El Anatsui – Proximately

El Anatsui – Proximately

10.10.2017 - 13.01.2018
El Anatsui – Proximately
October 10, 2017 – January 13, 2018
Opening October 10, 2017

Axel Vervoordt Gallery is pleased to announce El Anatsui’s exhibition titled, Proximately, consisting of seven new works. Proximately continues the artist’s exploration into the diverse language of his chosen materials. Anatsui uses aluminium bottle caps and the labels of liquor bottles that are stitched together with copper wire to create sculptural installations often mounted to the wall like a three-dimensional draped tapestry. The transformation and reuse of simple, everyday materials draws attention to contemporary ideas about waste, consumption, and recycling, but the artist prefers to imply and suggest meaning rather than enforce it.

El Anatsui (°1944) was born in Ghana and now lives and works between Ghana and Nigeria. Growing up in the 1960s, Anatsui experienced a period of time typified by a profound search for social and personal identity. This search has become a central theme in his work. He investigates the erosion of tradition, as well as its survival and transmission into the future. He has addressed a vast range of social, political and historical concerns, and embraced an equally diverse vocabulary of media and process.

"Art grows out of each particular situation and I believe that artists are better off working with whatever their environment throws up…"

The exhibition includes several large-scale sculptures. Anatsui has focused on large tapestry-like metal sculptures made up out of thousands of colourful liquor caps. When local distilleries in Nigeria recycle each other's bottles, the screw caps associated with each brand are discarded in the process. By collecting these materials, and laboriously sewing them together with copper wire, Anatsui's transformative process aims to "subvert the stereotype of metal as a stiff, rigid medium and rather showing it as a soft, pliable, almost sensuous material capable of attaining immense dimensions and being adapted to specific spaces" (Anatsui 2005).

He reworks and rearranges materials and transforms them into something new without them losing their own history. These reconfigured found objects break down the definition of conventional painting and sculpture. The repetitively hand-stitched bottle caps evoke the cultural tradition of handcraft and of a graphical system that is used to form patterns on African textile. The sculptures’ formal language is another key to understanding the aesthetic sensibilities of Anatsui’s work. Elements of colour and the three-dimensional qualities break down the definition of conventional painting and sculpture.

A large, fluid, colourful installation draped over the wall is visually overwhelming. Voluminous, undulated folds and luminous colours invite viewers to touch and walk around the work, viewing it from all angles. The form’s playfulness and the freedom to shape the works before and after installation are reflective of the openness and fluid aspects of Anatsui’s work. Additionally, the repetitively hand-stitched bottle caps evoke the cultural tradition of handcraft. Although the material comes from mass-produced products, there’s no industrial feeling to it. Hints of the touch and craft of human hands are embedded into the work, bringing a sense of emotion and contemplation.
Masatoshi Masanobu

Masatoshi Masanobu

15.11.2017 - 18.03.2018

Lucia Bru - Rien ne change de forme comme les nuages, si ce n'est les rochers

Lucia Bru - Rien ne change de forme comme les nuages, si ce n'est les rochers

25.11.2017 - 13.01.2018
The taste of stones

Nothing is more admirable than an artist’s obstinacy in working out possible variations of ‘things’ which, at first sight, seem utterly mundane. It is a process of parsing these elements, so as to illuminate their tiniest differences; it is a matter of grouping them, or setting them apart; it is a practice of following the objects’ potential right into the folds and creases of a piece of paper, onto the harshness of a stone, or into the transparency of a piece of crystal…. Why should our gazes only be sensitive to the spectacular efforts of some, and less concerned with the outline of a rock, or the shape-shifting of clouds? It is to this kind of attention that we are compelled by Lucia Bru’s work: it sharpens our vision and leads us into a universe of shapes and gestures. Its apparent simplicity is, above all, attained through an exacting process of distilling what is essential.
Here, all energy is dedicated to the ‘things’ themselves, to their particularities, each object being first imagined, and left to its own expansion, out of control, then kept for what it is. No mastery here wishes to intrude on the process of its evolution, if only a savoir-faire that confines itself to a sense of experimentation and a surrender to chance. Shapes that are simple and always asymmetrical, a diversity of materials chosen with an implacable logic, such as salt glaze, porcelain and crystal, clay, cement, paper, plaster and graphite, are the substances of an elementary geography of which the results, miniscule or voluminous, flow into the secret of the gestures and a need for imperfection.
Thus, a mineral world composes itself, in which figures of a recomposed ‘nature’ cohabit. It is a voyage into the thickness of things, of their weight, and their minutest qualities, where any attempt to name what we think we recognize would be as vain as trying to extract all of their meaning, or to distinguish their categories. It is to the domain of sculpture that these ‘things’ belong: placed on the ground or disposed on the walls, they keep sending us back to the same preoccupations: their common existence and their possible gravitation. 
But beyond the objects, these shapes so patiently established, that exist for their own sake, the energy is dedicated to their disposition, and the possible arrangements in the space in which they appear. Every element has to find its place, and every combination is painstakingly explored to compose the ephemeral landscape of an exhibition.
Like Japanese gardeners who ‘borrow the landscape’, Lucia Bru borrows the places in which she works, without constraining them or plying them to her arrangements. They are the supplementary, necessary elements of her passage. She uses them, for a given time, to unleash the unprecedented qualities of the expression of ‘things’ in which it simply remains for us to participate.

