Pieter Vermeersch at Perrotin in New York

View of Pieter Vermeersch’s exhibition at Perrotin New York ©Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of the artist & Perrotin

Pieter Vermeersch
130 Orchard Street New York, NY 10002
January 12 - February 16, 2019

By DARYL RASHAAN KING, February 2019

The gallery itself became part of the artwork, making it even more exciting that Pieter Vermeersch was working on a show at the M Museum in Belgium.  His new interventions also include a new collaboration with a Belgian architecture firm.  Both of these are signs of promise.  Vermeersch’s last solo show with the gallery was in Tokyo where he distinctly opened up his world to the public where everything was governed by time.  This point only highlights how the artist’s work responds to the space that it occupies.  When asked about the current show that he was working on, he stated that “Its really like a museum show.  A lot of things come together. It's not a survey show but it's not the scale of it.  A lot of threads coming together from my practice.  On the large scale I would say.  Its (features) more new production, confirmed by some older pieces.”

The best way to categorize his artwork is to see how the gallery space evolved from grids of colors.  Converting from a canvas to more precious material, such as marble, everything becomes a performative movement.  It parallels how the order advances towards a more figurative language that reflects nature.  The artist veils his ideas in practice, where the spectrum of colors within and along the walls focus on layering this new context and investigation.  The show fabricated from elements of the interior layout, and in its entirety, the show adds more to the canon of painting simply through the complex use of color.  It opens doorways for artistic creation, by engaging in a new dialogue.  He, metaphorically, paints graphic pixelations that can be seen as a simplification of atomic order theory.

DRK: I started looking at your last two solo shows, and I noticed that your work, specifically when I was looking at your show in Tokyo, started to move, not just from pieces that were aligned against the wall, but you were also interacting with the entire space, as a whole.  Is that something that you are going to be exploring with this new exhibition as well?”

PV: The new exhibition is completely made in relation to the gallery space.  It's a complete overall exhibition: a lot of wall paintings, a lot of physical experiences, because of the scale, physical interventions, also architecture, in combination with the wall paintings, the work themselves. It is going to be a mix of things, which is very physical, let’s say.  It is going to be kind of immersive for the viewer.

View of Pieter Vermeersch’s exhibition at Perrotin New York ©Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of the artist & Perrotin

DRK: Would you say that, or what do you think is the element, or factor, that really prompted you to expend your technique to work more with the environment that you are in, as opposed to coming in with an idea and just installing it?

PV: Do you mean the way that I start those kind of developments?

DRK: Yes.

PV: I (enter) a space, or I see maps, or plans.  I see the space, and then I start to think (about) possible ideas that could function for that space.  It's always a very precise exercise.  Which can take quite (some) time.  You can say that I am modeling an exhibition.  For me, an exhibition is also like an installation.   And the way that things are put together its like a layer of content.  It's actually bringing different kinds of elements of my work in relation, so that there is interaction and communication in between.  And when you bring them together, they actually define themselves sharper around, or in front of, or alongside of something else that is opposite to it.  It sharpens up its identity.  I am modeling in the studio and through Sketch up.  It is like a sonography of things: objects and ephemeral images that are brought together in the sonography that faces each other.  It is very rare that I make an exhibition where I just hang things to look at.  For me, I am more interested in an exhibition where you discover.  It is very layered.

DRK: I remember when I was on the Perrotin website that there was a video of you installing the show, and you said that “Society is made by the vision of time.”  Can you expand on that, or where the idea of the abstraction of time comes into play in your work?

PV: … Its in relation to my technique.  I suddenly saw parallels in the way (that) I was developing, technically, these wall paintings.  You have to know that to arrive at a result, as you have probably seen at the exhibition, there is a very rational, analytical, mechanical, system behind (it), to be able to arrive at this result.  One of the things that is happening is that when an image is in play, and it has to be applied on a certain architectural context, I need to divide.  This division is dividing and analyzing the colors, a frame of colors, a grid of colors.  Suddenly, it parallels how society is organized.  Society, basically, if you see it in the division of things, is divided in time slots.  It's already in cosmological layers, in the monthly cycle and the moon.  We have also the winter, spring, autumn, etc natural divisions.  Day and night is the maybe most accurate.  It is actually the most fundamental structure for humans to act, to be, and to organize life.  In that life, I see a lot of divisions.  That time issue, which is there all the time, a very fundamental thing, the existence, lets say.  This is divided in time slots.  Every thing that we do, it has a time slot.  Everything that we organize is by time, or it’s by day, or it’s by week, it’s by month, it’s by year, it’s by century.  Everything has slots and that goes to hours, seconds, minutes, milliseconds, etc, etc.  All of this is a kind of division.  I saw that parallel in the way that I divide images, to be able to reconstruct it.  Thats actually what I said in one sentence in the video which was probably not so clear.

DRK: Thank you.  One thing that I was, also, don’t know, hoping for, or was interested in knowing is that, in the future, as you start to expand to work that is more immersive, and leaning more towards the architectural side of working, do you see yourself doing anything more permanent, or moving to the scale of a building?

