Hans Op de Beeck, Master of Illusion
Castlemagazine 14, 4 March 2009
Silent, sometimes meditative, sometimes ironic meetings of modern human beings with themselves, the temporary neglect of our own identity - that's the hand of Hans Op de Beeck. In his diction the contemporary artist likes to gamble with illusion. His hallmark is the variety of his works, including vast installations, sculptures, paintings, photos, videos, animated films and short stories.
Already as a young guy Hans Op de Beeck, born 1969 in Turnhout, Belgium, was crazy about comics. While the other teens were doing some sports and were celebrating parties, together with his twin brother he was drawing hundreds of those coloured booklets. He describes himself as a calm character. In various of his works, the viewer can also find a certain peace, a bland silence, that is however very communicative. After his studies of painting at Sint-Lukas University College in Brussels only one artistic genre made him feel restrained in his style: “Up to one point, the painting technique was the only thing that was important and not the content I actually wanted to tell”, he recounted once. Out of that impasse, Hans Op de Beeck escaped by turning towards other media. Today, he enjoys the freedom of using a wide spectrum of forms of expression. It is not the unity of his work that is essential for him, but communication with his observers.
This dictum he also teaches to his art students in Ghent. The fact of being allowed to produce art for the public is an especial privilege for him. He advances the view that it is his responsibility to open art to everybody, not only to an elite.
In the worldwide artistic scene the Belgian became famous for the installation Location (1), the first of a series of installations, made to scale or on a scale of 1:1. By using the real or decreased size of buildings, the viewer is roped into different kinds of worlds, that seem on the one hand familiar, but are however also strange for him or her. Inspired by common experiences, Location (1) shows a deserted night-time crossroads, that is only living because of the traffic lights - a scenery of loneliness that is probably well-known to everybody.
Hans Op de Beeck's intention is that the observer identify with his worlds, because the identification leads to inner reflection. His hallmark is the gamble with illusion, a tightrope walk between reality and artefact, which he hopes will be accepted as real for a moment. You love to fall for his locations, although you see through them at the same time. The viewer can enter the installations and follow the invitation to doff the daily routine and to accept nonentity.
Like he says: “I think, one of the most important qualities of an artwork is to build a timeless zone, that makes you forget your own identity and connects you to anything, that has no description.” “The event of nothingness” is the impulse of the forty-year-old artist. For his creations, he uses no masters and designs his artistic scenes mainly from his memory. On building his artworks, he acts like a meticulous craftsman.
Hans Op de Beeck's artistic production contains a vast variety of different kinds of artworks. One of his latest creations, exhibited at Galleria Continua in Beijing this year, is Location (6), the continuation of his ongoing series of monumental installations. Based on historic panorama constructions, Location (6) is made up entirely of a sculpted trompe l'oeil landscape with artificial fog and light, to constitute the impression of a natural landscape.
The spectator can view the landscape from a central observatory that is reached via a long, narrow corridor. From a seated position, the visitor can contemplate an endless snowy expanse with bare trees. The landscape, the observatory and its interior are all white - a real symphony in white!
A further new work of the Belgian is Extensions, a film which consists of animated black-and-white watercolors. The video treats of cultural rituals, and science and technology as extensions of the human body. For the artist, this film symbolises the manifestation of an imperturbable belief in an ambivalent progress.
This article can only offer a short abstract of Hans Op de Beeck‘s “way of art”. If you are curious visit his homepage: