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).


xpo - 2012 - The New Candour [EN, concept text]
Text , 3 p.


Hans Theys

The New Candour
(The Immanent Power of Almost Nothing)

In my life as an art critic I have seen the heaviest paintings, the loudest sculptures, the sharpest videos and the most interactive artistic procedures. I have seen beautiful cynical work and rubbish made by holy artists, I have seen drugs, drinks and bureaucracy, I have seen a lot of bigotry and a lot of success, I have seen the first Apple, I have seen the come back of Steve Jobs and I have seen him die, I have seen the glorious career of global warming, I have seen how success cannot be predicted, I have seen glory wither away and I have seen neglected people rise to stardom before they died, I saw a damn good movie picture made by Clint Eastwood last week, I saw the winter sun turn into gold the seeds of the hazelnut trees this morning and now I’m driving through the countryside looking at the shiny bald head of my chauffeur and pondering about the unexpected beauty I find in the works of young artists.

“Everything dies,” Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself, “to keep the world eternally young.” And he was right. For nothing is moves me more than the discovery of works of art created by young people who admire the art of the olden days, but don’t care for it as a tool to inflate their ego. Their art is related to the music made by people like Erik Satie or Devendra Banhardt, to the wondrous world of Coco Rosie, to the tenacious consistency of Morandi or Giacometti.

When Henry Moore referred to sculpture as “holes and bumps”, he said he borrowed these words from Rodin. What mattered to Rodin, was being truthful to nature, which meant being truthful to the way he perceived nature. Similarly, Moore was looking for an art that was abstract and deeply human at the same time. “The great artists that I admire have a life-giving power in their work that extends beliefs and understanding beyond normal perceptions,” he said. “I believe that art in itself is akin to religion, art is, in fact, another expression of the belief that life is worth living.” Today these words still seem to mean something to young artists such as Tamara Van San, Rein Dufait and Kasper Bosmans. Working with al kinds of materials and techniques they organize accidents that lead to and endless series of new forms, reminding us of how life on earth diversified on the basis of a rather limited set of building elements and some simple folding techniques.

The works spring from small gestures, as the fruits of a patient and continuous handling of materials. They appear to be simpler than they are. By showing the way they have been constructed or have tumbled into being, they comment on sculpting or painting. They are readable, generous and light-hearted.

These young artists have already understood that one does not create art through translating themes, but through thinking with ones hands. For how many themes are there really? Death, love and work (art), I might say. The rest is crap. How could we act or not act, how could we create without taking a stance? Borges knew what he said when he wrote that Oscar Wilde was always right. Every form speaks. It tells us about a need for pomp, about pride or modesty, about financial genius, about the anal universe of Bataille, about scholarly stupidity or about anything you want to project on it.

The New Candour or the Old Candour Anew? Manzoni made beautiful, powerful works. So did many other artists. But how serious they were! How official their work wanted to be! Fifty years later, people dare to create tiny things without feeling the need to stage them on a theatre. One has to have a keen eye to detect them and to appreciate their tinkering with almost nothing. “I don’t cannot talk about poetry, only about poems,” Philip Larkin wrote. A work of art brings us close to a particular experience of the artist, even if this experience was but the creation of the work. Thus a work of art makes itself visible through being different from everything that existed before. Art is the realm of difference. The work of art creates freedom through claiming the right to be different. All works of art are romantic, in this respect, no matter how cynical they want to be. Long live cynicism! Long live Rococo! Long live heavy paintings! Long live loud sculptures! Long live Love! Long live the Grand Themes! Long live literature! Long live Art Criticism! Long live all the works of art possible! And long live the New Candour.

Montagne de Miel, November 11th 2012