David O'Kane in »TRASH«
Eastmen Gallery, Hasselt, BE
23 April—23 May 2015
Invited by Eastmen Gallery, artist Koen van den Broek curated the group exhibition TRASH. We see seven artists showing us various engagements to the creation of an image. The title TRASH indicates possible connections.
That which remains—
what we want to get rid of
Wim Van der Celen,
Van den Broek prefers artists with »a problem«. TRASH is about decay and about how we as humans brace ourselves against it. How do we look at this and especially: what do we look at when we look away? This question is also brought up in the work of Koen van den Broek.
For centuries, the vanitas image has resonated with the human reflex to claim to eternity. So vanitas [vanity] illustrates a problem of handling what is not there or things that will disappear. The contemporary vanitas paintings of Cindy Wright  look razor sharp and photorealistic from a distance but when we approach them they become more abstract and we see the gestural brushstrokes. She uses this known balancing act between abstraction [technique] and figuration [depiction], between affirmation and denial to achieve a constructed objective approach to the transient. This balancing act may be exemplary for the way in which painting, and art in general, keeps organically evolving: shifting between opposites, between significance and total insignificance.
Such criteria may also lend us coordinates when looking at the abstract paintings of Gommaar Gilliams  who has exhibited here several times before. Again we see the game: we can recognize organic flowerlike shapes but the emphasis lies on the indescribable and on the abstract process of painting. A process that, by the way, seems endless because for Gilliams a painting is never really finished.
Katrien Claes  shows a whole different way of redefining the value of an image. She starts with drawings of architectural details from her environment and processes these drawings into geometrically abstract patterns. She cuts these out in cheap materials like aluminum foil or linoleum. Referring to the twentieth century she manages to create paintings that escape the flat surface and that also question object value.
Contrasting with these rigid abstractions is the work of the Irish artist David O’Kane . In his intriguing works we often see isolated figures, surrounded by empty space or an environment in decay. These figures are usually blindfolded or we only see the back of their head. Other times they are occupied in enigmatic actions. O’Kane formulates a transition point between mystification and demystification and he confronts the viewer with the limitations of pictorial meaning. The constructed situations provoke the viewer to enter a semantic labyrinth. Sometimes we can be reminded of how René Magritte expresses a certain condition humaine, which can be metaphorical for looking at an image. After all, mystery exists by the absence of answers, by not seeing.
Wim Van der Celen  also explores areas between seeing and not seeing. Out of studies that included painting after-images, light spots on the retina, he constructs abstract looking images. The great diversity these subtle paintings can show reveals an apparent »indifference« towards the painted image.
Someone who also persistently refuses to allow predictability or unambiguousness in his work is Peter Weidenbaum . He shows us a painting from an exceedingly strong series of archetypical, neo symbolist portraits he is currently working on. He claims to paint in reaction to the dictatorship of reality.
Daan Gielis  also delivered a striking contribution. And that’s not just because he’s the only one showing sculptural work. He consciously rejects all aesthetics of decline or decay in his artistic practice. He poses that every form of removal or decline is additive. So, in a way, he also expresses an inability to escape. He does so without declaring an existential crisis but, for instance, with the taunting letter sculpture »We’re in Miami bitch«.