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Philippe Vandenberg's first solo show in the UK opens at Hauser & Wirth
Philippe Vandenberg, No title, 1997 – 1998. Oil and tape on wood, 50 x 83 cm / 19 5/8 x 32 5/8 in© Estate Philippe Vandenberg. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

By: Marc Ruyters

LONDON.- Hauser & Wirth presents ‘Philippe Vandenberg. Selected Works’, the gallery’s first exhibition of Vandenberg’s paintings and the artist’s first solo show in the UK. The exhibition will feature a selection of oil paintings on canvas and wood produced during the late nineties.

At the beginning of the 1980s, painters in Europe began to revolt against the hegemony of American conceptual art. From the Transavanguardia in Italy to the Neue Wilde in Germany, a Neo-Expressionist style rose to the surface, vehement and uncompromising. Among these young artists was the Belgian painter, Philippe Vandenberg. Vandenberg continued to work with this Neo-Expressionist style until the mid-1990s when his work, whether figurative or abstract, became more visceral and tormented, evincing not only the artist’s battle with his medium, but also with his own demons.

Vandenberg drew motifs, figures and icons from an immense literature of art history, myths and sagas. He employed these loaded themes in his paintings: beheadings in which not only the body but also the painting itself was mutilated; the vainglorious king torn apart by dogs; the lion as symbol of power, the bear as symbol of cruelty, and the hare as a sign of haste and angst; rings of fire and scenes of torture and rape. Vandenberg opened Pandora’s Box in an attempt to grasp all that was irrational and desperate in his world.

Painting was also an ‘exercise in dying’ for Vandenberg in which he exhausted every means at his disposal: not only painting but also over-painting, not only image but also the written word. At the end of his life he painted / wrote: ‘Il me faut tout oublier’, or ‘Everything must be forgotten’.

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