NoguerasBlanchard is delighted to present the first solo exhibition in the gallery of Belgian artist Michiel Ceulers. Following his investigation of painting’s specific conditions with an experimental approach to abstraction, this show features newly created collage paintings and takes as its starting point the scientific principle of reflection as a means to hint at an alternate, mirror universe.
Playing with meaning and interpretation, Ceulers often uses long-phrased titles – philosophical statements, song lyrics, movie quotes or bon mots – as an attempt to narrate abstraction, to lead or misslead the gazing eye of the beholder or simply to try to linguistically translate the idea of mark making. For instance I’ve Got A Vision of Nature Implanted in my Brain / Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose, or My name is not a game (Old school), or, for a disjointed diptych, A Little Less Conversation – and one gets the sense that the artist is teasing the very nature of abstraction. The title of this exhibition, translated as The charm of a passing woman is usually in direct proportion to the pace of her walk, points to the semantic field associated with the medium of painting as a female presence, “the grand lady of art, the muse”, painting in itself is a character we talk about: its death and rebirth in different moments as something new that appears to history as a figure impossible to grasp.
Ceulers is intensely aware of painting’s long history and seeks to strip his works of the baggage that comes with it. Discussing his grid paintings he has said: “I am interested in the possibilities of abstract painting because it is politically dead. It failed, it’s like the idea of Malevich going from the peasants to the black square then going back again. So there is not really much to say, you are already at that point of 0 degrees, which I think is really interesting to work with.”
Ceulers’ works usually deal with the idea of narrative, of physicality and of content. For this show he has created a new series of collage paintings that consist of the juxtaposition of different parts of paintings made over the years on the same picture field. The rough surfaces highlight the decay and the scars that came from wandering the artist’s studio. Ceulers describes these works as an attempt to retrace his activities, the residue of an echo his movements generated. Furthermore, when presented alongside eachother, the collage works introduce an idea of compressed movie strips (like storyboards) that show a scan of the artist’s studio. For Ceulers, these works are the resampling of a physical line of pieces that were made in the privacy of his studio and weren ́t used at the time they were produced. The gesture of redigesting the past is almost a personal archaeological process that is spatial and time consuming since he reactivates a historical timeline that can be related to the movement of images.
The installation that Ceulers develops in the gallery through the use of one-way mirrors, commonly used in police interrogation rooms, underlines his interest in a cinematographic morphology. Materialized in the alignment of the collaged paintings, like suspects in a murder trial, and through the positioning of mirror foils in the gallery, the spectator is placed at the center of a kind of mise-en- scène mechanism. The narrative component that is raised with the viewer’s awareness is also maintained on another level between the artist and his works. For Ceulers, each painting acts as a kind of reflection of the result of the end of a process, a physical experience that alienates the works from the artist himself. This conversation is a visualization of an internal process that interrogates its subject in a constant loop, as facing mirrors; or in other words, as painting looking at itself. Its materiality carries on without translation and exists like an ultrasound with hidden stories in a motion picture.
Michiel Ceulers (1986, Waregam, Belgium) graduated in 2011 from the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam and is currently based in Berlin. Recent exhibitions include Rien de plus qu’un théâtre d’idées fluctuantes et des échos de développements future, Arts Club, London (2014); 1986, Johann König, Berlin (2014); Wenn Kneipen-Debatten als Kritik zählen, Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles (2013); Works to follow, Le Routier, Ghent (2013); Fractura 2013 (2013); CIAP, Hasselt, Belgium (2013); In-Discipline, Bonnefanten museum Roermond, Roermond, Holland (2013); en être ET ne pas en être, GeM – Museum voor Actuele Kunst, The Hague (2013); Rasterfahndung, Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart (2012). With thanks to Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles.