Sans titre, 2016 is a fascinating dialogue between two artists, Benoît Félix and Bernard Gaube, on what it means to paint and create. Nearly two years ago, at the invitation of Maria Papazoglou, curator at the Botanique museum, the two artists began a dialogue on the aesthetic challenges of contemporary painting and found in their work as many similarities as they are divergences.
While one, Benoît Félix, constantly breaks through the confines of the frame to explore other media such as video and performance, and the other, Bernard Gaube, chose to remain within the limits of the canvas, both have thought of and are constantly questioning the implications of creating art. Throughout the exhibition, the visitor’s eye and mind are led on a course of leaps and bounces from one work to another, discovering formal or conceptual links between the two artists.
Bernard Gaube (1952) lives and works in Brussels. Self-taught, he exhibited at the Basel Art Fair in 1982, thus launching his career as a painter. In 2003, he published several books, Cahiers in which he questions his pictorial practice which he calls “L’exercice d’une peinture” (A painting’s exercise). His works have been exhibited in Brussels at the Pierre Hallet gallery in 2013, Francis Carrette gallery in 2015 and in Paris at the Galerie Duboys the same year. He is currently represented by Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels.
Benoît Félix (1969) lives and works in Lustin. He is an art teacher at ESAVL, the Liège fine arts school. His oeuvre has featured in a number of solo exhibitions (Kaaitheater, Brussels, 2015, Galerie Détour, Namur, 2014, Ingolstadt Kunstverein, Germany, 2013, Château de Montbazillac, France, 2013, etc.). He is represented in Brussels by the Galerie Nadine Feront and in Antwerp by Eva Steinen.deviation(s).
The exhibition starts with the portrait of Félix by Gaube. The portrait of a painter by a painter! “We are artists from two different families,” says Benoît Félix. “Yet, there might be a kinship in the tone and our playful attitude. I watched Bernard paint. I realise that each painting is for him a way to question himself, again and again. There is nothing else to say other than: what did painting do to him this time!”
“I paint to understand what I do,” Bernard Gaube says. “If one day I decided to paint, it was to give birth to myself. Painting, for me, is a way to challenge myself every morning. My paintings are only questions! The question of construction and deconstruction.”
A fruitful dialogue
In the centre, there is a small, almost closed space displayed as a laboratory, with sketches, research and works by both artists. It acts as a magnifying glass to explore their work in even more detail. Further on, by Benoît Félix. Les restes du peintre (peinture par inadvertance), Canevas pour Bernard Gaube, paint residues on the studio’s walls which were photographed and later cut out, gathered and stuck to the wall. The two artists capture the paint to make it speak. For instance, Gaube claims that he needs an incentive to start a new painting. It may be the image of a skinned rabbit, found on Internet, a motif that he used in a number of compositions. Dream and fantasy are the two starting points of his explorations. The artist delves into the depths of each canvas, by creating a formal hollow, using long strips left aside and which draw white lines on the canvas for instance. Patterns and solid colours appear. On the floor, Littoral. Projet d’un grillage pour l’Europe is a long scroll depicting a stylized sea, where every line – every wave – has been clipped and cut out by Benoît Félix. This sea speaks of the refugees. We can also imagine it to be a chain-link fence.
“The French word “tableau” (painting) stems from “Templum” which, in Ancient Rome, was the area in the sky that is virtually surrounded by drawn lines. This space is there to project and interpret… a flock of birds,” Félix adds. “That’s what we do; we seek a dream space.”
Upstairs, the corridors are reserved to Félix on the right and to Gaube and his large paintings on the left. A place for an in-depth look at each artist’s work. Check out the two Ecorchés by Félix: he used the cardboard packaging of a DIY store. When tearing the plastic film, a black shape appeared, a remnant of the colour on the cardboard. “This is what the store does not know it give us. A breach, a dream space,” explains the artist.
“How do you give shape to a conversation between two oeuvres?” concludes Gaube. “This is what I was asking myself, a question which probably fueled my practice and my interest in the message conveyed to another person, which I consider to be one of the basic desires behind the act of creation, even if unconscious.” The act of painting and the act of creation, and in fact, the act of giving birth to images, such were the preoccupations of these two artists. And they are showing them to us in this exhibition, ready to share them. How could we refuse? See you there!
Benoît Félix – Bernard Gaube
Sans titre, 2016
236 rue Royale
Until 6 November
Wednesdays – Sundays, from 12:00h to 20:00h