text by Joel Benzakin
translated by Kate Mayne

Le goût des pierres

Rien n’est  plus admirable que l’entêtement d’une artiste à travailler sans cesse  les possibles  variations de « choses » qui, à première vue, nous semblent si ordinaires, pour en souligner les moindres différences,  les unir ou  les distinguer, en explorer les potentiels jusqu’à tirer parti du froissement d’un papier,  des  aspérités d’un cailloux ou de la transparence d’un morceau de cristal…   Faut-il que nos regards ne soient plus sensibles qu’aux  efforts spectaculaires de certains pour que nous soyons si peu soucieux des contours d’un rocher ou des formes fugitives d’un nuage ? C’est à cette sorte d’attention que le travail de Lucia Bru nous oblige, qu’il affûte nos regards et nous entraîne dans un univers de gestes et de formes dont l’apparente simplicité est avant tout le résultat d’une exigence de l’essentiel. 
C’est aux « choses » elles-mêmes que toute l’énergie est ici consacrée, à leurs particularités, chaque objet étant d’abord pensé puis laissé à sa propre expansion, hors contrôle, gardé pour ce qu’il est. Nulle maîtrise ne veut ici interrompre le processus  de son évolution sinon un savoir faire se confiant  au goût de l’expérience et à l’abandon du hasard.  Formes simples et toujours asymétriques, diversité de matériaux aux logiques implacables, sable et grès, porcelaine et cristal, terre, ciment, papier, plâtre et graphite, sont les substances d’une géographie de  l’élémentaire dont les résultats, minuscules ou volumineux se coulent dans le secret des gestes et la nécessité de l’imperfection.
Ainsi se compose un monde minéral ou cohabitent les figures d’une  « nature » recomposée, un voyage dans l’épaisseur des choses, leur poids, leurs infimes qualités où tenter de nommer ce que nous croyons reconnaître serait aussi vain que d’essayer d’en extraire toutes les significations, ou d’en distinguer les catégories. C’est au domaine de la sculpture que ces « choses » appartiennent, placées au sol ou disposées aux murs, elles nous renvoient inlassablement aux mêmes préoccupations, à leur commune existence et leur possible gravitation.               
Mais au-delà des objets pour eux-mêmes, des formes patiemment établies c’est à leur disposition que l’énergie se consacre, aux possibles arrangements de ces ensembles dans l’espace de leur apparition. Chaque élément y doit trouver sa place, chaque combinaison y est minutieusement explorée pour composer le paysage éphémère d’une exposition.         Tels les jardiniers japonais « empruntant le paysage », Lucia Bru emprunte les lieux, sans les contraindre ou les plier à ses arrangements, sans les forcer à d’inutiles transformations, ils sont l’élément supplémentaire et nécessaire à son passage pour y transporter, un temps donné, les qualités inédites de l’expression des « choses » dont il ne nous reste finalement  qu’à prendre le parti.

Texte: Joel Benzakin
Saburo Murakami

Saburo Murakami

30.11.2017 - 07.04.2018
Axel Vervoordt Gallery is pleased to present a comprehensive solo exhibition by Saburo Murakami (1925-1996), Japanese painter and pioneer of performance art. The exhibition brings together a large selection of important paintings from the 1950s through the end of the 1960s., featuring works from the artist’s estate alongside generous loans from prominent private collections.

Eager to explore new approaches to art, Murakami formed Zero-kai (Zero Group) together with, among others, Kazuo Shiraga and Akira Kanayama in 1952. Murakami was also one of the best-known members of the Gutai Art Association, which he joined in 1955. The same year he became a Gutai member, he drew major attention because of his kami-yaburi (paper breakthrough) performances. In these events the artist, using his body’s momentum, broke through large sheets of paper that were stretched between a frame, tearing the screen-like objects while doing so. Sometimes he mounted many consecutive panels after each other like a tunnel, other times he slashed just one paper sheet at the time. He continued to do performances and happenings up until his death in 1996.

