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03 May 12 at 5 pm

Raoul De Keyser - Untitled (blurs) (1995)

Raoul De Keyser’s paintings tend to be modest in size, so that they have already forfeited “heroic” ambitions even before the first mark is made. Unlike many painters who wield impressive techniques in small-scale work (Tomma Abts, James Siena, Merlin James), De Keyser doesn’t compensate for modesty of size with complex compositions or dazzling brushwork. On the contrary, he works in a manner so low-key that even sympathetic critics can be unsure how to evaluate his paintings. In 2006, New York Times reviewer Roberta Smith noted his “weird combination of deliberation and indecision”; in 2004, Barry Schwabsky, writing in Artforum, described the oscillating responses De Keyser’s work can inspire: “Slapdash handling gradually begins to seem surpassingly sensitive—or is it? The grubby color, fresh and beautifully calibrated—but is it, really? The sense of doubt never quite goes away.”

In truth, when you encounter a De Keyser it doesn’t take too much imagination to attribute it to an amateur painter having a try at abstraction after seeing reproductions somewhere of paintings by Clyfford Still and Jean Arp. He manages to lay down a few jagged shapes, usually all the same color, against a monochrome ground. The limited palette suggests not any reductivist strategy but a novice who has invested in only a couple of tubes of paint. No effort is made to hide the laborious adjustments to the contours of the shapes or preliminary pencil markings. No line is quite straight; placement of shapes and dots of color appear either senselessly random or stiffly coordinated. As French curator Jean-Charles Vergne puts it, De Keyser’s work “constantly asserts the impossibility of painting free of touch-ups, mistakes, accidents, set on laying bare the seams, the second tries and the failures… . [There is] a constant stuttering in the painting.”

(Raphael Rubinstein, Provisional Painting, Art in America, 2009)

Raoul De Keyser - Untitled (blurs) (1995)

Raoul De Keyser’s paintings tend to be modest in size, so that they have already forfeited “heroic” ambitions even before the first mark is made. Unlike many painters who wield impressive techniques in small-scale work (Tomma Abts, James Siena, Merlin James), De Keyser doesn’t compensate for modesty of size with complex compositions or dazzling brushwork. On the contrary, he works in a manner so low-key that even sympathetic critics can be unsure how to evaluate his paintings. In 2006, New York Times reviewer Roberta Smith noted his “weird combination of deliberation and indecision”; in 2004, Barry Schwabsky, writing in Artforum, described the oscillating responses De Keyser’s work can inspire: “Slapdash handling gradually begins to seem surpassingly sensitive—or is it? The grubby color, fresh and beautifully calibrated—but is it, really? The sense of doubt never quite goes away.”
In truth, when you encounter a De Keyser it doesn’t take too much imagination to attribute it to an amateur painter having a try at abstraction after seeing reproductions somewhere of paintings by Clyfford Still and Jean Arp. He manages to lay down a few jagged shapes, usually all the same color, against a monochrome ground. The limited palette suggests not any reductivist strategy but a novice who has invested in only a couple of tubes of paint. No effort is made to hide the laborious adjustments to the contours of the shapes or preliminary pencil markings. No line is quite straight; placement of shapes and dots of color appear either senselessly random or stiffly coordinated. As French curator Jean-Charles Vergne puts it, De Keyser’s work “constantly asserts the impossibility of painting free of touch-ups, mistakes, accidents, set on laying bare the seams, the second tries and the failures… . [There is] a constant stuttering in the painting.”

(Raphael Rubinstein, Provisional Painting, Art in America, 2009)
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    Raoul De Keyser - Untitled (blurs) (1995)
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