Hans Op de Beeck: The Night Time Drawings

1 September 2014 - 1 November 2014

Galleria Continua, Beijing, CN

For ‘The night time drawings’, Op de Beeck’s second solo exhibition in Galleria Continua in Beijing, the artist realised a new series of large watercolours, sculptures, an animated film and photographic works.
The title ‘The night time drawings’ refers firstly to the new watercolours, which can be described as ‘filmic’ in terms of their framing and lighting. These black-and-white images breathe a dark atmosphere which is not dissimilar from film noir. In the gallery the watercolours are presented in a kind of staged print room. Op de Beeck created all the watercolours at night, alone in his studio, after everybody had left the building.
The nocturnal setting and the solitary nature of the painting process are palpable in the images. They show the viewer fictitious scenes in which the postmodern metropolitan environment, the mysterious landscape and anonymous characters hint at possible stories.
The new animated film ‘Night time’, which is projected in a separate room, shows a world that fully complements the watercolours. The film is a rhythmical sequence in which scenes are drawn and undrawn, backed by a soundtrack created especially for the film.
‘Gestures’ is a series of plaster wall sculptures, which each showing one or two lifesize, anonymous arms performing a simple action. Op de Beeck is a great believer in the power of the small gesture: a hand offering a few blackberries, a hand pressing down gently on your shoulder at the right moment, two hands lovingly holding something fragile, a hand calmly writing … Each movement implies a much bigger story than one might expect. Small gestures are distinctly unspectacular, but precisely because of this they bring something as fundamental as poetry and solace into our daily contact with one another.
The sculptures ‘Pond’ and ‘Guitar’ turn away from the subject matter of ‘Gestures’. ‘Pond’ is a quiet pond with waterlily leaves made of plaster and flowers of mouth-blown glass sitting on top of a black water surface. The work is suffused with the mysterious atmosphere of the watercolours.
‘Guitar’ consists of a solid plaster interpretation of the instrument, as well as an equally fragile plaster chair surrounded by a whole raft of everyday objects made of plaster such as empty beer cans, mobile phones, pizza boxes, etc. The idea behind this petrified scene with a muted guitar is saudade: the melancholy of a suspended life, a barren, abandoned world as we find it in the middle of the night after a party.
Finally, the exhibition features new photographic works. One, a black-and-white photograph called ‘Vanitas (variation)’, depicts a large, staged still life with objects brought together through free association. These objects were produced on different scales, which has resulted in a surreal world in the photograph. Alongside several unexpected items, the work also boasts classic vanitas objects including a human skull, candelabras, empty glasses, open books and snails.
The other new photographs, ‘Staged Interior (lounge)’ and ‘Staged Exterior (forest)’, are large colour photographs in which a misty, alien-looking jungle and a kind of obscure lounge interior were staged on a reduced scale. There is no attempt in either of the two photographs to try and hide the scaled staging; the spotlights and tripods are visible in both as they would be on a film set. Because of this the photographs are reminiscent of pictorial painting.
At all times the viewer is aware that the image is constructed, that it is no more than a thin layer of paint, but if he accepts this illusion as ‘true’, it becomes a door to a profound, authentic experience.