It was Murakami’s theoretical interest that lead him to these paper breakthroughs that are internationally renowned as pioneering examples of performance art. He searched to unify time and space, two concepts that are divided by rational thinking, but become joined together in the sphere of action. His interest in art theory is not surprising, since he held a doctorate in philosophy with a specialisation in aesthetics. Murakami encouraged viewers to rethink their assumptions about art, while questioning the conventions of the medium, authorship, art making, and art observing.

“There are things or events that I have before my eyes, and still do not perceive. Sometimes it happens to me that I cannot remember some places, although I had just seen them in a cinema film. If an object is placed in front of me I sometimes see it as it really is, and sometimes I do not actually see it, although I receive it optically. I believe that we do not look about us very precisely. But on the other hand it could happen that I stare at an object with such enormous intensity that afterwards it seems even to myself crazy and idiotic, and yet I see nothing in reality.”

Murakami was renowned for his paintings. Highly conceptual in his methods and presentation of art, he experimented with a variety of painting gestures inspired by children. Initially, Murakami applied several layers of paint in an almost excessive way. The playfulness of the creative act was one of the central premises for the artist, who welcomed elements of chance and inevitability in his work. Works that were created between 1955 and the mid-1960s stress the passage of time by retaining traces of violent actions and dynamic changes, sharing a commonality with the kami-yaburi performances. In the late 1950s, he experimented with relief-like works, attaching pieces of wood, thick plaster, or other materials to raise the surface. He also splashed paint across the canvas and employed dynamic brushstrokes.

Later in his career, his works merged further with conceptual, performance, and minimalist techniques. Brush strokes were arranged more separately and simply as opposed to of the former multi-layered approach. The artist also further explored his tendency to use strong and contrasting colours. Throughout his oeuvre, Murakami expressed a distance from the purely aesthetic, and strived for ways to constantly renew himself.

The gallery is open: Thurs. - Sat., 14:00 - 17:00, or by appointment.
Henro I

Henro I

30.11.2017 - 14.07.2018
Henro I
A first path through the collection of the Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation.
Opening 30 November - 6-9pm
Raimund Girke - Dominanz des Lichts

Raimund Girke - Dominanz des Lichts

20.01.2018 - 07.04.2018
Raimund Girke - Dominanz des Lichts

Axel Vervoordt Gallery is pleased to present the solo exhibition of Raimund Girke (1930 - 2002, Germany), Dominanz des Lichts. This show highlights the final decade of Girke’s oeuvre by focussing on key paintings that are characteristic of the artist’s work between 1989 and 2000.

For Girke, the best art was that which brought the approach of absolute reduction to its essence. He wanted to create art that went beyond mere abstract representation, and that presented nothing but the elementary. Indeed, his paintings do not really represent anything, and are radical in their absence of the figurative. The artist was looking for a reductive expression without having to step away from the traditional European way of painting, so he kept the oil paint, the brush, and the canvas.

Girke did not see works of art as objects, but as visual happenings which were the result of a collaboration between paint and the brush. At the same time, he guarded both the aesthetic and the intensity of simplicity with great concentration. All of this is clearly visible in his precise technique of rhythmic abstraction through the study of colour, movement, and structure — a method of creation that he utilised with discipline
throughout his oeuvre. The process of creation was definitely one of his passions. Individual, traceable brush strokes give way to his concentration and his structured way of working. Girke’s paintings are a combined action of cohesive lines that evoke an almost vibrant movement, stretching across the canvas with
determined gesture and controlled expression. In addition to the repetitive, every brushstroke remains unique, which gives the works their particular structural movement.

Since the mid 1950’s, Girke reduced his paintings to a select few shades, working with a dark-and-white
palette. His works from this period were dominated by strokes of white on a dark background. Within his passion for monochrome art, white fascinated him the most. He called white “the Queen of Colours”, be-cause it is the brightest and most intense shade — it almost embodies light itself. White is emptiness, evokes the
immaterial, and shows quietness, all qualities that Girke felt would only get obstructed by other colours. Even more, he held the opinion that “white demands meditation”. Dark colours like black and grey, on the other hand, intensify and sharpen white, which is why the artist turned to use the contrast between light and dark over and over again. Overlapping strokes of partially transparent white let darker coloured blocks peek through, preventing Girke’s white from becoming static. Like his brushstrokes, the colour white is constantly moving across the surface.

