Crossing the Circle

No title, 2004

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



Philippe Vandenberg’s (1952–2009) works on paper are highly personal responses to social issues and political upheavals. 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. His works on paper are distinguished by fluid draughtsmanship in pencil, ink and richly coloured watercolour. They possess a sense of urgency, an economy of means and keen playfulness.

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 void, 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 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 Sanskrit meaning as a sign of peace. In these works, the cross and the circle are metaphors of hope and salvation.  

This will be the first solo exhibition of Vandenberg’s drawings in the UK. Considered one of the foremost painters from Belgium, he was an accomplished and prolific draughtsman, filling hundreds of sketchbooks with drawings and watercolours. This exhibition includes a selection of over 50 works produced between 1990 and 2009. Vandenberg’s remarkable output is comparable to contemporaries René Daniels (Holland), Martin Kippenberger (Germany) and Walter Swennen (Belgium), and his reputation is currently being re-affirmed with museum and gallery exhibitions in Europe, South Korea and Brazil.

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