Image Real Estate: Alain Biltereyst at devening projects + editions

Not all paintings that pare down form and color in an indexical manner are immediately about language – though that is often the initial read. The urge to codify work that has the aesthetics of being a signifier to an unnamed symbol is as much a grasp to make meaning from where form lacks, as it does ignore what the potential of unnamed form can represent. In his current exhibition, Notes, at devening projects + editions, Alain Biltereyst displays a series of small paintings that not only question what it means to deny language, but also how purely formal exercises hinge on the spatial, and tactile qualities of an installation, beyond the painting itself. – Stephanie Cristello, Chicago Contributor 

Alain Biltereyst | Notes, installation view at devening projects + editions, September 2013

Working in a primary palette of cobalt blues, deep reds, de-saturated mauves, and yellow tans, on predominantly white grounds, the paintings have a pop impact at a distance that softens on approach. All done on panel, the collection of approximately 8 x 10” paintings are not as crisp and graphic as they photograph. Far from clean cut or digital, they have a grittiness to their construction; a history, and perceptively time-based nature to their fabrication. You can almost imagine the edge of the brush jumping along the wood grained surface, the edge delicately restrained even as the surface acts against it. The impact of an imperfect support, and even more faulted execution, cannot be underestimated; especially when there is so little else to occupy the field of vision. The poetic read of Biltereyst’s paintings is, counter intuitively but very rewardingly, on the surface itself.

The patterns on the panels function as placeholders, or subtle formulas, for how Biltereyst builds his images – the formal exercises, which mimic optical illusion illustrations in dated textbooks, or analog video game graphics from the ‘80s, are not as arbitrary as they may seem. Lining the gallery at eye-level, in equal margins, they are Classical in the sense that they rely on an asymmetrical balance. In terms of their installation and sequential ordering, the affect gives the impression of being lifted from the vernacular, while also bordering on mid-century design, neo-geo abstraction, and graphic arts. With the content so emptied out, the image practically hydroplanes on the surface, becoming a container for other familiar comparisons – the blocked out design of a mastercard, a flag for an anonymous country, outmoded clip art, or innocuous symbols often used for corporate logos, and commercial syndicates. Most importantly, the paintings read as placards or signposts, as signals meant to elicit a point of entry to another environment – like real estate signage. However, the space they advertise is not so readily available; it is a space that exists coded on the surface of the paintings. At once flat and nondescript, but spatial in a way that negates pictorial, or fictive space – Biltereyst posits the physical space the paintings occupy themselves, foregrounding instead the way that they are arranged.

Alain Biltereyst | Untitled, acrylic on panel, 11.75 x 8.25 inches

In one arrangement in particular, above the editions, a collection of small paintings break the formulaic spacing, and are organized instead like a stanza on the wall – reading with a certain degree of punctuation, in an exclamatory manner. Each painting acts as a character, in a reference to design and typography, arranged to spell “notes,” a word that operates in many levels for Biltereyst and this exhibition. Like the transcription of an event in its most raw conception, the paintings describe an event (inherently, a visual one) with just enough information that we do not question them as preparatory or unfinished, but instead complete, and still empty. In a rather brilliant compliment to the exhibition, a custom for shows at this gallery, Biltereyst also produced an edition – a series of 8 photographs that pictures the vinyl signage on the sides of vans, four facing left and four facing right. Equally as quotidian and functional as the designs in his paintings, the patterns are refreshingly found and playful, bringing a touch of humor and currency to what could otherwise border on a potentially insular practice.

Alain Biltereyst | Notes, installation view at devening projects + editions, September 2013

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Alain Biltereyst is a Brussels-based painter; some of his most recent exhibitions include Ice Water Flyswatter, curated by Douglas Witmer at Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Philadelphia; Secret Kitchen Gallery in Temse, Belgium (solo show); That Being Said at Jack Hanley Gallery and the Frieze Art Fair in New York; Art Cologne; Precise Operations, curated by Alexandra Kennedy and Factor 44 and SECONDroom in Antwerp; Pages, Pages at devening projects + editions and Neue Stille, curated by Manuela Kleckx at Vous Etes Ici Gallery in Amsterdam.

Stephanie Cristello is an artist, curator, and writer who lives and works in Chicago, IL.

 

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