Until 27th January 2019, the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) in Gent exhibits what is the first posthumous retrospective of Belgian painter Raoul De Keyser (1930-2012).
.oeuvre explores 3 decades of work and includes ca. 120 paintings, drawings and documentaries.
Having studied painting in his early 30s under Roger Raveel, De Keyser joined with Raveel and two other painters the group ‘New Vision’. This movement aimed to give everyday experience a heightened sensibility.
Throughout his life and in line with this principle, De Kayser’s departing motives remained his immediate ordinary surroundings and reality – from the football field outside of his window, to the window itself, his dog, living room, the handle of its sliding glass doors, etc.
This approach to make subtile, meaningful references to mundane reality has led him to abstract and reduce it onto its most essential marks on the canvas. Raoul De Keyser’s paintings systematically investigate the minimal graphic possibilities in painting.
Though not devoid of emotion, his paintings for their subtleness, size and technique, seem more lyrical than emotional. With very few exceptions, no grand gestures in motive, size or technique are seen here. These are sensitive but not dramatic paintings.
It is this intuitive but consistent experimentation and focus that has become De Kayser’s unique trademark. Either on canvas or on paper, these paintings explore the effects of line, dot, brushstroke, colour and stain, all the while generating really interesting surfaces that hold our attention.
Unlike what others have said, the painter seems less preoccupied with exploring the physicality of paint or to communicate strong emotions but more concerned with inventively exploring all representational possibilities within a minimal set of marks.
Wonderful achievements are “Kerf” (1988), “Diep” (1985-86) and “Retour 5” (1999). Reduced to indefinable shapes and marks, these compositions evoke interesting spatial and figural illusions and at the same time remain devoid of any descriptive narrative. Clearly, the surfacing leitmotifs come from the painter’s abstracted memories of places, things, impressions and ideas.
Humor, sharpness, poetry and beauty have all been well noted as some of the most interesting qualities in Kayser’s paintings. The viewer is then left to enjoy an abstract, sensual and curious experience of figure, distance, warmth, nature and its opposite qualities as if trying to read the elements of a long lost language.
After the end of the show, .oeuvre will travel and be exhibited at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich ( ‐
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Raoul De Keyser, Green, Green, Green, 2012 Oil on canvas mounted on wood panel, 29.5 x 21.5 cm © Family Raoul De Keyser | SABAM Belgium 2018 Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, acquired by means of the Ernst-Schürpf-Stiftung, 2013. Photo credit: Jens Ziehe Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp & David Zwirner, New York / London / Hong Kong & Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin.
Raoul De Keyser, Diep, 1985-86, oil on canvas, 167 x 124 cm. © Family Raoul De Keyser | SABAM Belgium 2018 Collection Mu.ZEE, Ostend Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp & David Zwirner, New York / London / Hong Kong & Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin.
Raoul De Keyser, Kerf, 1989, oil on canvas, 158 x 140 cm © Family Raoul De Keyser/ SABAM Belgium 2018 Private Collection Photo Credits: Hilde d’Haeyere Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp & David Zwirner, New York / London / Hong Kong & Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin.
Raoul De Keyser, Retour 5, 1999, oil on canvas, 188 x 140 cm © Family Raoul De Keyser/ SABAM Belgium 2018 Private Collection Photo Credits: Felix Tirry Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp & David Zwirner, New York / London / Hong Kong.