For Overgangen, Van Snick focused on three distinct shapes found within the gallery space and interpreted these within his particular color concept. Outside, on the gallery’s facade and visible at all times, Van Snick replaced the regular logo found in the gallery’s square-shaped light-box with a new light-blue and black graphic pattern. Inside, the artist responded to the wooden walls with their particular vertical linear dynamic and, upstairs, to an receding arch built into one of the walls. Overgangen is the artist’s second solo exhibition in Austria following his retrospective at Grazer Kunstverein in 2016.
If time is a bitch I have always imagined it to be wearing fierce black lacquer strap-on heels while holding a whip. An absolute clichéd representation of what one considers it to be except in this case it takes on the shape of a circle. The circle, with its endless projections, is tiresome. It’s part of our standardized and obsessive system, which dominates our daily life through numbers, shapes and colors in order to rationalize and give meaning. From the primary (circle, square, red, yellow and blue) to the secondary, everything we do is related to abstract representation.
The hallway of my apartment in Berlin is pretty much empty except for a chair and one of those Ikea side tables with a lamp on top. Above the chair hangs a small-framed piece of paper on which an elastic band is taped. The color of the piece of paper has faded and the tape, that is holding the elastic band into an ellipse shape, is barely functional. The purpose of the chair is to place my bag on upon returning home or to lace my shoes when departing. It’s a frozen moment that represents movement, similar to the shape of an ellipse – a circle in motion.
The piece of paper is in fact part of a study that has defined and fueled the practice of Belgium artist Philippe Van Snick since the early 70’s. The movement of daily life translated through standardized formats sits at the core of Van Snick’s practice. Through cosmology, the artist developed an interest in systematic methodologies that lead him to formulate a consistent color and numeral system. Each “coincidence,” whether a flock of birds, a broken window or a walking path formed in a garden, is being analyzed in order to develop a language that could speak about the universe.
This observation is one of a painter, in which light and color are both scientific, objective descriptions as well as subjective codes inspired by our everyday experience. The concept of time, specifically the dualism of day and night and the lightness and darkness that signifies its passing, is often explored in works that underline the experiential relationship between the viewer and his surroundings. In the late 1970s, Van Snick created a specific color system by reducing his palette to ten specific colors: the primary colors red, yellow and blue, the secondary colors orange, green and purple, the non-colors white and black (representing the immaterial) and gold and silver (referring to materialism). Later, in 1984, the artist introduced one additional color to his system that now comprised of 10+1 colors. Together with the existing black this newly added light-blue color functions now as a bracket around his color system. Van Snick began to work with the particular duality of the phenomenon “day” and “night” which was symbolically represented by a light blue and a black rectangle.
Van Snick likes “flattening” reality, as if to be seen in two-dimensional form and from one perspective. This is perfectly illustrated in the work displayed onto the facade of the gallery, in which the reoccurring theme of Day/Night is implemented. Over the past decades, Van Snick has been producing abstract signs that incorporate his systematic language as a form of communication. The light box presented outside of the gallery juxtaposes the black and light-blue colors with black square and rectangular shapes while leaving gaps between them in order to present the bare structure of the apparatus itself.
The artist’s interest in human scale and perception is underlined in his new commissioned work, which responds to the wooden paneling in the gallery. By accentuating the standard formats of some of the wooden planks with basic primary and secondary colors, Van Snick turns the space into a painting in which movement and scale defines its presence.
The representation of a system is often one of strict and rigged form, while its subject matter is often an organic one. The depiction of time (the circle) and its movement (the ellipse) is investigated in a new series of diptychs, which portrays the so-called inbetweenness, a passage that leads from thing another. Van Snick rationalizes this ‘passage’ by exploring all the variations within his operational system.
To come full circle, we execute our daily routine through a repetition that guards and haunts us on a day-to-day basis. I, myself, bike everyday from home to work passing through the cityscape of Berlin to finally arrive at KW in order to be greeted by a work by Philippe Van Snick – the doors of the main entrance painted black and light-blue.
Philippe Van Snick, born 1946, is one of the precursors of conceptual art in Belgium since the early 1970s. The artist held solo exhibitions at Wide White Space Gallery, Antwerp (BE, 1972, 1974, 1975), BOZAR, Brussels (BE, 1988), Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp (BE, 1990), Art Gallery of York University, Toronto (CA, 1999), S.M.A.K., Ghent (BE, 2001), Museum M, Leuven (BE, 2010), Tatjana Pieters, Ghent (BE, 2011, 2012, 2017, 2018), Nuno Centeno, Porto (PT, 2013, 2018), Arcade, London (UK, 2014), Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro (BR, 2015), Grazer Kunstverein (AU, 2016), De Hallen, Haarlem (BE, 2016) and M HKA, Antwerp (BE, 2017). His work is included in the permanent collections of MoMA, NY (US), Mu.ZEE, Ostend, M HKA, Antwerp, S.M.A.K., Ghent (all BE) and many private & corporate collections. Currently, works by Van Snick are on display at S.M.A.K., Ghent until September 2019. The artist lives and works in Brussels, Belgium.