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Xavier Hufkens

St-Georges

Walter Swennen Un Cœur Pur

Walter Swennen Un Cœur Pur
Selected works Installation views

Xavier Hufkens is delighted to present an exhibition of recent work by Belgian artist Walter Swennen (b. 1946). In his fourth exhibition with the gallery, Swennen continues his playful and experiential journey into the world of language and meaning, appropriation, colour, texture and form. Moving between abstraction and representation, and occasionally executed on found supports, the works explore both the poetic and material aspects of painting.

Swennen takes seemingly random elements — logos, lettering, found images, words and phrases — and transforms them into visually arresting works that tread new ground in terms of composition, colour and technique. As erudite as they are humorous, they often deserve a second look: things are never quite what they seem. Swennen’s approach to painting is intuitive, spontaneous and influenced by his surroundings and everyday life (such as books, art, landscapes and people) as well as by chance encounters and coincidences. His sharp intellect and incisive wit accounts for his light-hearted and lyrical way of looking at the world. When he paints, nothing is premeditated. Nor is he constrained by any one style, technique or approach. While the catalyst for a painting might be a word or letter, for example, it is Swennen’s engagement with his medium that ultimately determines the finished work. He literally ‘coaxes’ his paintings into being, and often over a long period of time. It is akin to a form of improvisation: an unpredictable process of push-and-pull that paradoxically implies both control and risk, not to mention a command of materials (paint in all its viscous, liquid, opaque, transparent, glossy or matte variants), techniques (adding, subtracting, superimposing, tracing and erasing) and tools (brushes, painter’s knives, rags and aerosols). The resulting works, which often combine intriguing textures and unexpected colour combinations, tend to defy easy categorization. The terms ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’ and ‘still life’ barely apply; the works are not abstract, but nor do they depict reality.

Swennen’s works are typically devoid of a single perspectival point or compositional framework, such as foreground and background. Nor do they contain any immediately obvious narratives or contexts. Letters, fragments and statements in English, Flemish, French and other languages often infiltrate his canvases: phrases that might either lend significance, form linguistic riddles or possess a double meaning. Free from external anchoring points, the works are self-contained and enigmatic. Yet the more one looks, the more one realises that the act of painting itself — in a physical and material sense — is as important (if not more so) than the objects, images or words themselves. As a result, we invariably start to scrutinise how the works were made: a line of enquiry that speaks volumes about the boundless possibilities of painting.

Walter Swennen was born in 1946 in Brussels, where he lives and works. His work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions including La pittura farà da sé, La Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy (2018); Ein perfektes Alibi, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany (2015); Continuer, Culturgest, Lisbon, Portugal (2013) and So Far So Good, WIELS, Brussels, Belgium (2013). Swennen has also been included in notable group exhibitions, such as: The Absent Museum, WIELS, Brussels (2017); Painting 2.0: Expression in the Information Age, Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2015-2016); Atopolis, Manège de Sury, Mons (2015); The Importance of Being…, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana (2015); La Belgique Visionnaire/Visionair België, curated by Harald Szeemann, Palais des Beaux-Arts/Paleis voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels (2005) and Trouble Spot. Painting, MuHKA, Antwerp (1999).

Walter Swennen in conversation with Miguel Wandschneider

Related exhibitions

Selected works

Related artworks

    Walter Swennen

    Doc. Dottore Delsol, 2019

    oil, watercolour and ink on canvas
    130.0 x 160.0 x 3.0 cm, 51 1/8 x 63 x 1 1/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Sjakos, 2018

    oil on canvas
    40.0 x 50.0 x 2.1 cm, 15 5/8 x 19 5/8 x 3/4 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Song (Strangers at Noon), 2019

    oil on canvas
    40.0 x 50.0 x 1.7 cm, 15 5/8 x 19 5/8 x 5/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Un cœur pur

    oil on canvas
    100.0 x 80.0 x 2.0 cm, 39 1/4 x 31 3/8 x 3/4 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Disputatio: de angelis I, 2018

    oil on canvas
    160.0 x 130.0 x 3.0 cm, 63 x 51 1/8 x 1 1/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Boot(s), 2018

    oil on canvas with wood attachment
    100.0 x 80.0 x 5.0 cm, 39 1/4 x 31 3/8 x 2 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Disputatio: de angelis II, 2018

    oil and acrylic on canvas
    170.0 x 150.0 x 3.0 cm, 66 7/8 x 59 x 1 1/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    The pelgrim, 2018

    oil on canvas
    100.0 x 80.0 x 3.0 cm, 39 1/4 x 31 3/8 x 1 1/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Overboard, at wall, 2018

    oil on canvas
    60.0 x 50.0 x 1.8 cm, 23 1/2 x 19 5/8 x 5/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Société Générale, 2019

    oil on canvas
    60.0 x 80.0 x 1.7 cm, 23 1/2 x 31 3/8 x 5/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Escape, 2019

    oil on wood
    96.0 x 66.0 x 2.2 cm, 37 3/4 x 26 x 3/4 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Carré bleu sur fond rouge, 2018

    oil on canvas
    50.0 x 40.0 x 1.8 cm, 19 5/8 x 15 5/8 x 5/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    I'll be here in two minutes, Darling, 2018

    oil on canvas
    130.0 x 160.0 x 3.0 cm, 51 1/8 x 63 x 1 1/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Lulu, 2017

    oil on canvas
    49.9 x 40.0 x 1.8 cm, 19 5/8 x 15 5/8 x 5/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Souvenir of Matonge, 2018

    oil on canvas
    50.0 x 40.0 x 1.8 cm, 19 5/8 x 15 5/8 x 5/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Mon quartier, 2019

    oil on canvas
    100.0 x 80.0 x 1.8 cm, 39 1/4 x 31 3/8 x 5/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    My flake white dealer, 2019

    oil on canvas
    80.0 x 60.0 x 1.7 cm, 31 3/8 x 23 1/2 x 5/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    A last poem for Cacao Beni, 2019

    oil on canvas
    150.0 x 135.2 x 3.0 cm, 59 x 53 1/8 x 1 1/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Jail, 2019

    oil on canvas
    120.2 x 100.2 x 2.5 cm, 47 1/4 x 39 3/8 x 1 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Monomoney, 2018

    oil on metal
    56.0 x 59.0 x 3.1 cm, 22 x 23 1/8 x 1 1/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Carnival, 2018

    oil on canvas
    50.0 x 60.0 x 1.8 cm, 19 5/8 x 23 1/2 x 5/8 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Bears, 2018

    oil on canvas
    60.0 x 80.0 x 2.0 cm, 23 1/2 x 31 3/8 x 3/4 in.

    Walter Swennen

    SNEK, 2017

    oil on canvas
    135.0 x 180.2 x 3.2 cm, 53 1/8 x 70 7/8 x 1 1/4 in.

    Walter Swennen

    Other ghost, same place, 2018

    oil on canvas
    50.0 x 40.0 x 2.0 cm, 19 5/8 x 15 5/8 x 3/4 in.

Installation views