Philippe Vandenberg (1952–2009) exhibition Autumn 2016


Philippe Vandenberg

Crossing the Circle

21 September – 13 November 2016

Press preview on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 by appointment with [email protected]

Opening: Wednesday 20 September 6 – 8.30pm, beginning with a curator’s tour

‘A drawing is inflexible and offers just a single possibility, a single chance. One does not catch a drawing by the tail: it either is or is not. A drawing is a pure sparkle, a glass splinter that cuts, while a canvas is rather a plot of cultivated soil.’ Philippe Vandenberg, The song of the finch (Journal), 2004

Philippe Vandenberg’s (1952–2009) works on paper are highly personal responses to the political and social issues that he confronted during his lifetime. Powerful abstract and figurative images about sex, death, good and evil, express Vandenberg’s existential despair about the world, as well as his dark sense of humour. This will be the first solo exhibition in the UK of Vandenberg’s drawings, and will feature over 50 rarely seen works produced between 1990 and 2009. Vandenberg was one of Belgium’s foremost painters, and he was an accomplished and prolific draughtsman, filling hundreds of sketchbooks with drawings and watercolours. Vandenberg’s remarkable output is comparable to contemporaries Walter Swennen (Belgium), René Daniels (Holland) and Martin Kippenberger (Germany) and his reputation is currently being re-affirmed with recent museum and gallery exhibitions in Europe, South Korea and Brazil.

His works on paper are distinguished by fluid draughtsmanship in pencil, ink and richly coloured watercolour. Vandenberg’s Catholic upbringing left a deep impression on his work. Motifs of the cross and the circle recur throughout his figurative and abstract drawings, with the cross suggesting the crucifixion, and the circle indicating a place of refuge, a halo or a crown of thorns. For Vandenberg, this imagery symbolized the innocence, guilt and sacrifice of Man, or the tortured self-destructive artist himself. In his abstract works the pages are filled with repetitive geometric shapes of the cross and circle; the circle as labyrinth, the circle as eternity. In some of his abstract works, the cross turns into a swastika – both a reminder of the political fragility of the world, and a recuperation of its original Sanskrit meaning as a sign of peace. Repetition was a way to work through his ideas and to overcome creative impasse, with the cross and the circle as metaphors of hope and salvation. 

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Estate Philippe Vandenberg, Brussels and Hauser & Wirth, London.

After a brief academic study in Literature and History of Art, Vandenberg graduated in painting in 1976 from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. Recent exhibitions in 2015/16 include: Museum Dr Guislain, Gent;  Centrale for Contemporary Art, Brussels; Gallery Baton, Seoul, Korea; Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. Works by Philippe Vandenberg are in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York;  Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent;  the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels; Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp; Mu.ZEE, Ostend; Museum De Pont, Tilburg and La Maison Rouge, Paris.

IMAGE: Philippe Vandenberg, Untitled, 2004. Watercolour on paper, 46 x 37cm. Courtesy of Estate Philippe Vandenberg, Brussels and Hauser & Wirth, London.

No title, 2004

Philippe VandenbergNo title, 2004
Watercolour on paper 46 x 37 cm