Born 1946 in Brussels, Belgium, lives and works in Brussels.Read More
Like other painters of his generation, Walter Swennen explores the medium of painting from new perspectives, applying principles from other disciplines to his works. After beginning his career as a Beatnik poet and participating in Happenings in the mid-1960s, he became fascinated by Marcel Broodthaers, who was becoming well-known at the time. In the beginning of the 1980s, Swennen, who had trained to be an engraver, decided to explore the poetic possibilities of painting. He began creating cartoonish works and gestural action paintings, followed by 'painted texts' and 'written' paintings in which poetry and painting intermingle.
Walter Swennen explores the relationship between painting, picture, and abstraction. He once said, 'A painting is always an image of a painting.' In his engagement with specific issues of painting, he focuses on different forms of resistance, deviation, and relativisation–like marginality, absurdity, euphemisms, anticlimaxes, and the tragicomic. Under the surface of his seemingly naive execution of his paintings, we find very different sources of inspiration, like comics, literature, bi-lingual dictionaries, children’s drawings, motifs from advertisements, and Pop Art. In a kind of mechanical, impersonal manner, Swennen investigates the logic of products–their anonymity and automatism.
Throughout his entire oeuvre, Walter Swennen has been searching for what is unforeseeable and contradictory in painting. His works are experiments with and investigations into motifs, language and signs, techniques, picture supports, meaning and expressiveness. His associative and improvised working method makes him one of the most innovative artists of our time.
Selected solo exhibitions: Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2015); Wiels Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels (2013); Culturgest, Lisbon (2013); Kunstverein Freiburg (2011); MUHKA, Antwerp (1994); Kunsthal Rotterdam (1994); Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent (1993); and Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (1986).
Text courtesy Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder.
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...
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...
Walter Swennen talks with Miguel Wandschneider on the occasion of his exhibition Un Cœur Pur at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels (1 March—13 April 2019).
WALTER SWENNEN Tambula Malembe 17 MAR–5 JUN 2018