There are always bright spots on the horizon
For the first time at the Transit gallery, Luc Dondeyne is exhibiting ‘work that leans towards abstraction’. Yet the artist immediately adds: ‘I have countered this too’.
In his studio in Ramsdonk, Luc Dondeyne gallantly explains the beginnings of his new series of oil paintings entitled Swinging Mirrors (2022). He departed from the motif of an emergency thermal blanket. ‘I tried to capture the object’s geometry,’ he bluntly confesses. ‘It’s an attractive material in terms of structure. When laid out on the ground, this almost weightless, double-sided foil – gold on one side and silver on the other – is perfectly suited to formal experiments.’ It offers the same potential as the foil around chocolate bars: it can be folded, smoothed, rolled and pleated, compressed into a ball, or brutally crumpled. Luc Dondeyne says that, as a colourist, it is a challenge to paint reflective materials. They possess a certain ‘alchemy’.
It would be wrong to assume, purely based on this initial springboard, that the emergency blanket motif has unilaterally triumphed in the new work. In addition to the seven canvases of which it is the exclusive keynote, Luc Dondeyne has also delivered three utterly different paintings to Galerie Transit. They include figures, young and attractive people, glowing with health, athletic, never in need of an emergency blanket – clearly (?) safe. Luc Dondeyne speaks of a ‘counterpoint’.
‘For these works, I departed from the idea of movement,’ says Luc Dondeyne, ‘from the dance that I developed in collaboration with three young Portuguese performers. I needed dancers as models – moving bodies that I could observe, draw, sketch, etch and photograph. I wanted to be able to work from photographic material. My models all tend to be people with whom I’ve crossed paths more or less by accident. But in this case, I grasped the bull by the horns. I knew all three models from my teaching practice. They all pose for the drawing class. But they had never posed – let alone performed – together. They’d only passed each other in the corridor, so the connection was tenuous (although the two girls were a bit closer). But I knew it would click! All three operate at the intersection of art, dance and performance. They also have connections in Portugal; they are extremely mobile and live in different places. They are from the Lisbon area.’
Strictly separate or not, the figurative works and emergency blanket paintings coalesce in the presentation at Galerie Transit. The artist’s choice of exhibition title, Swinging Mirrors, can be taken literally: the dancing, swinging mirror is none other than the tilting kind from your cloakroom, bathroom or boudoir. But isn’t the single-use survival blanket also a kind of swinging mirror, with its alternating gold and silver sides that both capture and reflect the sunlight?
The two diverse clusters of works in Swinging Mirrors turn the exhibition into a diptych. One can also speak of this in formal terms: the seven ‘abstracta’ and the three ‘bodies’ converge around one central point, Tractatus (2022). At 95 x 200 cm, is the largest work in the exhibition, both navel and vanishing point. Perhaps Tractatus, which depicts a double fan, refers to Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by the Austrian-English philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. It is not only his magnum opus but also the only work to be published during his lifetime. In the philosopher’s own words, it is primarily ethical in nature.
Silently, Luc Dondeyne shows in Swinging Mirrors that which cannot be articulated, that which escapes unambiguous interpretation, that which continuously slips away,
neither gold nor silver
neither hot nor cold
neither static nor dynamic
neither physical nor abstract
neither introspective nor expressive
neither committed nor indifferent
neither good nor evil.
There are always bright spots on the horizon.
Barbara De Coninck, Antwerp, 23 October 2022
Artists: Luc Dondeyne