ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
In 2009, Op de Beeck exhibited at Rome’s historic Galleria Borghese. In dialogue with the old masters from the collection, he developed six expansive monochrome watercolours. Today, these paintings exist as part of the MAXXI (Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome) permanent collection. Since then, Op de Beeck has worked prolifically on continuing this series – a steadily growing oeuvre of watercolours. Though fully matured and autonomous works in their own right, they have evolved into a kind of picture-book, an ever-expanding universe of images.
Op de Beeck’s watercolours envisage fictional places – within these spaces dark and fairy-like characters emerge in nocturnal settings. These enigmas elicit a sense of alienation and melancholy, whilst radiating peace and tranquility in equal measure. The figures and places offer seeds for the audience to create a story.
Each of the works is painted at night, alone in a silent studio. Here, without interruption the creative process becomes one of being intoxicated with timelessness. Just as in a dream, the process is one of accessing the subconscious – a ritual of surrender to the unknown. Op de Beeck wrestles with the growing pains and obstacles of the human condition. Here, the futility of man in the face of the sublime and the natural world becomes his point of departure.
In The Secret Place (2022), we see a young girl in a rowboat. Her determined, cryptic gaze speaks volumes as she floats towards a dark place: a densely wooded labyrinth of bare tree trunks. Each boat, canoe, or raft in Op de Beeck’s work is a motif he associates with both decisiveness and surrender to fate.
Op de Beeck often balances the gentle and idyllic with the disturbing and dark. Notions of mystery, the unexplainable and the fundamental loneliness of our existence recur regularly. Alongside, we see other subtly recurring motifs – still lives of banal objects as memento mori; or the micro-poetry of raindrops on water and soap bubbles floating languidly by.
In addition, Op de Beeck’s new watercolours are populated with a variety of earthly animals. The associations we create with them contribute to the overall sense of mysticism. In The White Peacock (2022), this bird of paradise (often depicted in representations of eden) spreads its tail to form a delicate fan. As humans, we are often drawn to empathise and project human emotions on non-human species. For example, in Horse (night time) (2022) we witness the horse’s own melancholy – that of waiting in the limbo of darkness.
The Dark Pond (2022) presents us with an immaculate white water lily floating along. In the darkness below the water’s surface, koi fish swim away from us. Whilst white lilies represent purity and impermanence – the koi fish, known to have the ability to swim upstream – represent courage and perseverance. Both components relate to water, which in Op de Beeck’s visual language stands both literally and figuratively for “reflection”: reflective meditation, contemplation and rumination.
Besides the watercolours, the exhibition features a number of sculptural works, such as a bas-relief of a seascape (Seascape, 2022) and the elegant hands of a lady placing a laurel wreath on an imaginary head (Gesture (laurel wreath), 2022). As in the watercolours, these sculptures revolve around universal subjects, empathetic actions, and reflections. Essence, according to the artist, lies in attention and devotion to small things and gestures – in contrast to the hollow and spectacular gesture.
Op de Beeck invites you to approach and enter these works through the mind; to – at first – evoke feelings of recognition, comfort, and calmness. Then, through deeper examination unfurl further layers of meaning and cultural reference.