Hans Theys is a twentieth-century philosopher and art historian. He has written and designed dozens of books on the works of contemporary artists and published hundreds of essays, interviews and reviews in books, catalogues and magazines. All his publications are based on actual collaborations and conversations with artists.

This platform was developed by Evi Bert (M HKA / Centrum Kunstarchieven Vlaanderen) in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp (Research group Archivolt), M HKA, Antwerp and Koen Van der Auwera. We also thank Idris Sevenans (HOR) and Marc Ruyters (Hart Magazine).


Carole Vanderlinden - 2017 - Mon seul d├ęsir [EN, essay]
Text , 2 p.


Hans Theys

Mon seul désir
(About Carole Vanderlinden’s drawings)

I was awakened by a tiny creaking noise. Next to me was a tall, lean man rolling a cigarette. It was Jack Palance who, having once again assumed the form of Phil Wire in the new Lucky Luke album, was now a coffin maker who cuts silhouettes in his spare time. I wanted to sit up but he pushed me back into the pillow with a gentle thrust of his thin left hand.
‘Someone once told me,’ he said with a low, soft voice, ‘that a painter’s oeuvre ultimately comes to resemble the artist, like an old married couple who’ve spent half a century together… It’s rumoured that my work looks quite simple, but is very complicated… I wonder what that says about me?’ He cleared his throat, put the freshly rolled cigarette to his mouth and struck a match.  A spooky light flickered over his face. The tip of the cigarette glowed red.
‘I’ve read your texts about Carole’s work,’ he continued. ‘You wrote somewhere that her paintings have an immediate impact and are direct, compact, powerful and funny. It’s strange, but that’s also how I see her: direct, compact, powerful and funny. And your text is entitled “Two feet in the sky and two on the ground”. It couldn’t be more appropriate, because I view her the same way. There is something compact about her, something that’s everywhere at the same time. If I’m honest, I must admit that her work has made me more three-dimensional. It’s like I’m present at more points in space at the same time. I seem to have a top and a bottom, and even a front and a backside…’
He fell silent and took another drag on his cigarette. Then I saw that his hand was as thin as a sheet of paper, as thin as a silhouette.
‘You were a spectre,’ I said, ‘but now you have a body.’
‘Indeed,’ he said, ‘you could see it that way. I’ve gained a kind of density, a kind of presence…’
‘You mean that you no longer exist as an image but also as a thing…’
‘As a tangible thing, yes, but above all, as something that’s visible. I used to be invisible, I believe. I was transparent…’
‘I think I understand what you mean,’ I said. I tried to right myself, but with equal force he pushed me back down with his papery left hand. ‘So thin and so much power,’ I thought.
‘Tell me about Paris,’ he said.
‘You wrote somewhere that you spent a day with her in Paris. How did it go? What did you do there?’
‘I was just about to tell you,’ I said, ‘but you stopped me.’
‘I want you to stay flat.’
‘Alright. I understand. I mustn’t move.’
‘That’s what I meant. No movement. And stay flat.’
‘We visited the Museum of the Middle Ages, where we went to see The Lady with the Unicorn.’
Mon seul désir…’
‘It’s a beautiful painting… It introduces us to a lady emerging from a tent, framed by two supple panels that are held open by a pair of rearing animals, a lion and a unicorn. Taking into account the morphology of their legs, one can state they are kneeling. With upright horn and tail, the unicorn pledges his eternal devotion. The tent is folded open, as is the lady’s dress. And reminiscent of a Chinese painting, her gaping right-hand sleeve forms a chaste tunnel.’
‘There are also two dogs, a fluffy dog and a greyhound: the so-called symbols of lust and marital fidelity.’
‘I once asked a leading art historian, who does not believe in fixed symbols in medieval painting, if he could explain this contradiction to me.  Without hesitation, he responded that he didn’t see an opposition between lust and marital fidelity.’
‘So, you were together, you and Carole, in that nocturnal presentation of a medieval garden of delight. And what then? What happened?’
‘We looked at all the tapestries for at least an hour, even though she’d seen them many times before. How marvellously this swollen tent unfurls, solely made of yarn on a piece of flat cloth! There is a wonderful sense of space in the depiction, such as how the undulating form of the woman’s corset is shaped with different shades of red. The tent seems to be standing in front of a red tapestry decorated with hundreds of tiny details, all of which exist on the same plane. But above the tent we see two flying birds who use the same red background as a three-dimensional space.’
‘Carole uses motifs from ancient art to shape a world without perspective, a world of endless enumerations that have not yet been summarised or reduced by mankind. A world in which man is still in his place, like a leaf on a tree.’
‘The world as a flat curiosity cabinet.’
‘Something like that. And she will take such a motif, an image of an animal or a plant, a zigzag motif or a sequence of coloured surfaces, and isolate it within a drawing. She will play with it, she will make it autonomous. And when she paints, she allows the motif to swell. She makes it stiffer and more stubborn.  Opaque. More solid. She gives it the right to exist. She lends it a kind of gravitas, a presence.’
‘An inside, you mean?’
‘I wouldn’t dare say that.’
‘Yet it feels like that.’
I remained silent.
‘Yet it feels like that…’

Montagne de Miel, 6 July 2017