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).


Walter Swennen - 2010 - In het kort [NL, interview]
Interview , 1 p.


Hans Theys

In Short
Miniature conversation with Walter Swennen

Swennen: The painter tries to act in the border area where two incompatible things meet: the image (the drawing, the depiction) and the painting. Painting is so difficult because it tends to lean towards the image or to the material of the painting. The painter tries to keep the painting in balance precisely where the two things meet.
     Long ago I read analytical philosophers because I wanted to know what they had to say about art. They all differ in their opinions, but agree on one thing: the work of art can be separated from the object; in their view two different things are involved here. This reminded me of Sartre, who claimed that the painting does not exist when it is not observed.
     In his book Peinture et réalité, a questionable but remarkable book on painting, Gilson is the first to distinguish between the artistic and the aesthetic ‘esse’ of a painting, which each have a different cause. In this way he provides a solution to the aporia which states that a painting ceases to exist if it is not observed. Gibson says the artistic essence of the work of art stems from what caused it, namely the artist. It is a quality that stems from the fact that the object in question was made by an artist. On the other hand, the aesthetic essence of the work of art is a separate quality which stems from the viewer’s gaze. I see this as a useful distinction because it excludes all forms of ambiguity. It prevents you from having to reduce a painting to what it is in the eye of the viewer, namely an image. It prevents foolishness, such as the claim that it is the viewer who makes the painting.
     The problem is that philosophers are not interested in the creation of paintings. They are not interested in things that do not belong in the category of the image.

Montagne de Miel, June 18th 2010