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b. 1946, Belgium

Walter Swennen Biography

Walter Swennen is known for his radical, experimental and associative approach to painting, which is perhaps best summarised as a belief in the total autonomy of the artwork. For Swennen, a painting does not need to be 'emotive' or 'understood': the primary goal of painting is, quite simply, painting. Everything – form, colour, subject – comes from the outside. A poet before he became a painter, it is perhaps no coincidence that Swennen perceives painting to be an act of translation and that language plays a vital role in his practice. In the early 1980s, Swennen stopped writing poetry and switched to painting as his primary means of expression. Although his oeuvre varies greatly in scale, style and materials, it can be construed as an on-going exploration into the nature and problems of painting (its potential and limitations), the fundamental question of what to paint (subject matter), and how (technique). Often working on supports made from found objects, such as sheets of old plastic or salvaged wood, Swennen allows his chosen imagery to float loosely atop a background made up of more allusive elements, such as blocks of colour, dripped paint or unusual textures. The images he deploys are often derived from popular culture, advertising and magazines, or take the shape of everyday objects such as wine bottles or bicycles. The way that he handles motifs – he takes them as he finds them, high or low, and manipulates them at will – is akin to a kind of visual poetry that harks back to his early career as a writer. Freely associative, and above all humorous, Swennen's paintings explore the relationship between symbols, legibility, meaning and pictorial treatment.

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Walter Swennen (b. 1946, Brussels) lives and works in Brussels. Solo exhibitions include Ein perfektes Alibi, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2015; So Far So Good, WIELS, Brussels, 2013-14; Continuer, Culturgest Lisbon, 2013; Garibaldi Slept Here, Kunstverein Freiburg, 2012, and How To Paint A Horse, Cultuurcentrum Strombeek and De Garage, Mechelen, 2008.

Text courtesy Xavier Hufkens.

Walter Swennen Featured Artworks

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Happy Mothers Day by Walter Swennen contemporary artwork
Walter SwennenHappy Mothers Day, 2017Oil on canvas
80 x 60 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
A last poem for Cacao Beni by Walter Swennen contemporary artwork
Walter SwennenA last poem for Cacao Beni, 2019Oil on canvas
150 x 135.2 x 3 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Carnival by Walter Swennen contemporary artwork
Walter SwennenCarnival, 2018Oil on canvas
50 x 60 x 1.8 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Bears by Walter Swennen contemporary artwork
Walter SwennenBears, 2018Oil on canvas
60 x 80 x 2 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Overboard, at wall by Walter Swennen contemporary artwork
Walter SwennenOverboard, at wall, 2018Oil on canvas
23 1/2 x 19 5/8 inches
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
SNEK by Walter Swennen contemporary artwork
Walter SwennenSNEK, 2017Oil on canvas
135 x 180.2 x 3.2 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Un coeur pur by Walter Swennen contemporary artwork
Walter SwennenUn coeur pur, 2018–2019Oil on canvas
100 x 80 x 2 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Disputatio: de angelis I by Walter Swennen contemporary artwork
Walter SwennenDisputatio: de angelis I, 2018Oil on canvas
160 x 130 x 3 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery

Walter Swennen Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Walter Swennen, Un Cœur Pur at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
Closed
1 March–13 April 2019 Walter Swennen Un Cœur Pur Xavier Hufkens6 rue St-Georges, Brussels
Contemporary art exhibition, Walter Swennen, HIC HAEC HOC at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
Closed
28 October–17 December 2016 Walter Swennen HIC HAEC HOC Xavier Hufkens6 rue St-Georges, Brussels

Walter Swennen Represented By

Xavier Hufkens contemporary art gallery in 6 rue St-Georges, Brussels, Belgium Xavier Hufkens Brussels

Walter Swennen In Related Press

'Sputterances' at Metro Pictures, New York Related Press 'Sputterances' at Metro Pictures, New York 25 April 2017, Frieze

As its title suggests, Sputterances has much to do with language - specifically the degrees to which an artist succeeds or fails at communicating an idea and the ways in which the content of paintings can be 'read'. The exhibition includes the work of 21 visual artists and a poem contributed by Ben Lerner, which is printed on card with an...

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Walter Swennen at Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen Related Press Walter Swennen at Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen 10 December 2015, Kunstverein Düsseldorf

After initially working in the field of poetry and performance Walter Swennen (born 1946) developed an extensive artistic oeuvre since the early 1980s that makes decided use of painting as a pictorial medium. In the process, the artist retains a conceptual proximity to a painting that is now once again all too gladly elevated as art’s supreme...

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