Different to the majority of the pieces on display in this exhibition, are three works from the late fifties and two from the early seventies. Untitled (Uberlagerungen) (1959) shows a striped, multi-grey band that cuts the otherwise white canvas in the middle. The grey middle section has a rather distorted feel to it, while Progres-sion III (1970) is a completely grey piece with a smooth surface and a faint colour shift that leaves the eye at ease. In the seventies, Girke walked away from his brush and spatula, and picked up an airbrush instead. Through this tool’s haze of paint, he was able to create a subtle transition of light hues, without loosing structure in the composition. Though these paintings look like an anomaly among the works from 1989 until 1999, they are nonetheless rooted in the same structural arrangements and overall objective of Girke. About the evolution in his work, the artist noted:

I’m inclined to believe that since the early 1990s I’ve been going through another phase where I’m increasingly referencing my paintings of the early 1960s and 70s, where the paintings are becoming more tranquil again, more cohesive, more open-ended and yet more unified, where the colour or pictorial field is not ploughed up by brushstrokes. (…) I believe that right now my paintings are again imbued with a largesse, a certain tranquillity and peace.

Certainly, the brush strokes employed in his paintings from 1989 onwards are not as rough as in earlier work, noticeable in the piece Untitled from 1959 which is included in this exhibition. The works at the centre of this solo show — though also built up out of noticeable brush strokes — have less material relief, giving the surface a much smoother and more tranquil look. They are lighter and feel almost ethereal.

Overall, Girke wanted to elevate the observer to a new level of concentration, and his deceptively simple paintings have the potential to do that. The clear structure and the analytical painter’s controlled touch have a sense of rhythm and depth that, in combination with his favourite pale shade, avoids both the solely
objective and purely reductive. Through his painterly exploration of light, motion, and vibration, he managed to focus on tranquility and silence. By activating his paintings with a serene quality, Girke knew how to reach for the core.

The gallery is open: Thurs. - Sat., 14:00 - 17:00, or by appointment.
Kimsooja - Gazing Into Sphere

Kimsooja - Gazing Into Sphere

20.01.2018 - 07.04.2018
Gazing into Sphere (2018) is a site-specific installation by the artist Kimsooja. It recontextualizes the architecture of a former gin distillery and invites visitors to a new spatial experience. Spanning the entire ground surface of the Escher Gallery is a mirror that unfolds and expands the interior void, rendering the architectural envelop as the work itself, within which the audience is embraced. This horizontal plane echoes the memory of the site inscribed in bold circular voids once used to hold malting silos, while transcending traces of history into a new corporeal experience.

Situated on the ground floor, Encounter – A Mirror Woman (2017) is a vertical mirror screen, whose form finds root in traditional oriental screens often used as a canvas for painting. Its folded structure rids oneself of her reflection and redirects the gaze around a visual path that geometrically laces through the reflective surface. The piece stands as a form of painting without the trace of the artist’s hands.

Unfolding Sphere, (2016) the accompanying sound piece, resonates the sound of clay balls rolling across a surface in different directions, followed by that of the artist gargling water. The rolling sound untangles a spherical geometry into a linear vibration embodying a horizontal trajectory, while the gurgling sound of water alludes to a vertical trajectory of traversing one’s diaphragm. In aural form, the work articulates a psychological geometry orbiting around these two axes.

On the second floor is a video work titled Fuego de Aire / Fire of Air. (2009) It traces volcanic formations seen through a flashlight at night while moving about the center of Lanzarote Island. As the video captures the shifting distance of landscape in relation to the moving subject, the audience’s gaze oscillates across the depths of horizon. Light becomes a temporal brushstroke – a medium with which undulating visual thresholds illuminate a spherical image of earth born out of fire and air. This piece is part of the artist’s Earth–Water–Fire–Air (2009-2010) series conceived around the reciprocal relationship between the four elements of nature.

Kimsooja’s work is grounded in her early practice as a painter, whereby the surface of canvas and perpendicular brushstrokes constitute a principal site of inquiry. The use of mirror has become part of her artistic vocabulary since 1999 at the Venice Biennial as a question of surface and an instrument for wrapping and unwrapping space, body, and memory. It extends from the artist’s earlier concept of Bottari, or bundle in Korean, as a three-dimensional painting and a sculpture of life constructed through a single knot. The practice of tying together anonymous people’s clothing inside a used bedcover – a place where we are born, love, suffer, and die – has evolved and dematerialized in the form of a mirror.

For Kimsooja, this abstract canvas offers an invisible surface through which we gaze a virtual realm that lies close to reality. Its horizontal form relative to architecture provides a stage for the audience to become active performers in a three-dimensional canvas. Without the artist’s doing or making, Gazing into Sphere unfolds layers of reciprocity, duality, and temporality latent in our corporeal and metaphysical experience.

The gallery is open: Thurs. - Sat., 14:00 - 17:00, or by appointment.
BRAFA 2018

BRAFA 2018

27.01.2018 - 04.02.2018
Axel Vervoordt is participating at BRAFA, 27.01.2018 - 04.02.2018
Tour & Taxis Brussels
Krönungsmesse W.A.Mozart

Krönungsmesse W.A.Mozart


Sunday 28th January 2018
10.30am, Sint-Paulus Church, Antwerp