Lines for Lucien Goethals

‘Le tout sans nouveauté’ notes Stéphane Mallarmé in the introduction to his poem ‘Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard’ published in Cosmopolis review (1897). His sentence is unfinished. The quote goes on saying: ‘qu’un espacement de la lecture’ (‘Everything without novelty, except for spacing reading’). Taking the blank of the page into the composition and thereby affecting the content, the focus is no longer exclusively on words, though the content remains. The ‘mise en page’ compel to a possible reading, even a private lecture. The poem gets the embryonic characteristics of an action score with plastic qualities. Seemingly, it appears out of deficiency against the conventional notation of evoking rhythm and musicality. The thrusting principle of this approach is apparent in the French ‘espacer’ (spacing). It suggests spatiality and incorporates time, two concepts that touch upon the essence of Bart Vandevijvere’s pieces. The dimension of space (or a suggestion thereof) is characteristic for the plastic arts, while music unfolds itself in time. The desire to fuse both qualities in one medium ‘painting’ is obvious throughout Vandevijvere’s art, even in his early works. Most pieces refer to musical idioms or composers; in this particular case the music of Belgian composer Lucien Goethals. The aforementioned lines by Stéphane Mallarmé, ‘on évite le récit’ (one avoids the story), apply to both artist. They both emphasize a grammatical exploration in favour of the languages of both media.

While reading mimetic paintings, an ‘escape moment’ occurs when our imagination drifts to the story. At such times, we do not get involved ‘or we are partially involved’ in the physicality of the painting anymore. We are in ‘le récit’, the story. It goes not to say that the pictorial is insignificant or even absent, the relationship is slightly different. With Bart Vandevijvere, the self-referential character leads to a dynamic that gets the viewers involved in the painting. There is a clear detachment from the story. Or to put in other words: the narrative is absorbed by the sheer art of painting. The pictorial process organises the story in these paintings, it steers the plot and it coincides with it. This has a clear affiliation with the art of music where the supremacy of the melody is opened up to other musical parameters. Conscious listening is a necessity here; the acoustic pleasure requires an effort that stretches beyond decorative enjoyment. A similar attitude is essential for Vandevijvere’s paintings; they invite us to participate in the first step of the complex process of vision. Meaning is implemented by (in)sight.

The notion of time is another hint at music in the paintings of Bart Vandevijvere. Within the boundaries of the painting, he tries to make invisible musical writings visible. Therefore his pursue of continuity and the possibility of censorship without evaporating the first quality. A lot of movement and dynamics coincide with musical notations, so that the usage of concepts like ‘ritardando’ and ‘accelerando’ are appropriate in these paintings. Lucien Goethals often starts from mathematical strings, deviation is decided by emotion. Likewise, in the screens and linear patterns of Bart Vandevijvere, regularity is often deformed by the introduction of time. His art resembles an archaeological set up in which a temporal dimension emerges from the traces of paint. Spatial movement is often delayed by igneous paint and downpour. Accelerations occur due to the wet surface which dictates all other movement from the start. The artist tilts the canvas in different directions until the energetic stream reaches equilibrium. These manipulations add up to a varying depth in the pictorial layers, which resembles the minimal definition of sound: ‘change in air density’. The variations in density open up new potential for the drought process. In an unsuitable environment (too hot or too cold) cracks appear in the skin of the paint, thereby exposing the basic treatment. These deep layers maintain a diverse relationship with the other layers, due to lassitude, lustre and transparency. Or they get aggressively revealed by scraping. Some elements are, indeed, hidden, but they constitute a concealed cause of the visible parts. Tension and friction are thus incorporated in the natural elements of the paint’s skin. The artists uses drought out brushes sometimes. Affected by time, they stubbornly execute their wills and limitations. Consequently, the process of painting resembles the ‘Triadic’ ballet by Oskar Schlemmer where the dancer’s elegance, power, resistance and insight must be sufficient to overcome the stiff costumes.

The peculiar possibilities of structuring with regard to aleatoric organisation are critical to Bart Vandevijvere’s fundamental startling. He too has to wait for the outcome of the various circumstances of manipulating paint. Even more crucial is how he reshapes the essence and the identity of the art in a truly distinctive voice. It constitutes the significance of his artistic personality.