Letter: to Henk Delabie
It happens all too often that a picture of a piece of art captured in a publication appears to be mendacious. A picture of that kind can hardly be called a document. It is flimsy, a two-dimensional archaeological “discovery” of something that does not exist the way we perceive it. Just like pictures in a newspaper distract us from the political facts, pictures in a publication distract us from the qualities of a piece of art. And yet I got to know your work in this “second-hand” way. The booklet that was presented to me turned out to be the starting point of the meeting with your predominantly sculptural oeuvre. I still remember the visit to your studio, the studio of a sculptor. It is a place where shapes, objects, structures, drawings, photocopies, fragments are spread throughout the space as partially unsorted thoughts. It is a place where no definite choice has been made yet, a choice between what can be called important and non-important, but where each shape or memory of a shape has the capacity to become an autonomous sculpture. At that time two thoughts in your oeuvre came to crystallize: on the one hand I recognized the expertise of a sculptural “craft” (just like Tony Cragg is constantly examining in his oeuvre), on the other hand I could work out that the human body determines the size of all your works. In this respect, the word “size” does not necessarily have to be understood as “ dimension orproportion” but can just as well refer to a musical environment. It can berelated to rhythm, pitch or volume. One year after our first encounter we visited your exhibition in Menen together. It was the first time I saw your sculptures in an environment other than the studio, except for a balanced wooden shape in your living room. I was able to experience how the sculptures interact in the presence of space and individuals, how light and reflection render the tension between shape and colour, how your sculptures relate to a tradition. All sculptures are monochromes. Whichever technique you use, the hard saturated colour captured in a shiny surface is predominating. The colour of the sculpture can be named after the coloured leaves of a tree. The industrial character of the colour does not let the spectator lose his way in a vague symbolism, but allows him or her to approach the essence of the sculpture: reading and experiencing the sculptural shape as such, as a lying, hanging, leaning or resting body. Let us for example focus on the stretched red vertical sculpture. The object leans vulnerably against the wall and guides the spectator’s gaze towards the bend, the moment at which the sculpture leaves the wall and conquers the space. Something that was assumed to have two dimensions just a moment ago – as if it were a sign or a painted object – suddenly becomes a sculpture by “entering” the space. The diameter of the “pipe” and the curve of the bend suggest a mathematical precision inherent to minimal art. The shape of the sculpture however rather implies the tension of a knee or an elbow, the intuition of a movement. The slight bend in the verticality of the sculptures activates space, slices it into a front, side, back and bottom part. Each of your works can be described in that way. Each sculpture can be conceived in its relation to space and spectator. Or maybe your sculptures are like steles, monoliths or totems where the history of sculptural arts grows quiet in relation to the close experience with a purifying and ascetic sculptural language.
Philippe Van Cauteren, Castleford.
artistic director S.M.A.K. Museum of Contemporary Art – Ghent