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S.M.A.K. to Open Retrospective of Work by Belgian Artist Koen van den Broek
Koen van den Broek, "Viaduct", 2002. Oil on canvas, 280 x 420 cm. Hall collection, Connecticut, U.S.A.
GHENT.- In January 2010 S.M.A.K. will be opening its doors for "Curbs & Cracks", a retrospective exhibition of work by the Belgian artist Koen van den Broek (b. 1973, Bree). It will focus on a young artist who, within the space of a very short time – 10 years – has consistently and confidently developed a body of work that is known and appreciated all over the world.

Koen van den Broek finds his inspiration in ‘being en route’ and his work is nurtured by dozens of road trips. Using his own snapshots the artist creates the basis for his paintings, and in a manner that is to the point and functional. Unlike a sketchbook, the photographic images serve only as a reminder and record interesting lines, structures and twists in the landscape he has observed. They are only formal recollections of what he has perceived and have little or no emotional value. The recordings appear to ‘reject’ being en route’.

What interest the artist are the small segments of reality which most of us seem not to really notice. A kerb, a collection of shadows on the road suggesting the presence of a truck, a barren, snow-covered forest landscape, a simple house with a special emphasis on the trivial garage door, a motorway with an interesting yet stereotype curve in the landscape, and cracks in the asphalt which nobody notices. He sees the rear- or side views of objects, houses, and urban or natural landscapes. He focuses on his subject in such a way that it becomes trivial. What could be an impressive viaduct in a landscape becomes a dark, functional construction with a fragment of its natural context on the left and on the right.

This ‘antisocial’ focus is linked to a painterly process in which van den Broek strips the images of all unnecessary detail so that the atmosphere is defined only by several basic lines. Thus leaving us with the ‘experience’ of space. The painterly execution flirts with abstraction. The choice of title negates this however, by taking the image back to reality. The unusual colors – ranging from cold white to every imaginable tone of grey combined with a carefully chosen blue, red, yellow or orange – confuses the spectator. Koen van den Broek is not at all interested in painting ‘realistic scenes’ but fervently seeks atmospheric ‘possibilities’. What he presents to the spectator are paintings, not landscapes, kerbs or buildings.

"Curbs & Cracks" shows a selection of existing work linked to a series of new paintings. The whole is developed around delineated clusters of works, choices that are substantiated purely formally and thematically as well as regarding content. Recent creations react to existing work, act within the body of work as a catalyst that nurtures and strengthens the whole, or precisely in contrast to this, acts as a virus that infects and weakens all the carefully developed patterns.

Curated by Andrew Renton (Goldsmiths College, London) & Thibaut Verhoeven (S.M.A.K. Ghent).

S.M.A.K. | Artist Koen van den Broek | Curbs & Cracks | Andrew Renton | Thibaut Verhoeven |


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