In 1924, German art historian Aby Warburg, driven by the desire to capture the history of Western culture and thought, embarked on a monumental entreprise that would later take the form of a picture atlas. Consisting of cosmographic and art-historical images, his Mnemosyne Atlas aimed to unfold the evolution of signs and symbols recurring throughout the history of our civilisation. It became therefore a metaphoric encyclopaedia of both disappearance and re-emergence. Although largely informed by academic rigour, the Atlas was exclusively designed and arranged by Warburg himself according to his own intuitive logic. At his death in 1929, the sixty three panels that he had created were left unfinished, frozen in time for ever, never to be completed.
Warburg’s frame of thought forms the backdrop of Atlas of Forms and Colours, Tamara Van San’s first solo show in Brussels since 2008. Spanning eleven years of the artist’s career, the exhibition revolves around the notion of topography and draws attention to the recurrence of certain forms, colours, materials and textures within her work. It comprises twenty-nine sculptures, exclusively presented against the walls of the gallery, that come together to form a map of the artist’s visual language. If at first sight the hang may seem random, by taking a closer look one becomes aware that the works are arranged according to a system based on correlations between hues and shapes. Purple feeds into yellow feeds into green feeds into blue feeds into pink; whilst circles meet rectangles meet cylinders meet ellipsoids and other polygons… evoking all at once a cultural, natural and cosmic imagery that characterises Van San’s oeuvre.
An extensive cartography of Van San’s practice, yet not an exhaustive one, Atlas of Forms and Colours acknowledges the impossibility of ever fixing an absolute topography. The result is purely visual, like an endless constellation that remains open to many interpretations. Distancing itself from any academic discourse, the exhibition aims to animate the viewer’s memory and imagination by offering potential associations ready to be unravelled, investigated and reinvented.
Entitled The Occupants, the inaugural exhibition of Canopy brings together eight artists who all share their studios in the gallery’s building at Rue des Etangs Noirs, 51. Rather than merging their practices under one theme, the show puts emphasis on their geographical and temporal proximity; most of the works exhibited having been made over the course of their very first month of cohabitation within the building. If at first sight these artists seem to have very little in common, the exhibition suggests certain threads of connection between their practices without hesitating to highlight points of contrast.
Consisting of various shades of white paint chips that the artist removed from found wooden door frames, Liddle’s Fleck Paintings make reference to the domestic and find resonance in Mouchez’s room-sized fountain. Filled with water infused with black beans, the self-polluting vessels together with Liddle’s paintings stress concerns related to contamination, the decorative and the kitsch.
In the work of Caillard and Bourthoumieux, there is to be found traces of the body. Cast from a child’s chair, Caillard’s plaster sculptures evoke a ghostly presence that further explores her concerns with loose anthropomorphic representations. Bourthoumieux’s white linen bedsheet resting over a cold metal structure evokes both the scale of a human body and the memory of a train journey between Belgrade and Budapest, manifesting as a minimalist intervention loaded with personal sentiments.
Placed directly in the corner, Eynon’s self-portrait insists on the physical presence of the artist. With his eyes closed and presented as a mirror refection, his drawn self responds to the visceral materiality of Butler’s painting whose composition reveals human hairs, blanket debris and dust. Bearing the language of abstraction whilst investigating the potential of accidental figuration, Pink Venusseats awkwardly somewhere between the pictorial and the surface.
No less textural, Ginet’s tiny thick painting inhabits the gallery space as a 3D object and plays on the illusion of a sci-fi landscape. It resonates with Mahéo’s ‘vertical seas’, a series of photographic montages simultaneously composed of an aerial view and a subjective view in which the artist introduces an impossible perspective devoid of horizon and therefore rebuilds the sea as a wall.
Making visible the artistic activities taking place within the confines of the gallery’s building, The Occupantsis also the beginning of an adventure. For Canopy, the adventure starts here and now, and in excellent company.