We are not spoiled with hot spells here in Belgium so it can be difficult to convince oneself to spend the rare sunny day within cold museum walls rather than, say, hanging in the parks playing boule or lingering on terraces over wine and pastis (which is pretty much what I have been indulging in lately). But if you ask me, it is definitely worth checking out Vincent Geyskens’ solo show UnDEAD at the excellent Gentse museum of contemporary art, S.M.A.K.
The title refers to the many times that painting was declared dead without ever really accepting this fate and sans disappearing from the art scene. But gone are the days of schools, groups and movements: individualism is on the rise everywhere in society and, in similar fashion, painting today is a solitary venture of personal views and expression. As Geyskens puts it in the exhibition leaflet: “Anyone painting today knows that he is alone”.
He therefore dismisses the painter’s dilemma of abstract versus figurative ways of expression as nonsense, what matters is the personal way of thinking and not which of the forms this takes.
In all cases, his work is very painterly and investigating into the possibilities of painting as a form of expression. My random phone snapshots really don’t do the work any justice, so get to S.M.A.K. for the full effect.
As for his figurative work, many of the paintings presented at the show take for subject the human body. Whereas photography for some reason focuses on skinny, proportionate models, painting has a way of rendering the beauty of “imperfect” flesh. In painting, the meatier the model, the better, and cellulite can become enthralling. And if it is true that painting is vain (and useless), it is still possible to imagine paintings that make many other forms of expression seem much vainer and hopeless still.
Vincent Geyskens – UnDEAD will stay open at S.M.A.K. until 2 September.