Sies + Höke is pleased to present the gallery’s inaugural exhibition of work by Brussels-based artist Fabrice Samyn (*1981).
Samyn’s conceptual work mirrors the artist’s engagement with the vanitas motif as well as his questioning of the visible and perceptible. Making sculptures, photographic series and paintings, his technique is one of collecting, cropping, selecting and fragmentary erasing: both of certain objects or art works and of the traces time left on them. He uses imagery found at flea markets or in key museum collections to focus on their essence, contrasting them with one another while developing a reduced and clear aesthetic.
For the photographic series Navels (2006-2010), Samyn took highly magnified pictures of Adam and Eve’s belly buttons from old master paintings. He alludes to the old debate on whether the biblical couple, created by God’s hand, is to be depicted with navels at all. Behind this ostensibly humorous causality dilemma, Samyn here debates the myth of origin, quite seriously and poetically. Reminiscent of spiral mists or ultra sound images of unborn babies, the large dark circles on grainy monochrome backgrounds through their aesthetics alone evoke questions on ancestry and transcendence.
With another work referencing art historic models, Samyn depicts a detail of Caravaggio’s painting Narcissus: the young man’s hand at the lake’s edge, mirrored in the water. Samyn rotates this detail vertically, with the reflection gaining a magical momentum. While the artist here has commanded paint and canvas himself, in other works he adopts found oil paintings, altering them only partially. By selectively removing the darkened varnish, a new painting comes to life on top of the original motif: a portrait now shows the shadow of a scull, another one the light reflexion of a hand mirror.
A wall installation houses another historical object, which is not given away at this stance. It is not to be looked at by the visitor, but instead felt through a hole in the wall covered by curtains. Unlike Valie Export’s Touch Cinema (1968), where the „viewer / toucher“ must have anticipated what was waiting behind the curtain, this installation confronts the visitor with complete uncertainty. The ambiguity between expectations and reality, the invisible, fascinates the artist here as much as the hidden object, which with its full curves symbolises the divine as much as life itself.
One of the exhibition’s key works is The Burning Bush (2010), an abundant leafless juniper shrub covered with natural resin. The shiny honey-coloured resin, a plant’s vital fluid, reminds here of destructively blazing flames, while simultaneously referencing the Old Testament: God appeared to Moses in the shape of a burning bush, which, despite being on fire, was not consumed by the flames. Fire that burns without consuming is an enticing paradox for Samyn; a natural phenomenon blends with a miracle, the transience of things is momentarily annihilated.