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 (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).


Emilio López-Menchero - 2018 - Le bal des têtes [FR, essay],
Text , 2 p.


Hans Theys

The dance of the masks
Emilio López-Menchero and the art of painting

One lovely December night thirty years ago, I saw some beautiful paintings by López-Menchero. He already knew how to paint. But painting in itself wasn’t enough for him. He wanted something else. He wanted a recognisable face and a soul that was really his. Suddenly we heard strange noises in the street. We stepped onto the balcony and looked down on the night-time rehearsal for a parade of cardboard giants. Two giants were leaning against lampposts, one was resting in the street gutter. As a parade, they would certainly rip the urban flesh apart and cause unintentional social upheaval?
          In the hands and the eyes of this painter, the art of painting becomes a tool. Some of the paintings look as if they have been combed. And indeed, painting is used here to comb the past, i.e. as a tool to rethink impressions, thoughts, doubts and dreams. Would it be possible to create a self through painting?
          Thinking of himself as somebody who has little feeling for language, López-Menchero turned to architecture, spatial interventions, photography, sculpture, drawing and, eventually, but not for the first time, painting itself, all in a bid to create an image of who he might be or become.
          How sharp these spatial interventions! How elegant these drawings! How precise these photographed self-portraits!
          A long time ago, I met a giant who told me that his mother’s death had set him free. As the owner of a grain shop, that formidable lady had carried fifty-kilo bags down from the attic store on her shoulders. Her son, himself enormous, was crushed by this daily demonstration of strength and willpower, and convinced himself he would never be worthy of this invincible Athena. Something similar happened to me. Having been raised by parents who pretended to be perfect for fear of being rejected by their children, I have always felt unworthy.
          Thoughts cannot save us. To understand (and to feel), we have to act. We have to plough furrows in the world. We have to fail. We have to survive our mistakes.
          Painting is so special because it allows us to show our failures. It consists of traces of a stupid, sturdy, painful and shameful, but honourable train of thought. It allows us to make drawings in mud, to shape dreams, to circle doubts, to get an idea of things.
          And thus the circus continues, the masks begin to dance, the acrobat learns how to land, the nightmare is tamed and the days grow softer.

Montagne de Miel, May 12th 2018