, a polyvalent quality. In some cases they form glazes that gift the paintings with an internal glow; in others, the half-visible ghosts of earlier paintings both reaffirm the idea that something is being held back, and situate Vanriet’s paintings as a carefully wrought, crafted statement that has gone through stages in order to reach a conclusive point, like a phrase honed through multiple careful edits.”

Jan Vanriet’s mother, father and uncle participated in the Resistance movement and were deported by the Nazis. His parents met in the Mauthausen concentration camp and their stories and memories of the Second World War and its aftermath continue to permeate his paintings.

Themes of love, loss, identity, destiny and disappearance pervade his work. And yet Vanriet says:

“The starting point may be my family, but I see it as a universal story. I don’t want the themes to be too narrow, too close to me, because they should go wider than that. If not, it is only anecdote and I have not painted well enough.”

Jan Vanriet is a Belgian painter and poet. Born in Antwerp in 1948, he lives and works in the city with his wife, the author Simone Lenaerts. Vanriet is a pivotal figure in the world of contemporary narrative painting. He has represented Belgium at the São Paulo, Venice and Seoul biennials and has exhibited internationally in art museums and reputed galleries. Vanriet’s paintings are in the permanent collections of The British Museum, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, The New Art Gallery Walsall, the National Museum in Gdańsk and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Amongst Jan Vanriet’s recent solo exhibitions are Closing Time at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (2010); Closed Doors at Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels (2012); Losing Face at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in Moscow (2015); Vanity at Roberto Polo Gallery (2015); and Song of Destiny at the National Museum in Gdańsk (2015).

Many distinguished art historians, critics and authors, such as Herbert Albrecht, Stefan Hertmans, György Konrád, Edward Lucie-Smith, Cees Nooteboom, Pierre Restany and Adam Zagajewski have contributed to the numerous publications on Jan Vanriet’s work.

Jan Vanriet has completed monumental mural commissions at public and corporate sites, such as the Bourla Theatre in Antwerp, as well as KBC Bank and the De Brouckère underground train station in Brussels.

Jan Vanriet’s work is exclusively represented by Roberto Polo Gallery, Brussels.

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