Private view: Thursday the 11th of November from 6:30-9pm
(London Bridge, Speak Easy)
A skull smoking a cigarette, an oversized duck laying an egg, and a smiling butterfly. These are the eccentric visions of Belgian artist Joachim Lambrechts who plays with composition and form to evoke a sense of childlike joy and spontaneity. While the artist typically employs a vibrant colour palette, his latest solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London, entitled Siluetas, presents a bold new series of textural, monochromatic works, marking a new found confidence and aesthetic purity.
Lambrechts’ practice embraces and celebrates free creative expression. He never plans his compositions, instead preferring to allow the image to reveal itself through the act of mark-making. Although this new series of black and white paintings expresses a certain restraint, the images retain a powerful sense of dynamism which reflects the artist’s spontaneous process. With these works, he began by pasting pieces of coloured paper onto the canvas to create a sense of texture and depth before applying layers of black paint. Wide brush strokes and lines of white paint were then used to delineate the outlines of objects and animals so that from a distance they appear as silhouettes or shadows, while closer inspection reveals flashes of colour breaking through the surface where the artist has scratched or scraped away the paint. This creates a palpable tension between mark making and erasure, movement and stillness, artistic abandon and creative control.
For this latest body of work, Lambrechts took inspiration from early cave paintings which despite their simplistic style convey complex narratives and emotions. In a similar way, the artist has deliberately restricted his use of lines to what is only absolutely necessary to convey a certain shape or form. The painting Pantera Negra, for example, depicts a black cat (or panther) whose body mainly consists of a large black shape with four vertical lines indicating the outlines of its front legs. Here, as with all of the artworks, Lambrechts’ signature graphical style, simultaneously clarifies and distorts our understanding of the image. The cat’s shape appears both childlike and surreal just as in the painting Pegasus we are able to immediately identify the mythical horse while viewing the creature from a seemingly impossible perspective: all four of its legs appear along the same line, bent and twisted into unnatural angles. “For me, painting is not so much wanting to convey a message, but rather a search for shapes, lines and color and seeing what possibilities they offer me,” explains Lambrechts. At the same time, this approach invites the viewer to engage on a more imaginative level as we are given a greater freedom to interpret the compositions.
With some of the works, the artist guides or destabilises our interpretation by also incorporating text into the image. At times, the words act as direct visual labels, such as Black Eagle or Lions, while others appear as witty modern-day aphorisms. The painting When the owl wakes up at night to kill, we sleep, for example, depicts an owl seemingly in a kind of trance state, its eyes filled with white circles and its wings extended while the text forms a literal frame or border around the edge of the canvas. In this way, Lambrechts questions his own role as an image-maker by demonstrating how our understanding of an artworkis shaped by not only the composition itself but also, by its framing and external contexts such as titles, accompanying text and the surroundings in which the work appears. At the same time, however, he draws us closer to the image by inviting us to us to engage more actively and intimately with the artistic process.
These complex embedded layers of tension and bold visual contrasts are what make the artworks so compelling. They are, by the very nature of paint, static scenes while simultaneously bursting with raw, exuberant creativity.