Faithful to its focus on Belgian art, the Patinoire Royale / Galerie Valérie Bach is proud to present, in the form of a first solo exhibition, the fine and subtle work of Francis Dusépulchre (1934–2013). Displayed in the main space ('la Grande Nef') of the gallery.
This unclassifiable artist, whose extremely personal production makes him particularly recognisable, had already been the subject of a strong and remarkable presence at the Sculpting Belgium exhibition in 2017, which showcased various clusters of works created by this artist.
Since then, the gallery has been promoting Dusépulchre at fairs in Belgium and abroad, and is now presenting this solo exhibition, which was much needed as expected. The exposition shows work from the artist's studio that is rarely or never been seen by the public before.
Francis Dusépulchre's work is not without recalling, through its minimalism, certain aspects of Fontana's work, and yet it departs from it by its purpose: Dusépulchre does not deny the surface by lacerating it. He does not cut the support to create a rift made of black and colours. He realises, in the sense of becoming real, the pictorial surface of his curved panels. He questions the absent volume of his plexi boxes, filled only with the edges of disappeared planes. He slightly hides the planes by incising them, by pricking them with a point of light, by warping them and by endowing them with ribs to better question their nature, using the monochrome on exclusively orthogonal shapes, at least it is believed, as in fact right angles and parallels are rare. The artist is playing with our perception to better bring us into a visual trap, not devoid of humour moreover!
With these reliefs, Dusépulchre pursued the spatial exploration which his elders had instigated. In Belgium, Jo Delahaut started working on monochrome reliefs from 1950. He explored the relationship of the painting with the wall surface and its environment. Three years later, the artist Pol Bury exhibited his first Plans mobiles at the Apollo Gallery in Brussels. Where he added the sign 'Veuillez touchez' (Please Touch), encouraging the viewer to set in action the geometrical shapes of these sculptures.
To clarify their views, in 1954 Delahaut and Bury–along with art critics Jean Séaux and Karel L. Elno–published the manifesto of Spatialisme, which called on artists to incorporate the concepts of time and movement into their work. 'The shapes need to break free', they said, 'galvanise and manifest themselves in all kinds of materials' to give the artwork 'a new energy'. The spatial explorations of the abstract geometrical artists prefigured the birth of optical and kinetic art, which reached international recognition with the exhibition Le Mouvement in 1955 at the Denise René Gallery.
During the 1960s, groups and exhibitions emerged all around Europe that investigate the role of space, movement and light in art. In this context, art loses its static nature and took on an evolving dimension, where the movement and position of the spectator directly influences the creative result. The artists' desire to step outside of the traditional framework of easel painting to inscribe the work in space goes hand in hand with their eagerness to abolish the obsolete borders between painting and sculpture.
In this respect, the relief is one of their preferred techniques to explore spatial themes. In the same manner as Paul Van Hoeydonck, Guy Vandenbranden, Gilbert Swimberghe, Francis Olin, Marthe Wéry and Pál Horváth, Francis Dusépulchre is part of this generation of Belgian artists seeking to broaden the field of abstract art which emerged at the start of the century and whose scope for further expansion was getting thin on the ground.
To do so, they started bringing innovations not only in the area of shapes but also in terms of techniques and materials they adopted, whilst embracing the technological developments of their time. Dusépulchre's interest in space dictates a guiding theme for his work. Hence his devotion to public art at the heart of society, with the artist making the integration of art with architecture one of his main goals. This desire, shared by many abstract artists as early as the 1950s, is in line with avant-garde ideologies.
Acquiring a jigsaw which enabled him to make bolder incisions, from 1976 onwards, Dusépulchre started curving and contouring his boards, whilst making sure he caught as much of the variations of light as he could through the hampered movement of concave and convex surfaces. The reliefs are therefore called 'Ondulations spatiales' and acquire a more sensual character at the same time. 'The line helps me to close a space, to recreate the intimacy in the space' he added.
As time goes by, Dusépulchre rid his work of the superfluous, in order to keep only what he considers essential to invite the spectator to a mental journey, an intimate and sensorial experience. 'Everything I want to say, I make it pass through the nature of the from' he explained. While the incised reliefs already reveal an original style, 'Les Ombres dessinées', which came out in 1979, stood out even more in the Belgian art scene. Mostly achromatic, the cut reliefs were now encased in plexiglass boxes which equally participated in the interplay of shadows and transparencies they captured, elicited both by the gouges in the materials as by the nylon wires, glass or carbon fibres, suspended inside the space of the box.
The infinite variety of the artist's proposals responding to his preoccupations with space, plan, light and colour reveals his talent as much as his sensitivity. This exhibition is a demonstration of this, may it show the invisible, in a silent language of shadows.
Press release courtesy La Patinoire Royale – galerie Valérie Bach.