Hans Op de Beeck

Van Nellefabriek, Rotterdam

On show In his new film, Hans Op de Beeck (b. 1969 in Turnhout, Belgium) employs puppets for the first time and affords the curatorial theme of the "red thread" with an interpretation derived from Asian mythology. A Chinese proverb says that an invisible thread connects those destined to meet, despite time, place and circumstances. The thread can be tightened or tangled, but will never be broken. Taking this clear and simple metaphor as my starting point, Op de Beeck created a video as a visual love poem about a punk girl and boy who grow old together. Love and death here go hand in hand. The film refers both formally and thematically to the traditional Japanese Bunraku theatre, where black-clad puppet masters operating large puppets perform a tragic (love) story. The work continues the artist’s exploration of contemporary society’s complexities and universal questions of the meaning of life and mortality.

About the artist Hans Op de Beeck studied Fine Arts at St Lukas College in Brussels and took part at the post-graduate program at the Higher National Institute for Fine Arts. Later he worked in connection with the Rijksakademie for 2 years in Amsterdam. Op de Beeck won the prestigious prize for Young Belgium Artist and in 2003 took part at the PS1 project in New York. He became known instantly with a model he created during his time at the Rijksakademie: a crossroads with traffic lights at night. This work is typical in its dealing with a recurring theme of his, that of alienation in modern life and the superficiality, monotony and miscommunication that accompanies it. The situations that Op de Beeck highlights emote atmospheres of deep desolation en emptiness. A couple has a drink at a cafe without uttering a word to each other or even glancing at one another. A long line of bored till workers sit twiddling their thumbs in a deserted supermarket; not one customer is to be seen. Desolate ruin landscapes remind one of human activity, but it seems that these people must have died off a long time ago. This is modern life as Op de Beeck presents it: a sinister no man´s land, where there barely seems place for people. The artist is not interested in moralizing or even making a value judgment: ´I see such situations as absurd bits of information. As an artist you are able to present them. It is a human inability to grasp the reason for life, but it is possible to, in certain ways, touch upon it.` His spatial works, videos and photos of many different scenes of everyday life are all deconstructions. His representations rip scenes from their original context so that their reason for existence at once becomes disputable. His videos for example are fragments from everyday life, but have been enlarged to such an extent that an alienating image emerges. The same goes for his life size models. It is just these uninteresting spaces, such as an unremarkable housing estate, or an empty cross roads with traffic lights at night that he rebuilds in every exquisite boring detail. However by omitting certain small elements his representation gain a bizarre character. Op de Beeck is very subtle and also somewhat romantic. It is not just the high degree of care he takes in carrying out his work, but also his focus on small, often unconscious actions: a look, a silence, a gesture, a symbol etc. that, apart from alienating, also evoke something quite enchanting. The recognition and the compassion, or even the memories these representations conjure up in the viewer, strike very close to the bone. His inspiration comes often from personal experience: such a ´Determination 1´ of the boy that stares back at you from the back seat of a car, or ´Determination 4´, the rushing family that never gets anywhere. GEM housed in January to March 2004 the first solo exhibition in Holland of the Flemish artist. He received international acclaim for his unique works in diverse media such as video, drawing, photography, sculpture and installation. Aside from a brief synopsis of his oeuvre, Op de Beeck presented large new installation he created specifically for GEM. With the help of 2 assistants and 15 students from the King´s Academy of Fine Arts he build his largest installation to date. In an area of 11 by 21 metres, Op de Beeck build a Flemish style motorway restaurant in monochrome tints that could be accessed by the viewer.. When taking place in the restaurant, there expands from the other side of the restaurant window, a night time motorway scene, with the road seemingly stretching out over an infinitely long distance, finally disappearing into the horizon. In turn this installation becomes the backdrop for a number of new video pieces. This installation was designed and completed in 3 months under supervision of the artists in a hanger in Scheveningen.


ABOUT Hans Op de Beeck

Hans Op de Beeck was born in 1969 in Turnhout, BE
He lives and works in Brussels, BE

Visual artist Hans Op de Beeck lives and works in Brussels, where he has developed his career through international exhibitions over the past twenty years. His work consists of sculptures, installations, video work, photography, animated films, drawings, paintings and writing (short stories). It is his quest for the most effective way of presenting the concrete contents of each work that determines the medium that the artist ultimately selects. The scale can vary from the size of a small watercolour to a large, three-dimensional installation of 600m2.

The artist not only uses a very wide variety of media, but also deliberately employs a diversity of aesthetic forms, ranging from an economical, minimalist visual language to overloaded, exaggerated designs, always with the aim of articulating the content of the work as precisely as possible.

Thematically, the work concentrates on our laborious and problematic relationship with time, space and each other. Op de Beeck shows the viewer non-existent, but identifiable places, moments and characters that appear to have been taken from contemporary everyday life, aiming thereby to capture in his images the tragicomic absurdity of our postmodern existence. Key themes are the disappearance of distances, the disembodiment of the individual and the abstraction of time that have resulted from globalisation and the changes to our living environment that developments in media, automation and technology have brought about.

Hans Op de Beeck sometimes calls his works “proposals”; they are irrefutably fictional, constructed and staged, leaving it up to the viewer whether to take the work seriously, as a sort of parallel reality, or immediately to put it into perspective, as no more than a visual construct. His work is nourished by a keen interest in social and cultural reflection. The artist also questions the difficult relationship between reality and representation, between what we see and what we want to believe, between what is and what we create for ourselves in order to make it easier to deal with our own insignificance and lack of identity. The visual output of that investigation often produces slumbering, insidious, melancholy and astonishing images.

Multi-disciplinary artist Hans Op de Beeck creates interworlds. Suspended between past and future, fiction and reality, his works sound out a mirage-like contemporary universe and a sensory vertigo where the familiar rubs shoulders with the strange. From installation to sculpture, from video to animated film, from short stories to painting and drawing, from photography to sound material, the media he employs seem to converge on the definition of a topos: a mental theatre that projects the viewer into a reflexive social and cultural experience, the intimate thinking of the human condition. —Eva Prouteau

Op de Beeck has shown his work extensively in solo and group exhibitions around the world. He has had substantial institutional solo shows at the GEM Museum of Contemporary Art of The Hague, The Hague, NL (2004); MUHKA Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp, BE (2006); Centraal Museum, Utrecht, NL (2007); the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, US (2010); Kunstmuseum Thun, CH (2010); Centro de Arte Caja de Burgos, Burgos, ES (2010); Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, IRL (2012); Kunstverein Hannover, D (2012); Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, USA (2013); the Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, USA (2013); FRAC Paca, Marseille, F (2013); MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Boston MA, US (2014); MOCA Cleveland, OH, US (2014); Sammlung Goetz, Munich, D (2014); Screen Space, Melbourne, AU (2015); Espace 104, Paris, FR (2016); Art Unlimited, Basel, CH (2016); Kunstraum Dornbirn, Dornbirn, AU (2017); Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, DE (2017); Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, DE (2017); Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali, Polignano a Mare, IT (2017); His work is included in museum collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Royal Museum for Modern and Fine Arts, Brussels; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar; Museum Arnhem, Arnhem; the ING Art Collection, Amsterdam; the Akzo Nobel Art Foundation, Amsterdam, and Cobra to Contemporary/The Brown Family Collection.