Hans Op de Beeck: Works on Paper

25 November 2022 - 15 January 2023

Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam, NL

In 2009, Op de Beeck exhibited at Rome’s historic Galleria Borghese. In dialogue with the old masters exhibited - he developed six expansive monochrome watercolours. Today, these paintings exist as part of the MAXXI (Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome) permanent collection. Since then, Op de Beeck has worked prolifically on large-scale and immersive sculptural installations as well as video works. Whilst each watercolour is a fully matured and autonomous work in its own right, Op de Beeck’s steadily growing oeuvre has evolved into an ever-expanding universe of images.

Op de Beeck’s watercolours envisage fictional places - within these spaces dark and fairy-like characters emerge in nocturnal settings. These enigmas elicit a sense of alienation and melancholy, whilst radiating peace and tranquility in equal measure. The figures and places offer a seed for the audience to create a story. Each of the works is painted at night, alone in a silent studio. Here, without interruption the creative process becomes one of being intoxicated with timelessness. Just as in a dream, the process is one of accessing the subconscious - a ritual of surrender to the unknown. Op de Beeck wrestles with the growing pains and obstacles of the human condition. Here, the futility of man in the face of the sublime and the natural world becomes his point of departure.

In The Secret Place (2022), we see a young girl floating in a rowboat. Her determined, cryptic gaze looks toward a dark place: a densely wooded labyrinth of bare tree trunks. Each boat, canoe and raft are motifs the artist associates with both decisiveness and surrender to fate. In such works, Op de Beeck's balances the gentle and idyllic with the disturbing and dark. Notions of mystery, the unexplainable and the fundamental loneliness of our existence recur regularly. Alongside, we see other subtly recurring motifs - still lives of banal objects as memento mori; or the micro-poetry of raindrops on water and soap bubbles floating languidly by.

The Dark Pond (2022) presents us with an immaculate white water lily floating along. In the darkness below the water's surface, koi fish swim away from us. Whilst white lilies represent purity and impermanence, the koi fish, known to have the ability to swim upstream - represent courage and perseverance. Both components relate to water, which for Op de Beeck’s visual language stands both literally and figuratively for "reflection": reflective meditation, contemplation and rumination.

Besides the watercolors, the exhibition features a number of sculptural works, such as a bas-relief of a seascape (Seascape, 2022) or a pair of elegant ladies' hands placing a laurel wreath on an imaginary head (Gesture (laurel wreath), 2022). As in the watercolours, these sculptures revolve around universal subjects, empathetic actions, and reflections. Essence, according to the artist, lies in attention and devotion to small things and gestures - in contrast to the hollow and spectacular gesture.

Op de Beeck invites you to approach and enter these works through the mind; to - at first - evoke feelings of recognition, comfort, and calmness, Then, through deeper examination unfurl further layers of meaning and cultural reference.