Painting as an echo of beauty
New notes on recent work by Bart Vandevijvere

”The emergency of abstract art changed the way people thought and wrote about art. In fact, it was unthinkable and improbable that there was no longer a subject that could identify the work of art, as a title. There had to be a subject; and that subject could only be an idea. Thus, abstract works of art were seen as reflections from a broader mental sphere. Their subject was the mind itself.” Rudi Fuchs.

Looking at abstract art remains a desperate confrontation with our powerlessness to articulate things for which there just aren’t any ready-made words, let alone accurate ones.

Lines and a refined play of colours move and touch us in ways we cannot define. In contrast to film and photography, it can even be very difficult to reach a descriptive consensus about the factual, material appearance of certain works. And still, in this age of PC’s and the Internet, an abstract painting remains a place of rest, where the beauty of colour and line in itself evokes an adventure in which the mental capacities of man, forever inscrutable and irrecoverable, can go freewheeling…

Abstract painting withdraws from the world of the story; abstract painting withdraws from the compulsion to make moral statements in art about specific current affairs or social issues. Abstract painting is a mysterious membrane between the world and the individual; a foil of beauty and aesthetic enjoyment on which – in contrast to painted stories about verifiable reality – no-one can claim to have a patent. In abstract art, the spectator is mirrored in his inability to name and control the world. Rudi Fuchs has asserted that the most art can do is to ”initiate us in our own imagination”. The essence of art is probably to lift a tip of the veil behind the prefabricated world of glitter and consumption. In other words, the disinterested function of art consists in discovering and exploring the beauty of the escapades of human creativity. In this context, the ”unruliness” of painting is a wordless response to the speed that is characteristic of the art world and the art market, where art is subjected to trends, speculation and commerce.

The slow oeuvre of Bart Vandevijvere can increasingly be defined as contemplative. His relatively small paintings – some of theme combined in small series – are the condensed derivative of an interiorised process of pictorial ascesis.

For quite some time now, his oeuvre has been directed and inspired by new contemporary music; a form of expression to which ephemerality and transience are inherent. In fast-drying acrylic paint, Bart Vandevijvere works his way across the canvas, in which factors such as disposition and coincidence yield a contrary aesthetics, as if the canvas were a sheet of dissonant music. The titles of his recent works refer explicitly to his large CD collection. John Cage, Morton Feldman or Lucien Goethals literally help Bart Vandevijvere on his way towards ”the right attitude”.

Not that his work is an illustrative painterly transposition, but the way in which, for instance, in his painting ”Lines for Lucien Goethals”, the allusion balances between sheet music and concrete expressive penmanship, shows a large measure of feeling and poetry. Bart Vandevijvere aestheticises, as it were, his sensual experiences in paint, which follows the hand in its deliberate exploration of the infinite possibilities of applying paint. Painting contains the unique and unmultiplicable. Music, and more in particular, techno and jazz, have become, more than ever, sources of inspiration for ( young ) artists who are again feeling that the visual arts should break out of their ”special-treatment” cultural niche. In other words, the interaction between art and life has again become a visible item in the contemporary visual arts. Vandevijvere allows the sonorous influences of his favourite music to infiltrate, in a nearly literal way, into his compositions, which are based, as in contemporary music, on making dissonants sound well.

He does not seek the purity of the image, but achieves, on the basis of more or less constructed geo-composition models, precisely that perfect and even restful balance between reason and emotion. For this, the acrylic paint sometimes takes on very unruly forms, from fragile passages crossed with soft brush-strokes to nearly all-over and ”condensated” passages in which the ”matière” dominates and simply shows how beautifully the paint, in itself, can be painted. It is as if he is increasingly learning to pull out all the stops when it comes to ways of painting, but without transposing his sensitivity and mood into romantic-looking works.

Bart Vandevijveres work remains a statement in this age that is governed by extremely rapid images. The painter’s vision of the world implodes in the paint and leaves no room for definable value judgements. In the first place, the painter defends beauty. He slows down our gaze to a delimited bit of canvas and paint on which a world reveals itself to us that makes us dream and yearn, that gives us visual enjoyment, and, in extenso, that makes us doubt our spurious self-assurance about controlling life in this complex reality.

The painterly oeuvre of Bart Vandevijvere resounds with an echo that summons beauty and brings it just a little closer…