2 February – 10 March 2007
For his exhibition at White Cube Hoxton Square Belgian painter Koen van den Broek exhibited a group of new paintings. In these works, van den Broek created a series of minimal paintings with pared down, panoramic compositions that have moved away from the original source of their image – the photographic snapshot – to focus instead on the application of paint, the spatial effect of colour and the reduction of a motif to its barest possible form.
In the pictures, which present abstracted compositions taken from urban landscapes, linear structures are delicately marked out in primary, unnatural colours against great expanses of white ground, which seem to dominate the picture surface. The hard edges of these vertical and curving structures appear to dissolve and break up as if the reality of the image is being tested, creating a feeling of disconnection. The compositions are dynamic and yet the objects they depict are ordinary. Dirk Lauwaert has described this element of van den Broek’s paintings as a ‘bottomless anonymity’ and sees his pictures as creating a ‘sense of loss in nonetheless attentively observed details’. In this way, van den Broek seems to ‘de-frame’ his original photographic subject, emphasising the canvas as a container that presents a cropped and arranged view of a much more expansive subject.
Some of the paintings are divided vertically in half by a white line, creating a doubling effect that gives the impression of images seen in succession on the pages of a book or in the strip of a film but also about how images are never seen in isolation but always relate to what the viewer has seen before or after. In these works, the motif is altered and only approximately repeated. In Rhythm, for example, everything seems the same, but the second image is simply a blurring of the first. In Display Disconnected there is the approximation of a curb –reduced almost to a sweep of the brush – and on the right hand side, a more careful rendition of it. Contrary to van den Broek’s earlier paintings, that created tension out of non-space – making shadows solid, for example – everything here seems less fixed and more vaporous. In Cut Out, the border dramatically moves from bottom to top in an unequivocal vertical, creating a dramatic composition. Half pink and half sap-green, the border seems to become more of an approximated building structure with a strip of blue barely marking the bottom right-hand corner of the canvas.