Monthly Archives: April 2012

The smooth surface of decay – Diego Iaia in Brussels

By virtue of collaboration between Gallery Apart and Drome Magazine, it will be possible to see works by Diego Iaia as well as fellow Italian artists Luana Perilli and Marco Strappato during the Art Brussels weekend, as Drome’s Brussels office turns into a temporary project space. The group exhibition is entitled ‘Not afraid of beauty‘ and promises to combine conceptuality with strong aesthetics, although one may guess that it will not be that simple, if Iaia is involved.

Diego Iaia, Untitled, 2010, 70 x 50 cm, courtesy The Gallery Apart, Rome

Indeed, Iaia’s work centers on the boundaries of true and false in art and life alike. Not many artists admit to having an eminent art forger as their inspiration, but a recent Iaia project was based on the Art Forger’s Handbook, written by British painter Eric Hebborn who claimed to have more than a thousand paintings (mostly attributed to Old Masters) in premium museums as well as on auctions. Hebborn, for apparent reasons a widely controversial figure, was found with a cracked skull on a street in Rome, the city where Iaia was born and where he still lives and works.

Iaia draws parallels between artistic lure (say, oil and canvas pretending to be a landscape) and the deliberate improvements to human physique through cosmetics or photo editing. Both types of deception illustrate man’s pretensions for things to be different than what they actually are. Nevertheless, while the artist claims that the smooth surface of decoy (or decay, if you will) is an utterly senseless attempt to change the human condition, his works remain aesthetically appealing.

Diego Iaia, Untitled, 2011, 29 x 22cm, courtesy The Gallery Apart, Rome

What is the value of beauty – and art – if both can be forged? Is artistic practice always a form of counterfeiting, as claimed by Iaia? Those questions are worth to reflect upon during the week to come.

Not afraid of beauty will be open from Friday to Sunday, at DROME’s project space, rue Notre-Dame du Sommeil 2, 1000 Brussels.

Image is everything: introducing Aurélien Dupuis

What changed when photography, with its inherent possibility of straightforward recording, cheap reproductions and easy distribution, demoted painting as the popular medium of representation?

This question was brought up already years ago by Gerhard Richter, who made his first photo painting in 1962 after a picture of Brigitte Bardot. Tired of capital lettered art, composition, colour, invention, design etc., “painting from a photograph seemed to me the most moronic and inartistic thing that anyone could do”, the delightfully lugubrious German explains in The Daily Practice of Painting (p. 22). The above-mentioned question was later re-stated by Peter Doig, Marlene Dumas, Luc Tuymans and many an emerging painter (read Liv Vaisberg’s series on some different outcomes). But I wonder what John Berger would say about the ‘newest’ world, as seen on screen in facebook updates, tumblr feeds, pins, tweets and prolific blogging? Today, any kid can make a visually appealing picture of the most banal event with the help of a concealing vintage filter on his smartphone (FOAM Magazine had an interesting facebook post on this topic recently). Allegedly, a picture is worth more than a thousand words but some photography has developed to convey nothing at all, making it perfect for equally vacant advertising. As visual communication rapidly gains presence and power, the assessment of its influence is even more topical for painters and photographers alike who reflect on contemporary creation and use of images.

Aurélien Dupuis - Madonne no. 1, 28x35 cm, markers on paper

Aurélien Dupuis takes his inspiration from familiar and over-abundant motifs, such as school and workplace portraits (the series ‘48 portraits’, ‘Employé(e)/Medewerker’), real-estate development catalogues (‘Pavillons’), amateur photographs found on flea markets (‘X’), the Internet or social platforms (‘Enfant + chien’, ‘Madonne’, ‘Dormeurs’). He re-creates these widespread images – hackneyed captures of modern life – using ‘slow media’ such as charcoal and children’s markers, preserving the low definition, pixelisation and overexposure of hasted snapshots.

It is precisely the choice of technique that makes his work compelling despite the uneventful topics, by introducing complexity and pathos. At a first glance, the colourful children’s markers connote a feeling of babyhood nostalgia, but paradoxically, there is also something absurd of a trained painter playing with toys when he could make art, using proper materials. Also his choice of subject is ambiguous. On the one hand, these are pictures of people and situations of no particular charm or consequence. On the other, the painter must think that they are worthy of consideration as he spends so much time and effort re-creating them.

