valerie_traan gallery presents an exhibition of works by Frederic Geurts and John Van Oers

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valerie_traan gallery presents an exhibition of works by Frederic Geurts and John Van Oers
Frederic Geurts and John Van Oers, F+J+F+J-01.

by Els Wuyts

ANTWERP.- When the Surrealists invented the technique of 'cadavre exquis' at the beginning of the last century, an extraordinary interaction of language, sign and coincidence emerged. A poem was written by several poets without knowing the lines written by the others. The game was named after the first words of the first poem written in this way, in which originally five different people entered five phrases in succession: a noun, an adjective, a verb, a direct object and an adjective that can go with it. The result was a grammatically correct, but content-wise completely unexpected construction: "Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau" (The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine).

And when André Breton, Paul Eluard, Yves Tanguy or Jacques Prévert deployed the process, they embraced automatic writing and challenged the subconscious. The same principle was applied to drawings, so that images are created collectively from chance and intuition. Separate, self-contained creations are brought together to form a new imagination that exceeds the different parts, but do not affect their individuality. In order to achieve this, one can set a starting point: the idea of a tower, for example.

And hence also Frederic Geurts and John Van Oers started with pencil drawings of pieces of towers on zigzag folded sheets. The paper versions had the advantage that they could easily cut and paste the pieces. This culminated in a number of long drawings that became the trigger to experiment with three-dimensional forms. The towers were created by blindly assembling small iron wire structures, sharing only the endpoints. Afterwards, they gathered with their 16 separate structures and soldered them until each tower consisted of at least 4 elements: 2 by Frederic and 2 by John. Like little boys around the workbench, they joined the metal elements together and were surprised by the calculated risk, the playful poetry and the sense of belonging that arose. During the soldering process, the iron sticks and sprigs were not only firmly attached, but also a consciousness arose, a willingness to actively create and strengthen each other: John + Frederic + John + Frederic (JFJF) and Frederic + John + Frederic + John (FJFJ).

Frederic Geurts and John Van Oers also have a visual language that converges, not only in the execution of line, but also in the embrace of coincidence and doubt, the minimal and the humorous. They like to put things into perspective and enjoy stripping the appearance of a work of art from its elevated aura. They question the premise of copyright, the protection of the ego or the idea of recognition. They play with their own style, their own signature and confuse themselves as well as the spectator. Their interactions have something of a serious game. Vulnerable as good friends. Respectful, sharp and in full confidence.

These small towers are fragile stacks on floating pedestals, sculptural collages that reach out, sometimes upwards, sometimes a little to the right. They are the result of an exchange, where Frederic might rather defy gravity and John mainly challenges the idea of balance. Where the one uses a twisting technique and the other tightens his threats. Starting from their own accents, they repeatedly discover the added value of working in a duo, of moving slightly disturbed in their own world, where an inch or a foot can be a mile. Somewhere, they secretly hope for small mistakes, for oblique miscalculations or forgotten reflections so they can search for solutions together and reflect on art and life. While dancing and building.

While soldering those small towers, they also thought of a translatable version of a large-scale tower (about 19 feet long). And while one of them thought of a horizontal sculpture that was compositionally built as a reclining structure, the other started from a vertical tower that had toppled over, a construction that reached high, but had stumbled somewhat dramatically. Two artists with two different starting points who created an enlarged joint object that rests in the center of the space. And despite that different perspective, it turned out “OK” and this little word would become the title of the exhibition.

With the minimum of letters to come up with a title, an O and a K, the duo once again created a cheerful confusion. And although it refers to a good feeling (everything is OK, fine, okay), its origins are not entirely undisputed. A number of words have gone down in history according to pronunciation rather than spelling: All Right became Oll Wright, All Correct became Oll Korrekt. Nobody Killed became Zero Dead. Or is it Kicked Out, Old Kinderhook, Wa-Kee, Ola Kala or Au Quai. In any case, Frederic and John set out to be adventurous and to connect coincidences and doubts. Two artists, two letters. OK.

In the exhibition, you actually enter a laboratory of two soul mates who are passionately and unpretentiously involved with art. You see their 'blend', but also their dialogue, their visual conversation that is present in fragments along the stairs and in the rooms of the gallery space. Because alongside the towers, which are the results of their joint actions, their ‘own' works also appear, such as receivers, gravity meters, stations or radar systems. Numbers or letters take us out of complicated systems, where an L can simply be left and R simply right, the price of diesel at a given moment (14.20) or a North-South line casually on the floor. In photographic works, movement is captured, like a falling square or like imperial sticks that are close to forming a tangle. In maquette-like structures, a setting becomes the scene of imagined happiness. There is a lot of white, and sometimes orange, blue or black.

You see objects that remind us that there is more than architecture, that there can be perspective beyond the here and now, beyond the horizon. That the artists intentionally create new things by chance. Unique and alert. Mikado and meccano.

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