Jeff Kowatch ’s paintings explode, so to speak, on the walls of the Galerie Faider. ‘Apocalyptic Carnival’ is an opportunity for the American artist to explore the colourful world of carnival and circus, in a vision that relates to the history of art and James Ensor, among others.
An immense 4.5m x 2.5m canvas. An abundance of coloured circles. Fuzzy and vibrant, they overlap; cells that are individual and amalgamated at the same time. Intensively. It looks like a gathering. A troupe. Many reds, some traces of white, green, yellow. It’s Christ leaving Brussels or his exodus … the opposite of Ensor’s The entry of Christ. The title says it all. Behind the delight and the colour, there’s nothing left to say. Christ has got himself into this corner, there’s no way he can be saved. And yet it remains beautiful. Infinitely beautiful. Behind the present, there’s a trace of what was. Behind the story told, there’s another side to the scene.
When Jeff Kowatch paints a picture, he uses 50 to 100 layers of paint! He starts with a uniform layer, until the linen grid disappears. Then come the colours, in well-defined zones, round shapes, organic. A series of bubbles, each containing a history that’s then erased again. Layer after layer, the paint is scrubbed, sanded and dried before another hue is added. This process, infinitely slow, as the artist works with oil paint that takes several weeks to dry, yields an extraordinary result: the colour is both dense and transparent, melted, blurred, powdered and radiant. Due to the extremely smooth texture of the surface, the painting gives the observer a profound feeling of sensuality. The painting is not dead. Far from it. It is there, in your face, intense, wonderful, incredibly actual. Pure joy in fact.
Born in Los Angeles in 1965, Jeff Kowatch is an American artist. He has been living in Belgium for about ten years. “Carnival, circus and painting have quite a bit in common. They are all perceived as archaic and in decline, dead even. These similarities interest me; trigger me to question other similarities. In this way, I touch upon a broad range of themes, like renaissance, self-sacrifice, fascination for death, the search for lost paradise and time,” he explains in Conversation with Paul Emond (Editions Tandem).
Further on in the exhibition, smaller formats, where he pictures his children. They too, are hidden behind these combinations of colour, behind the multiple sanding; body and soul reunited, gathered, densified by the process. A miracle!
12 rue Faider
Until 18 December
Wednesdays – Saturdays, from 14:00h to 18:00h
As well as Sunday, 19 December