Aurélien Dupuis, Zone Pv_R 11, charcoal on paper, 100x70 cm

Further uncertainty is brought by the fact that Aurélien works in series and with repetitions, which both simulate and challenge the mechanic use of images in media and on the Internet, given the considerable labour that went into the re-creation of the given images.

Moreover, when watching his series, I am often pulled into one picture in particular. When meeting with Aurélien some weeks ago, I asked if the picture of my attraction was better known than the others — it was not, but he guessed that maybe my own memories were projected into the ‘eye-catching’ picture.

Aurélien Dupuis, 'Enfant+chien n°11', markers on paper, 138x120cm

Aurélien does, however, sometimes work from famous pictures: the posers of ‘Enfant + Chien’, for instance, are all anonymous but one, which was made after Andrei Tarkovsky’s polaroid of his family. By showing how certains ‘kodak moments’ repeat themselves, how certain actions become engrained into our culture and habits, the series is put into perspective.

The quality of Aurélien’s work lies precisely in its openness for contradictory interpretations (quite interestingly, in the art world, «confusing» is often close to «compelling», whereas words such as «decorative», «aesthetic» and «commercial» can be used as strong criticism).

On an ending note, I can reveal that in the framework of POPPOSITIONS, Aurélien Dupuis has prepared a series inspired by Belgian administrative clerks for whom the Bruxelles Congrès station was created. If you are in town during the Art Brussels week, come and see the result as well as the works of other emerging artists.

POPPOSITIONS off fair is on at Bruxelles Congrès from 20-22 April, 12-9 PM, with a Friday opening party and performances by invited guests from 9 PM until late. The full programme is updated at the website

— Aleksandra Eriksson Pogorzelska —

Ponyhof at POPPOSITIONS off fair (2)

As was announced in the previous post, Ponyhof will participate in POPPOSITIONS, a brand new off-fair taking place during Art Brussels and exhibiting galleries and other spaces working with site-specific exhibitions. The quirky architecture and spirit of the venue — the Bruxelles Congrès railway station — will constitute the context for showing and seeing the different works.

Not your usual art fair, POPPOSITIONS will host maximum seven galleries and other platforms presenting two artists each: this rule is meant to forestall visual overload. We therefore asked Aurélien Dupuis and Karen Vermeren to represent us. They are both trained as painters but tend to use other mediums than oil whilst keeping a ‘painterly’ quality in their practice, thereby presenting two original approaches to contemporary painting.

Bruxelles Congrès Station, credit: Sarah Suco Torres

Inspired by the station’s underground atmosphere, ribbed stone columns and humid climate, Karen suggested a project linking Congrès to the caves of Han in southern Belgium. As we set forth on this blog already, Karen takes her inspiration from natural sights and tries to capture their beauty and mystery as well as their physical structure and substance, the history and processes that shaped them. Caves play a special role in art history: as venues of some of the earliest examples of painting, as quarries providing sculptors with marble. However, Karen’s interest is primarily geological: she conducts thorough research in order to understand how her subjects function and incorporates these insights into her artistic practice. Tape enables her to create depth and portray the tectonic structure and underlying layers of the mountains that she often chooses as her topics, while her choice of colours and composition provides her work with a “painterly” impression. Finally, Karen always works with site-specific works inserting references to the exhibition space into the work on display. This way, viewers strolling around the exhibition are made aware of both their visual borders and the venue in general.

Welcome back tomorrow for a presentation of Aurélien’s work!

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POPPOSITIONS off fair is on at Bruxelles Congrès from 20-22 April, 12-9 PM, with a Friday opening party and performances by invited guests from 9 PM until late. Participants include: Dougie Eynon & Nicolas Bourthoumieux (Abilene Gallery), Gérard Meurant (or nothing), Jan Kempenaers & Sarah Van Marcke (Outlandish), Aurélien Dupuis & Karen Vermeren (Ponyhof Gallery), Stephanie Lagarde & Cyril Verde (thankyouforcoming) and Alan Fertil & Damien Teixidor (The Ister), as well as Théophile’s Papers, Document and Villa Léopolda. A programme of art talks, including curators Devrim Bayar (WIELS, Le Salon) and Emmanuel Lambion (Maison Grégoire, Bn Projects) as well as Agata Jastrząbek and the artist Kenneth Andrew Mroczek on the latter’s book ‘Y€$, I see stars’ and the aesthetics of the public place in Brussels, will be made available on the POPPOSITIONS website
Entry is free and open for all!