Johan Clarysse

It is something we hardly ever think about. Everyday we are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands of media and advertising messages. Often they are clever combinations of words and pictures that appeal to our feelings and desires, conscious or otherwise. Bite-size chunks, meant to be swallowed whole and quickly. In his paintings Johan Clarysse (1957) uses visual techniques from advertising, but then with a very different aim.

Clarysse does not start out from direct observation. He re-uses images that move him in one way or another, such as photos that he may or may not have done himself, or, as in his more recent work, stills taken from films by directors such as Bergman, Tarkovsky and Hitchcock. The pictures he chooses exude an emotional intensity and they often depict people in extreme situations. The images appear familiar and seductive. At the same time they contain an element of confusion resulting from the painterly manipulation of the original: the somewhat detached touch, the almost monochrome palette and the addition of abstract areas of colour and/or pictogram-like symbols, etc.

Moreover, a text often runs through the pictorial surface. Famous quotations, one-liners or snippets of conversations which do not seem to relate to the pictures they have been applied to. All this prevents a superficial approach to the painting and invites us to reflect on the status of the image. It was with good reason that Clarysse entitled one of his series Ceci n'est pas de la tristesse. It was, of course, a reference to René Magritte's famous painting-with-pipe plus an appeal for us to distinguish between genuinely felt emotions and how they are presented in the media. Although Johan Clarysse fights our consumer society-gone-mad with its own weapons, he entertains few illusions about the impact art has: 'Although art cannot save the world, it may affect the way the world is experienced, an experience in which there is room for the sublime, the radically different, the non-rational, - things that are often repressed in our culture. If the artist can do this, it is quite an achievement even if it does not play a direct role in the discourse of power.'* - Peter Pollers

* Filip Geerardyn and Johan Clarysse, 'Over Leonardo, stenen tafelen, vredesduiven en toeval: een tweegesprek rond kunst en psychoanalyse', Psychoanalytische perspectieven, 2004, 22, 2, p. 245.


13.02 to 01.05.2005
13.02 to 01.05.2005
13.02 to 01.05.2005
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