Hans Op de Beeck: Vanishing
26 May 2023 - 22 October 2023
Galleria Continua, Beijing, CN
For his now third solo exhibition at Galleria Continua in Beijing, multidisciplinary Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck is staging a print room in the gallery's monumental downstairs space. His presentation includes an ensemble of 13 large watercolours, as well as a projection room in which his new animated film 'Vanishing Point' will be premiered. In addition, the artist will also be displaying a suite of 20 recent sculptures in the gallery's remaining spaces.
The watercolours include enchanting winter and night landscapes, seascapes, enigmatic figures, wondrous animals and still lifes.
The sculptures include adult and child figures, often depicted in a meditative moment or a moment of high concentration. They mostly depict small everyday actions or portray the relationship between two characters — a relationship that speaks, for example, of early, awkward love in adolescence or being fully one with one's partner in old age.
In addition, Op de Beeck will display sculptural Wunderkammer cabinets, fictional scaled landscapes, bas-reliefs, eclectic still lifes and enlargements of natural elements.
'Vanishing', according to the dictionary, means 'disappearing suddenly and completely', or, in mathematical terms, 'becoming zero'.
Op de Beeck is intrigued by the moment when we, as human beings, briefly become nothing or nobody, when we let go of our linguistic and logical and rational understanding of the world, and slip into a moment of self-loss and timelessness.
These are moments when we forget our identity and are momentarily nobody and nowhere, while our alert sense of time and any sense of urgency seems to disappear. This mental no man's land, this emptiness and silence, can serve as an oasis for an overly busy, preoccupied mind.
In a broader, philosophical sense, 'vanishing', for the artist, is also about abandoning our ego, accepting our relativity, our insignificance as humans and individuals in relation to the unfathomable idea of eternity and the dizzying infinity of the universe.
As we age, we are increasingly faced with the sobering 'vanishing' of family and friends around us: in the blink of an eye, a grandparent, parent, sister, brother, or friend disappears from your life. To suffer this kind of loss is confrontational, brutal and absurd. Much of Op de Beeck's work touches on the theme of the memento mori; a reminder of the temporality of our lives. It bestows, in a positive sense, brilliance and value upon the small and essential moments in our lives.
The sublime quality of nature, the enigmatic darkness of the night, slipping into sleep and dream, being absorbed in the illusion of a game or the parallel world of a novel can transport one into the experience of an unexpected and sudden fading of one's sense of identity, into a moment of self-loss.
In this exhibition, the artist brings together watercolours, sculptures and a film around this theme in a playful and freely associative manner. The works are not illustrative of a particular theory or point of view, but rather introduce the onset of an unfamiliar mood, a minor action or the seed for a possible story.
The title of the new animated film ‘Vanishing Point’ refers to a point in the picture plane of a perspective view where mutually parallel lines seem to converge. At the level of a vanishing point in the distance, we can no longer perceive three-dimensional depth. Op de Beeck uses the term metaphorically, as a tipping point from which we shift from measurability and legibility into the unknown, indecipherable and incomprehensible, or from the concrete to the abstract, mental or spiritual. The film starts with the image of a little boy resting peacefully on his back with his eyes closed. Next, we are transported to fictional landscapes, still lifes and figures, musically accompanied by a specially created composition by composer-musician Sam Vloemans, performed by the Hermes Ensemble. Together with the music, the watercolours that are brought to life create a sweeping, tranquil mood that invites one to briefly disappear into a moment of letting go.