The Flemish Room: Avalanche
Hilario Galguera Gallery in Madrid presents “The Flemish Room. Avalanche”, featuring work by four Ghent-based contemporary artists: Willem Boel, Maxime Brigou, Marie Cloquet and Stijn Cole.
“The Flemish Room. Avalanche” is the second exhibition at Hilario Galguera Gallery in Madrid and includes work by four Belgian artists: Willem Boel, Maxime Brigou, Marie Cloquet and Stijn Cole.
The idea for “The Flemish Room. Avalanche”, came about after gallerist Hilario Galguera visited each of the artist’s studios in Ghent. He intuitively saw a connection in their work and proposed a 4-person show. The first part of the title, The Flemish Room, was a proposal of Galguera’s – a reference to the historic tradition in palaces in which rooms were named after the art which was featured on the walls; the second part of the title, Avalanche, came from Maxime Brigou, and each of the artists connected to it immediately. Avalanche serves as a sort of spontaneous association that aptly described not only the energy related to putting the show together – the excitement, pressure or responsibility – but also the artistic process itself. “The avalanche is an unstoppable force of nature which is coming whether you want it or not and maybe, in a way, this exhibition felt a bit like that,” says Boel jokingly. But the title, is also evocative of current tensions, from pandemics to the environment to the energy crisis. “It was an intrinsic or emotional word to try and describe our work and what we do. Also, it’s about letting go of control,” states Brigou. “We can use this loss of control as a kind of inspiration and we can react on it, building something from it,” notes Cloquet.
Brigou, Cloquet, Cole and Boel have been friends and colleagues for awhile, but it is the first time they have exhibited all together in such an intimate setting and context. The artists were sensitive in their approach to the exhibition, working together in a true collaborative spirit that was grounded in friendship and mutual respect, but with the understanding that they needed to be objective about the work, including their own. They spent a lot of time installing – editing, adapting and finding the best dialogue between them. “It’s not just showing a few works together, but it is about making a coherent story,” says Cloquet. “What was interesting for me about this show was how you start to look differently at your own work – sharing a space with these people and their work,” notes Brigou.
While there are underlying themes such as repetition and process, nature and the landscape, memory and time, each of the artists have a very distinctive aesthetic and use different materials to express their ideas.
Much of Cloquet’s work is about time, and reconstructing memory. Her labour-intensive process mixes painting and analogue photography. She develops her own silver gelatin prints and then tears them up to build the image back up again with ripped up pieces of watercolours or other painted imagery. “I started tearing up images out of frustration of not creating or recreating the right image or what I experienced in a specific moment or in the landscape,” she states. Our eyes process the image of a tree or mountain by constantly moving around it, and in this sense, Cloquet is trying to get closer to this experience or action, something that is impossible to do with just one painting or photograph, and she notes, “it is about embracing the unexpected and the imperfections.”
Maxime Brigou’s large wall hanging sculptures conjure many associations and references, yet are difficult to define. Stretching heated plastic sheets over clumps of old paint, pieces from other sculptures or debris from her studio, she creates an unusual kind of sculptural still-life – the smeared, abstract forms are almost unsettling, but also at times archeologic, like fragments stuck in slice of greying ice. Depending on how the light is hitting it, the work is constantly shifting, and this is something Brigou wants. While it’s only about 2 cm space between the plastic veil and the back, it can at certain glances appear like a much deeper void into something unknown.
Pare Feu #44 is a fragile looking wall sculpture by Willem Boel made of iron, rope, tape and lots of paint. It is part of a series of work in which the artist pours or brushes paint over a built structure on a daily basis for months, and in some cases years, so that they accumulate layers and layers of dripping paint. But the sculptures didn’t seem to show the efforts he was putting into this repetitive process and so as a way of proving to himself that he was doing this work, he started making his Reward Paintings in which he would place a dot of colour, the one used that day to pour over the sculpture, creating a kind of diary of his practice or “proof of having done something,” he says. It’s an interesting approach of documenting the artistic process and that elusive or “holy moment”, as Boel described it, when you do something in the studio that exceeds your expectations and feels successful, yet which no one, not even the artist themselves, is aware is happening.
As with Boel, those fleeting moments of time, whether in the artist studio or in nature, intrigue Stijn Cole, whose work often plays between geometric forms and natural elements. In his sculpture, Solid Horizon, Cole creates a fragile balance between different slabs of marble that hold each other straight and come together at his eye level, making a kind of landscape. There is a tension to the sculpture, an uncertainty about whether it will hold or not, which serves as a metaphor for the artist about the fragile state of the world today. As he says, “There is a strong poetic power emanating from that frozen moment just before an avalanche occurs. Trying to capture that slice of time is a goal in itself”.
“The Flemish Room: Avalanche” will be on view through February 4, 2023.