“The Night Time Drawings” – Hans Op de Beeck solo exhibition
Galeria Continua (China Dashanzi Art District 798 2 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District Beijing), Sept 13–Nov 23, 2014
These are literally “Night Time Drawings” – done alone and after dark, in black and white watercolor, after everyone else had gone home. As such, their tone is perhaps unsurprising. Hung inside a temporary gallery built within Galeria Continua’s factory space (a dark grey carpet requires that the visitors remove their shoes), the drawings show such scenes as moonlit, forested roads stretching into the distance, an urban vista with a metal bridge, a fairground, a woman seen from behind, her tattooed back bare and ocean waves. It is the stuff of rather lonely remembrances or erotic musings, licked with the texture of sea foam and tempered by the stillness of electric light in a landscape; the quality of the drawing is sensitive, at times beautiful. De Beeck’s imagery is also animated in a film, fading in and out to a melancholic soundtrack, in an adjacent space.
The second bulk of the show consists of sculptures at mid-height on the walls—all of them hands engaged in different gestures: one writes, another extends forward holding a bare branch, still another holds out a small plate of berries, and there are pairs of hands cupped as if to hold something precious, or as if their attendant body were reading from a sheet of paper. They emerge flush from the wall, cut off at the forearms, as if like indexes for human contact. As a group, they make for a strange, silent atmosphere. Singled out and sculpted carefully, they are at once proximate and distant, general and intimate. This, indeed, is a sensation pervading the entire exhibition. The selected photographs that are also presented are highly staged: “Vanitas (Variation)”, (2014) in no way belies its backdrop of Northern European painting traditions in the way a scene is composed upon a table complete with skull, wine cups, scattered small objects and an open book. “Staged Interior (Lounge)” and “Staged Exterior (Forest)” (both 2014) show fake scenes in a photographic studio, with every apparatus exposed in the shadows around them.
One might feel from this show echoes of another Belgian artist shown before at Continua Beijing—Berlinde de Bruyckere. A similar gravity and existential tenor pervades both artists’ work, though de Beeck’s art acts without the fleshy religiosity of de Bruyckere’s. One suspects that visitors to de Beeck’s meticulously produced and arranged exhibition, in which grey walls and carpets and grisaille works make for a saturated, almost stifling atmosphere, will find themselves either seduced by or resisting its sentiment.
Also this month, stage sets and costume designs by Hans Op de Beeck feature in the National Ballet of Marseille’s production of Orpheus and Eurydice, which tours cities in Southern China until October 29th. Click here for further information.