The Horseman and other stories

3 July 2020 - 30 August 2020

Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, IT

Galleria Continua is pleased to present online the solo show of the Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck “The Horseman and other stories”. The exhibition showcases previously unseen and recently produced sculptures - mostly human figures portrayed while resting or making simple everyday gestures - and two large black and white watercolour paintings that are part of a new body of works where men and women of different social backgrounds and ages are portrayed in relaxed positions sitting or lying down. They are images that appear to be familiar, that trigger feelings of closeness and sharing and that provide food for thought on the search for our identity, on the pains and difficulties of existence.

Visual artist, but also theatre director, playwright and composer, Hans Op de Beeck moves between different languages and materials. For some years, beyond painting, sculpture, large immersive installations, art films and photography, he has developed a series of sculptures that depict human figures. Although many women, men and children have posed in the artist’s studio over the years, these sculptures are not portraits but more like imaginary figures, characters that, alone or in dialogue with another person, tell a universal story in which eternity and actuality unite.

The exhibition “The Horseman and other stories” is populated by a few of these figures. Starting from two life-size sculptures: “The Horseman” – an enigmatic nomadic knight that evokes both the timeless solitary traveler and the homeless migrant of today, searching for a better life – and “The Boatman”, a middle-aged man who has put his whole life onto a boat. “Celeste & Egon” and “Celeste (smoking)” are works in which Op de Beeck captures a concept that he has already faced in an animated film from 2015, that of the representation of man as a doll. The theme of waiting that articulates the various phases of life is perceivable in the faces marked by time in “Mum and Dad” who tight in an embrace venture into the night, just like in “The Cliff”, where a couple of teenagers sit at the top of a promontory on the edge of a precipice; in their eyes is the sublime spell of first love that marks the loss of innocence and the transition into adulthood.

“Dog” marks the quiet flow of time, the life-size dog depicted while it sleeps; “The Hideout” evokes a fairytale atmosphere, Op de Beeck constructs a nocturnal landscape inside the display cabinet. Even the figures portrayed in the two watercolours in the exhibition communicate a sense of serenity.

Correspondence with the observer is immediate, perhaps because of the scale of the painting which makes us perceive them as life size, perhaps because they look you straight in the eye. Although they are in an enclosed space, the artist improvises glimpses of fantastic landscapes around them.

“I generally try to evoke an artificial world, a condensed version of reality that says something about us as human beings and that often awkwardly stages our life, our relationship to others, our environment and our mortality (...) Beyond the support I use, I hope my works are like a consoling hand on the shoulder, a warm hug and a mental oasis for peace and tranquility”, declares the artist.

And finally, a reflection on the transience of life in the two still-lives in the exhibition: the long stem of a lily that stretches towards the sky transmits a sense of vulnerability (“Lily”) and classic and contemporary decorative elements combine in harmony in “Vanitas (variation) 29”.