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).


Reniere & Depla - 2013 - Het tweede licht [NL, essay]
Text , 2 p.


Hans Theys

The Second Light
On the drawings of Reniere and Depla

It was an unusual, windless day in late summer and we were in the garden on top of the hill looking at hundreds of drawings produced on all kinds of paper and with all kinds of ink and paint, pencil, chalk and charcoal, saliva, coffee, wine and holy water. Depending on when they were produced, beautifully drawn hands or feet presented themselves, leather-booted legs, silhouettes of figures carrying heavy loads, designs for sculptures, landscapes, houses, interiors, seemingly abstract compositions based on photographs the artists themselves had taken. And the closer we came to the present, the more important the light seemed to become – the protagonist almost, and the blocks of colour the conductors or begetters of the illusory second light, which doesn’t come from the sun but from the texture of the drawings.

In The Whitsun Weddings Philip Larkin writes that the spectacle of the sun makes him blind to the flurry of people going about their business. Sitting in a train, he sees a hothouse flash uniquely, but not the reason for the commotion on the platform, until he notices in that commotion the monochrome frocks and suits of the young women, or so it seems. Here, too, the people recede into the background, slowly giving way to what is to be seen next to them, to the trail they leave behind, their props, artefacts, display cases, glass doors reflecting chandeliers, sloping parts of interiors, ceilings crisscrossed by strange streaks of light, curtains which allow light through, an open book behind a reflecting shop window, a frayed flag half rolled around the flagpole, the empty coat of an Oriental warlord, a figuratively painted, ceramic plate partly overexposed by the sun, a fragment of a gilded mirror and its reflection, an archangel and an electricity cable: the whole caboodle of our décors, and everything caressed by the light, and everything conjured up again in the second, artificial light of the drawings.   

Somewhere Sebald describes the ugliness of Belgium, for example in the form of a heavy cupboard on which stuffed birds stuck onto branches in glass bell jars sit alongside paper flowers, while the room itself is darkened by pot plants with fingered leaves (I am making it up because I don’t have the book to hand), imported from the Congo, which creep along the walls and ceiling. Those who are familiar with the drawings and paintings of Reniere and Depla will suspect that they like old objects, but can also imagine how they would find freedom in Sebald’s sombre room by photographing and then painting the reflection of the plants in the glass of the bell jars, like writers who enrapture their readers by recounting euphoric moments or like musicians who draw us into a world of sound without our knowing who they are or what they experienced, only that they believe in the power of music. 

Montagne de Miel, September 26th 2013