Belgische kunst [Belgian Art]


With this promenade we’re staying right at home, with a look at Belgian art. In the M HKA collection we have works representing over 200 Belgian artists, and in the present exhibition we’ll highlight what is only a selection.

The first artist we encounter on this promenade is Koen van den Broek (b. 1973). As soon as we enter the exhibition we come face-to-face with one of his paintings: Madonna. It was used a campaign visual commissioned for the exhibition Masterpieces at the MAS (2011-2012). His Madonna is a contemporary interpretation of the Madonna with Child by Jean Fouquet (ca. 1420-1480). Other works by Koen van den Broek in our collection may be seen on the museum’s ground floor. Borders and boundaries are the artist’s main focus. Both in his examination of the limits of the painting-as-plane, as well as in his predilection for border-related motifs such as street gutters and sidewalk curbs.

In the next exhibition hall we see works by Luc Tuymans (b. 1958). At the beginning of the 1980s, he brought figuration back to the centre stage in painting. His technique is restrained; his paintings are marked by strong stylistic and cinematic approach. The subjects run from well-known historical figures and events to everyday motifs. The M HKA collection contains a modest number of Tuymans paintings, along with several of his print editions, films and a unique collection of some 1000 polaroids that the artist has donated to the museum. With these works, the museum aims to sketch the dynamic link between the various aspects of Tuymans’ oeuvre. Emphasis is on the developmental process of images from an artist who works on the frontier between presence and absence. Images that in all their ‘vagueness’ only slowly divulge themselves, and often leave room for multiple interpretations. Polaroids play an essential role in the genesis of many of Tuymans’ paintings. They not only serve as source material but, more importantly, his paintings develop in an analogous way – from vague contours to pictorial detailing.

What artist Jaqcues Lizène (b. 1946) has in store is always a surprise. We can see works of his at the other end of the ground floor. Lizène likes to act like a ‘jamming device’, aiming to set the (art)world on its head. For him, life and art are closely entwined. It is not the form of the artwork, but rather the artist’s attitude, that is important. In a critical way he calls into question the place of the artist, of art and the world of art. Lizène calls himself “le petit maître liégeois” and assumes the pose of “an artist of mediocrity”. Via the Gordon Matta-Clark Foundation, the M HKA possesses Lizène’s Documents rapportés d’un voyage au cœur de la civilisation Banlieue. It consists of two parts: on the one hand there is the narrative framework that plays with the typical strict black-white aesthetic of conceptual art. On the other hand, a second component insolently reminds us of our corporeality – a quasi-monochromatic bed sheet where traces of semen are still visible. When this work was shown at the ICC in the mid-1970s, this sheet was censored by the province’s highest authority.

Nearby, we see the work by artist Vaast Colson (b. 1977) who, like Lizène, takes pleasure in questioning the status of the artist and art, and does so with a healthy dose of humour. In performances, where he places himself as artist directly in front of the public, Colson inevitably brings his own personal life, his identity, into the artwork, but without ever lapsing into anecdote. Then again, he is continually busy with the creation of artistic roles. In Kalpetran, for instance, he appears as a prototypical mountaineer. His persons are seldom tragic or dramatic; he creates myths and then simultaneously undermines them. Another Colson work in the M HKA collection is the monumental Helena Sculpture. For this Colson made a series of 12 portraits of Helena, the then 15 year-old daughter of artist Martin Kippenberger, under the title Helena: The Paintings Martin Couldn’t Paint Anymore. By then, Kippenberger had been seven years deceased. Since 2006 this series of portraits of Helena have been preserved in Helena’s Sculpture. This work functions both as a sort of vault for an artistic treasure and as a religious shrine for the art-minded pilgrim. The case may only be opened once per year: on August 24th, Helena’s birthday.

The last works to ponder on the museum’s ground level are drawings by Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven (b. 1951), or simply AMVK. Her work has its roots in graphic notions, drawings where she records her stream of thought. The drawings are elegant and dynamic. They testify to vulnerability, suffering and anxiety-ridden visions. AMVK speaks primarily with images, ones that do not immediately reveal their meaning. She often combines her drawings with text, in captions or in titles. The language-image associations compel one to reflect upon existing conventions. Using quite varied elements, AMVK creates a personal language where she combines knowledge about scientific investigation (including artificial intelligence) with critical findings on role patterns and other power mechanisms in society. The female body is a constant in her work. With her forceful, self-assured images of women, AMVK offers an alternative vision to the traditional approach with respect to the female, seductive nude.

We further continue our promenade on the second floor, stopping first by the work of Lili Dujourie (b. 1941). She has been developing a thoughtful and varied practice since the 1960s. Dujourie makes videos, sculptures, collages, drawings and photographic series. In The Kiss, the red draping and the dish, filled with dark-blue liquid, refer to classical still lifes. Rounded and flowing forms of velvet and wood are face-to-face with the severe geometric structure of the black triangular element. The confrontation between the hard and soft materials, the stilled movement, gives the work a romantic tension that lies in the sphere of love and death, Eros and Thanatos.

We end our promenade on the M HKA’s top floor. There you’ll see a lot of media-related devices and objects belonging to the Vrielynck Collection, a component part of the museum’s collections. The Vrielynck Collection comprises one of Belgium’s few large collections devoted to the history of film. The collection, assembled by the notary Robert Vrielynck (1933-2000), primarily consists of early film cameras and projectors, along with a voluminous number of film posters from the 1970s. In this presentation, American artist David Blair (°1956) enters into dialogue with the Vrielynck Collection.

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