ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS & REVIEWS
xpo - 2018 - The Old Up & Down [NL, essay],
The Old Up & Down: an expo unfolding simultaneously at three locations with sculptures by Dries Van Laethem, Kasper De Vos, Leendert Van Accoleyen, Robert Soroko and Simon Masschelein, circling around sculptures by Vic Gentils.
When we would write in pluralis majestatis, as some learned folks prefer to do, we would state that we hold no grudge against interactive, relational or otherwise conceptual art, and we van prove this by means of numerous publications and other things done, but as we reach the autumn of our life, we prefer the honest floundering, which when lucky will result in vulnerable, brittle artefacts simultaneously masculine and delicate, sometimes wondrously poetic in the sense Tarkovki described it in a forgotten place: as an improper, confusing, but moving and haunting way of being, which seems to repeat the incoherent, gripping shapelessness of the world.
And therefore I have assembled work by five different sculptors, young men in their prime, senses still fresh, brains untamed, bellies not yet dead as stones: resilient lads, hopping on their still strong feet, producing inscrutable sounds and wildly gesticulating when talking about the form of their work, but also enjoying silence. Because irony bores us and parody loses its taste too quickly, so that we prefer to invent a new beauty for the common man, instead of ruminating on the old and mouldy and lofty or celebrating the newly produced flimflam.
And I propose to observe the work of these five sculptors at three different locations. As such these artworks can show themselves in several ways, in different proportions with respect to each other, like a sculptural vortex in space and time, as such allowing the works of five artists to rise around a few inherited artworks of Vic Gentils.
The oldest of these five artists is Kasper De Vos (°1988), brought to my attention in 2008 by the sculptress Tamara Van San, who had already seen him in action. These days many people are aware of De Vos and he is known to make magnificent artworks. As such he can help by connecting his name and body of work to the work of four newly born artists. De Vos is at his best when modelled body parts are connected with found objects to form grotesque stacks. The logic behind these stacks is physical. As such we somewhere recognize a wooden coat rack, connected to part of an umbrella, a vacuum cleaner hose, the backside of a Thonet chair, a heating pipe and a beer bottle. Behold these playful forts, subtle puzzles and exquisite corpses!
Dries Van Laethem (°1996) produces contrapuntal balancing exercises or spatial poems reminding us of Baudelaire’s fencing strollers. A used metal rack rolls up like an insect and is frozen in this form by a hardly visible steel cable. Objects attempt to arise but their feet are wheels or heavy clogs and their reach is at the same time comic and graceful. The sculptures produced in this way are not overdone, stiff or rough. They contain tense but equally playful and funny qualities (for instance the clumsy welding).
The sculptures remind us that humour and poetry tear holes in the visual fabric that protects us against the chaotic threatening reality, but at the same time imprison us by hiding the possibilities of the same reality.
Simon Masschelein’s (°1994) sculptural thinking starts from the joint. He fabricates hinged sculptures. How did he come to this? At a time, he was surrounded by pieces of wood, never longer than one and a half meter, nicely shaped, and this was a starting point to envision higher sculptures, resembling ramshackle stacked totem poles. So he started looking for ways to connect these elements, initially similar to ways protheses are connected to bodies, then morphing them into hinges. One sculpture has been conceptualized from a knee, another from the way a femur fits the pelvis. One sculpture, made out of forty kilos of sculpted alabaster, is held upright by a tensioned cable self-riveted to an iron ball which is clamped in a bracket. A strange, two-piece figure on two wobbly feet giving shape to a modest contrapposto, sometimes folds forward. A tree trunk is chiselled into a spiral column, then hollowed out, halved and reconnected by a wooden link. For me, the beauty of Masschelein’s art is the way he adapts wood, stone and metal and combines these elements into new shapes. No assemblages, no old stuff, but powerful new work with a hardly hidden tenderness.
Robert Soroko (°1990) balances objects like swaying reed plumes. When deconstructed his sculptures rest and resemble delicate perpendicular pencil lines or thin bamboo sticks, resting and meditating next to each other. Once assembled they turn and sway, try to remain upright without falling over or falling apart. We meet a precarious equilibrium, like a yogi balancing on one leg hoping to start hovering. Or do the sculptures already hover? And are only our brains and bodies so heavy? Soroko is a disarming man with an open face, just like his artwork, which is characterised by a liberating understatement. His welding is amusing. He combines metal, wood, bamboo, ceramics, paper and textile in novel ways.
Leendert Van Accoleyen (°1991) seems to be storming the world. Everything needs to go up into heights: heavy beams or stones, large blocks of polystyrene. Suspending slats are tied together with an extremely thin cord, oblique beams are tilted upwards with ropes. The objects have wheels in order to be able to move them. Large wheels of plaster, small rolling metal tubes. Homemade stoves produce a humming sound, whilst the upright planks which are feeding the fire are steadily and invisibly becoming shorter. The objects are being moved, dragged, lifted and brought to a state of temporary hovering. It seems nature is reflecting on itself and is using the artist to bring new constellations into being. Stunning. Luring us into breathless observation.
Hans Theys, Montagne de Miel, October 10th 2018
Translated by Jacques