The Street Tells the Truth

Paul De Vree


Print, 10 x (610 x 430 mm).
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. BK7286_M238_05).

After 1976 De Vree began using the ‘smoke technique’ to create a series of pieces known as the ‘smoke designs’. He would take a piece of paper, place a candle beneath it and smoke the entire surface of the paper which would thereby become brownish-black. He would then either write or draw on it. De Brandwonden (1976) is the first work created with this technique. Simultaneously, De Vree began using this method on visual material from the media to produce expressionistic drawings that almost resemble wood engravings, by etching out parts of the smoked paper with a small eraser. Between 1977 and 1979 he thus made the ten-part series The Street Tells the Truth (1979). Similar to De Brandwonden, here too city names are written out large and serially over the paper while violent street scenes (race riots, demonstrations, bomb explosions, etc.) can be seen through the grid of letters.

De Brandwonden and The Street Tells the Truth are expressions of social discontent. In the wake of May 1968 and the Vietnam debacle, the possibility of social peace seemed very remote. Modern man was alienated and disengaged from recognisable social models and moral ideals. Life in the city was seen as a sort of endless guerrilla warfare. Where traditional social consultative bodies fail, the citizen’s struggle for emancipation demands a different attitude towards state apparatuses. On the other hand, De Vree also wishes to point out that revolutionary movements are often abused and linked to political and religious fanaticism, as in the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Pakistan and Italy.

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