PV: If the opportunity is there, sure.  There are already things that are more permanent. Not in architecture but in my paintings…I would be highly interested in developing such a project, because there are many ideas that are not always possible in the frame of an institution, or gallery, or museum.  If it could go in a public space, the frame opens and there is more space to develop.

View of Pieter Vermeersch’s exhibition at Perrotin New York ©Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of the artist & Perrotin

DRK: Would you also consider yourself to not only be an artist, but a conceptual architect?

PV: I would not say that I am a conceptual architect, because my knowledge is too poor.  I see myself as an artist who is very sensitive to architecture, in its primal way, in its different ways of existence.  But mostly I am interested because it's about manipulating space, it's about curating space, it’s about dividing space, also it’s about framing space, and I think this all has a relation (to) my paintings.  I see one painting as framed space.… I am not interested, personally, if I approach architecture, I am not interested in the functionality of it.  I am very much interested in the primal physicality.  I am not looking at…primal architecture is not shelter.  I don’t use it in the sense.  I use it more in the sense of architecture that has been stripped of its function, that becomes more abstract.

DRK: So its more like the aesthetics, or the shell of a space?

PV: …For example in my paintings, I have deleted so many things from reality.  I have stripped off many many things, till I got to the point where it was… more space.  It (i)s only space that we have, and experience, and seek.  Because I was always tempted to get out of the painterly frame, I started to look to(wards) architecture.  You step out of the frame and you (step) into a space.  It's a public space, which is not so great in a way… And then, actually,  you bump into a new frame, which is the architectural frame.  And there at that point my interest in architecture (started to) develop.  Architecture was also the element that has been able to taken away, freeing my paintings from their autonomy.  The paintings were out of the canvas and they were applied.  They were not autonomous anymore, they were one with the architecture.  They lost their autonomy.  You couldn’t see, anymore, the painting (on its own.)  It was becoming one with this architectural space and the physicality of that context.  In that way, I started to dig into the element of architecture.  It arrived in the way that I started to add architectural elements, like brick walls, very rough.  The element is very primal. … Thats the way that it evolved.

DRK: Would you say that you’re working on creating a controlled encounter, where the viewer has the freedom to flow throughout it, or experience it how they would see fit?… Walking through, particularly more so with this recent exhibition, is it like a controlled encounter?

PV: A controlled encounter?

DRK: Yes.  Where you have a layout that is already planned, or certain views you have already determined for the viewer?  Where they can walk freely throughout it, but it is very much how you have determined how they should experience the space?

PV: I determine the space, of course.  The way that I see it, the way that I want to turn it.  My experience is different than other people.  Everyone has a different experience.  That is a quality of (being) an individual.  I am very much keen on different experiences.  I certainly don’t manipulate, in the sense that there is one kind of way of seeing, or way of experiencing the show.  I think that it is a show where you experience a lot of things and it is on you how many layers you want to enter.  It's like with music.  You have many layers of listening to music.  You have the emotional, you have the historical, you have the professional, and you have the referential.  There are many ways of experiencing and its whats in you that is the beginning of what you get back.

View of Pieter Vermeersch’s exhibition at Perrotin New York ©Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of the artist & Perrotin

DRK: I think that, hypothetically, this might be my last question.  Did you at some point see that you were limited by painting, and you felt that you had to escape the canvas in a certain way?

PV: I think many painters have this kind of moment.  Not everyone, but… this moment, the problematic, the classic problem, let’s say.  That was definitely a thing… You want to explore it further.  You want to go further.  Suddenly the frame is not your friend anymore.  It's your enemy.  It has to be broken.  You have to question it.  You have to get out of it.   There were two ways that I handle this problem. … Through repetition.  One image that was painted eight times, or six times, or four times.  It was the same image.  It was also in relation to the mechanics of reproduction, which was then mostly in photography, at the time.  I am speaking about two (moments).  I was interested in photography in itself.  Another way of (stepping) out of this frame, I went with my ideas into public space.  I stared to paint on windows.  The window is of course a frame, but is also a membrane.  It's reality on both sides.  You are on both sides of the canvas.  That was also a method.  It was an attempt to free this issue.  The second part was to bring painting to this scale of architecture.  The scale actually evaporated automatically. WM


Daryl Rashaan King

Daryl Rashaan King currently works as a Teaching Artist with Leap NYC; a Chef de Partie at CUT by Wolfgang Puck, The Four Seasons Tribeca; and the Vice President of the Asian American Film Lab. He is the founder/ principal of kokuoroi, a multidisciplinary creative studio. The studio focuses on problems derived from urban living, viewed through the perspective of King, a Brooklyn native. A graduate of Columbia University, who originally specialized in painting, some of King’s goals include obtaining both an M. Arch and an Expert Diploma in Culinary Arts. He would also like to pursue various art and design programs and to live abroad. King has already earned certificates from Parsons in Streetwear; completed part of the Sustainable Design Foundation at Pratt Institute; and volunteered in Cusco, Peru at the construction site of a new Lower School. His work has greatly evolved since taking an Information Architecture course focused on Future Cities, hosted by the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich. A former varsity wrestler, King has hopes of learning and practicing new martial arts. When he isn’t working, enjoying music, or playing video games, King’s focus is on the future.

view all articles from this author