The work on display at Patrick Painter until May 5 is a magnificent solo show called “Oh You Pretty Things” by Belgian artist Stephan Balleaux. The large works imported fresh out of the artist’s studio from Belgium are part silent cinema still, part surreal, influenced by iconic images from our blurred past. These morph into situations, tableau that often accentuate the power and command of the female.
Gallery view, photo by author
It so happens that recently I spent many weeks in Belgium on a movie set about a strong female figure – and while on hiatus studied the architecture and art of Brussels including one of Balleaux’s obvious inspirations – René Magritte. I was reminded of that time by these large works as I walked around the gallery, appreciating immediately their sure approach, their aplomb, their sly humor.
Pandora, 2018, Oil on canvas, 106 x 137.8 inches (270 x 350 cm), photo by author
They are created with seemingly effortless figuration, effective and convincing in their creation of a particular moment, a place – hence their cinematic quality. This quality extends to their situational nature, the disparate elements of which makes one imagine that these very large works have been fun to make despite the effort – in fact most of the works in this wonderful solo show were painted in 2018.
Pandora (detail), 2018, Oil on canvas, 106 x 137.8 inches (270 x 350 cm), photo by author
In Pandora, a beautiful blond female figure kneels on an overgrown patch of haphazard foliage, studying a frame in which an ovoid hole has been cut. Her right arm appears to have been a victim of this frame – it appears as a stump to which she pays no attention. In the background is a bit of sepia toned airbrush work establishing the sunlit location – part of a porch with windblown curtains of some sort. The lighting on Pandora herself comes from a different source and is of course rendered in a different range of colder black and white tones. Her gaze is a controlled reaction – she’s on camera before us you see – to the ever-so-sliightly petulant nature of the work.
Suspension First, 2018, Oil on canvas, 78.74 x 70.87 inches (200 x 180 cm), photo by author
Another standout in a show of standouts – appears as you walk in the gallery. Suspension First focuses on a figure who’s been hanging from a couple of loops hanging from the middle of top edge of the picture. Her left hand is gone at the wrist – nothing shocking here you know, just a green screen trick – while her right foot remains for a split second longer in the loop. She seems unconcerned – suspended as she is in her own disbelief. The great thing is, we believe.
Part of the enjoyment of this show lies in the reveal, the entertainment of each of these captivating paintings as you walk around the gallery. The attendees are clearly enjoying themselves as much as the people who work at the gallery enjoyed talking answering questions about the work. The artist was equal to all of this attention, open and genial, enjoying his first visit – and first solo show – in the States.
The Companion in Pearls, 2018, Oil on canvas, 78.75 x 63 inches (200 x 160 cm)
This effect was reinforced by the typically gregarious, smoking gallery owner and his entourage, he sitting in his chair next to one of the only all-color works, The Birds, smoking stand and black and white ceramic ash tray full and at hand, smoke curling into the air at the edge of the painting, reinforcing the storyline, the transitory nature of painting, of cinema, of life.
Patrick Painter is located at Bergamot, B-2, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, 90404. http://www.patrickpainter.com/
Juri Koll is a Venice-based artist, curator, writer and filmmaker and the Director of the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art and the Fine Arts Film Festival. He has written for the New York Times, the Huff Post, FABRIK, and other publications. Koll exhibits extensively; and one of his films was recently selected for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. https://www.veniceica.org/