koen theys: what's the point? photographic works 1994 - 2014
KETELEER Gallery is delighted to announce its new collaboration with Belgian artist Koen Theys. The first exhibition of this artist in our gallery will consist of a retrospect of 20 years of photographic work dating between 1994 and 2014 and telling the visionary story of Koen Theys.
The 20 works represent the diversity of techniques which the artist used during that time. Starting with works from 1994, we show 4 photocollages from the famous Belgian Landscapes series (collection Centre Pompidou, Paris, a.o.). In these digital collages of a tyical Belgian houses, Koen Theys creates a new composition, causing a new landscape to emerge. with stunning vishal effects he touches upon what might well be the most important cultural topic of our times: that we risk losing all standards in the excessive stimuli and products, including art and culture. The works Room with a Double View and Chateau Classic, both dated 1997, are at first sight two normal pictures, but reveal surrealistic features upon closer inspection. It are two works that have never been shown before that exemplify Theys’ artistic method of manipulating images by duplication, morphing and displacement to the point of self-destruction.
The phenomenon of the ‘masses’ is another recurring theme in the work of Koen Theys. the spectator loses himself in the multitude of people (What’s the Point?, 2007), a sea of objects (The Academy, 2001), an excess of visual fragments (Still Life with Apples, 2010). All composed of various mediums, Koen Theys so deconstructs great traditions of Art History and combines them with contemporary issues.With his new compositions, created from the excessive data that reach us on a daily basis, he clearly shows how we keep repeating the same cultural patterns in an attempt to belong to a certain group or the opposite, trying to be unique. Identity is thus often shown to be the construction of man’s deceitful mask.
Koen Theys (°1963) belongs to the first generation of visual artists in Belgium to exploit and appropriate video as an artistic medium in the early 1980s. He came to international attention with productions such as the ambitious video work Diana (1984) and an interpretation of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (1984-1989), the latter with his brother Frank Theys. In more recent work he has again deconstructed the great traditions of art history and linked them to contemporary issues (The Vanitas Record, 2005).
Modernist statements are also approached in a similar way (The Many Things Show, 2007). This deconstruction of icons of our Western culture and cultural history is a characteristic that runs through his photographic, video and sculptural work. His artistic method is the manipulation of these icons via displacement, doubling, morphing, and so on, until they become inversions of themselves, as it were. Heroes and stars from art history or show business are transformed into ‘mass ornaments’ or fantastic architectonical settings.
Since 2008 Theys has, amongst other things, been working on a series of video installations (Fanfare, Calme & Volupté 2007, Patria 2008, Death Fucking Metal 2013) that were inspired by the tableaux vivants of the nineteenth-century Romantic painting tradition. This romanticism also returns in Waterloo Forever! (2010), a large-scale and grotesque adaptation of the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo. In his most recent video work The Final Countdown. (2010), a pop song is processed into the iconography of a triptych like The Last Judgment.
Kathy de Nève, 2016