Bart Stolle and Jan De Maesschalck at Zeno X Gallery
By ALANA VOLDMAN, FEB. 2016
ANTWERP- Zeno X, whose massive gallery space is hidden amidst the bustling neighborhood of Borgerhout, is an internationally recognized contemporary art staple. Known for a collection of artists including Luc Tuymans, Marlene Dumas, and Anton Corbijn, as well as their recurrent presence at the top art fairs, Zeno X has an intriguingly particular taste for figurative subjects, washed out colours, and somewhat of a blemished reality.
On January 20th the gallery opens their first exhibition of the year with two of their Belgian artists, Jan De Maesschalck with Domesticated and Bart Stolle with Low Fixed Media Show. Though widely dissimilar in subject matter and style, the two artists under one roof actively show the development process of Belgian contemporary visual art through earnest and apposite works.
Bart Stolle is clearly an 80s kid, fascinated by pixels and the ‘ones and zeroes’ which fabricate our digital age. His paintings are blueprints dominated by microchip motifs and schematic computer symbology which communicate a satirical approach to the binaries of the human world and the machine world. His work is essentially the punchline to ‘Kraftwerk and Malevich walk into a bar’, if that makes any sense.
The group of paintings, drawings, installation, and animated digital shorts presented in the exhibition show that Stolle’s work is unwaveringly fresh and innovative. Highlights include Translator and Variations, which among many other paintings in the room made within the confines of a particular set of ‘rules’ (à la Paul Klee or Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve tone technique), was enveloped by a soundscape ― the monotonous blaring of an electric saw reverberating from a vintage Moog and amplifier installed in the corner of the first room. Stolle’s animated short Darwinian Symphony, is a geometrically reduced angle on life’s evolutionary purposes. Meticulously delightful, Stolle’s work is a light amidst the typically moody collection of Zeno X.
Incidentally, Jan De Maesschalck’s show takes a darker turn as it represents more the quintessence of the Zeno X taste. His work relies on modes of surrealism and naturalism to translate his obsession with the withdrawn female character ― his small to medium scale acrylic paintings tell the story of lonely women with vacant eyes. The intimate renderings signify the sexualized and nearly predatory male gaze, offering a very solicited awareness of his subjects in their private moments in a way that would make Manet proud. Untitled (Corvus Corax) is a standout among the rest ― a portrayal of desolated rural landscape, De Maesschalck achieves the same empty feeling one gets when viewing his portraits with his only non-figurative painting.
Preoccupied with the wandering mind and the shadowy, incapacitated soul, Zeno X represents a variety of artists who are thematically similar to De Maesschalck including Naoto Kawahara, Johannes Kahrs, Jenny Scobel, and Dirk Braeckman to name a few. It is these, along with the rest of their artists which makes Zeno X distinguished, as their persistent attention to the emotional impulses of artists like Stolle and De Maesschalck is symbolic of Belgian ingenuity in the gallery sphere.
The exhibition runs between January 20th and February 27th, 2016. WM
Originally from southern California, Alana Voldman is a freelance art writer based in Antwerp, Belgium. After participating in Chicago’s contemporary gallery scene for several years, Alana’s increasing interest in underrepresented, emerging, and alternative art markets brought her to Europe where she reports on related stories which occur both locally and continentally. She holds a BA in the History of Art and Architecture from DePaul University and is an MA in Art Business candidate at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London.