Hans Op de Beeck: Saisir le silence

104, Paris, France, until 31 December 2016.

November 2016

Hans Op de Beeck likes to take viewers to a space of tranquillity. Whilst his monochromatic installations and sculptures, handcrafted from a grey palette, invite introspection, they also carry a lingering sense of inertness bordering on melancholy and nostalgia.

Take 'Caravan' (2016), Op de Beeck's newest installation. On a snowy landscape is a slightly scaled-down caravan, its dirty exterior implying the hardship of its fictitious inhabitant's life, which is alluded to from the light emanating from the interior. The fire outside suggests that this person will soon start cooking a modest meal or come and sit outside. Nearby is a blackened circus, abandoned during the winter. Both structures are evocative of the wastelands caught between the city and the countryside. The solemn scene is tinged with desolation. Op de Beeck has ripped apart the Romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich to reveal a darkness within his fictive environment.

Op de Beeck brings an eerie quality to much of his work. His animation film, entitled 'Night Time' (2015), is an enigmatic journey based on a series of watercolours made over a five-year period. Through choosing to work alone nocturnally, Op de Beeck manages to bring a mood of contemplation as he captures the many aspects of life. Opening and ending with a solitary candle burning next to a window, the film takes in highrises, an empty factory, a cruise liner, a fisherman in a boat, a disco ball and the moon, peacocks and crows, a patterned dress and tattooed backs, the Eiffel Tower, a street car, and young and old faces.

Meanwhile, the black-and-white video, 'Staging Silence' (2013), features successive scenes of archetypal public places that are injected with slapstick gestures, such as hands placing small circles - representing lillie - into a river.

Two other installations are also on view. 'The Lounge' (2014) evokes a hotel lounge in the spirit of a vast memento mori or vanitas. Vases, candlesticks and books line the window shelf. An African mask, a tribal sculpture and a skull, along with bunches of grapes, an overflowing ashtray and takeaway drinks and pizza lie on the floor, while fruits and bowls form a still-life tableau on the chesterfield sofa. A dozing puppy adds to the dormant scene, which recalls the Flemish still-life tradition. The elaborate Pompeii-esque piece is constructed like a future relic with an attention to light and shadow reminiscent of Hammershøi or Vermeer.

The fifth work is 'The Settlement' (2013) – a night scene comprising 15 stilt houses, connected by scaffolding, that are balanced on a pool of water. Moored boats and fairy lights give the impression of a water village in South-East Asia. The scene encompasses the fragmentary feel of a film still. This filmic quality enhances Op de Beeck's ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary in arresting ways.

In LE CENTQUATRE-PARIS, 5 rue Curial - 75019 Paris, France.

Hans Op de Beeck, Caravan, Installation © Marc Domage
Hans Op de Beeck, Night Time, 2015, Film, 19'20''
Hans Op de Beeck - Staging Silence - 2013 - Video - 20'48''
Hans Op de Beeckl, The Lounge, 2014, Installation sculpturale © Marc Domage
Hans Op de Beeck, The Settlement, 2013, installation © Marc Domage