The gallery owner Rodolphe Jansen motivated the younger of his employees to organise an exhibition they would curate entirely. His plan was to capitalize on their enthusiasm and their new yet sharp understanding of art. After visiting fifty artists’ studios in Belgium, the team selected nine so-called emerging artists, in other words artists exhibiting their works for the first time in a gallery or whose career was still little-known to the public.
The title Balls & Glory chosen for this unique exhibition is not merely a reference to the eponymous restaurant where the team was dining when they had the idea of “leaving the traditional scope of the gallery, which exhibits mostly renowned artists”. It also underlines the glory given to an artist who sees his or her work rewarded by a recognition which could become the springboard for a career. What is interesting in the Janssen team’s approach is not only that they give an overview of contemporary art in Belgium, but also that they share with us the process involved in a gallery’s selection of particular artists: meeting with the artist, visit of his or her studio, and insight into the artist’s way of working.
Douglas Eynon is one of our favourites. This Englishman living in Brussels has taken over a room at the back of the gallery. Each of the four walls features a large 2×1.5m oil painting with a tongue-in-cheek title referring to each of the four cardinal points. The artist created them in situ, drawing a path that takes us through the woods in a brushstroke which is reminiscent of Munch, like a powerful and personal upward movement, based on a dramatic palette of colours. The artist conjured up these images, these repetitive and obsessive visions, from his dreams. Splendid.
Another talent: Etienne Courtois. Fascinated by the art of photography, the Belgian painter-photographer works with film and likes to disrupt our first perception of his work. Indeed, his pictures appear to be paintings, while it is often the opposite effect that is sought. His still life compositions are put together in natural daylight, sometimes resulting from the superimposition of several negatives, sometimes touched up with paint, but never digitally photoshopped. The result is stunning.
In the space situated on the first floor across the street, we also admired the highly aesthetic and at times terrifying work of Sanam Khatibi. In her paintings, the Iranian artist based in Brussels conveys both her fears and fantasies, as if walking the tenuous tightrope linking such deep feelings. Her landscapes show a dreamlike nature populated by naked women and strange animals with erotic references. Either a form of psychoanalysis or an attempt at making us think about our devastating power over a lush nature which we are gradually devouring. Beauty and fragility: wonderful.
And, last but not least, the highlight of the show: Kasper De Vos. With a deliciously surreal mind-set, the Ghent-based artist has deployed his artistic/culinary talents to prepare ceramic meatballs for us to eat on the spot! They are truly mouth-watering and very inexpensive in their small plastic containers. Accompanied by a limited edition sandwich, this genuinely Belgian menu is presented in an attractive stall. Of course, Kasper De Vos is referring to the consumer society, and his pieces are an inspired reaction to consumerism using recycled materials, a showcase of meatballs, before glory…
Balls & Glory
Galerie Rodolphe Janssen
32 et 35 rue de Livourne
Until 13 February
Tuesdays-Fridays from 10:00h to 18:00h, Saturdays from 14:00 to 18:00h