10 years. From 2012 to 2022. Six works. Three smaller works and three larger ones. At a Given Moment provides just with too little information to get a complete idea of the work and themes of the Belgian painter Patrick Vanden Eynde; but it does give us just enough information to get our thoughts going: we discern certain tendencies, overlaps and thematic similarities that, because of the selective arrangement of the exposition, cannot be unified into a coherent whole but continue to animate our thoughts long after we left the gallery.
This suggestive, fragmented presentation of Patrick Vanden Eynde's work has been a deliberate decision by Everyday Gallery. The exhibition shows us an outtake of the painter's work between 2012 and 2022. Those dates are, indeed, what one might call “a given moment.” But they are certainly not random; and neither is the selection of works. Looking at a decade of painting, the viewer gets a fragmented but precise understanding of the care and rigor with which Vanden Eynden approaches his medium. Since the 1990s, he has been working on an oeuvre that demonstrates not only great thematic variety and range, but also enormous skill and material and textural expertise. Vanden Eynde combines a hyper-precise, figurative approach with an extremely layered painting technique that draws the viewers' attention to the canvas. This dynamic interplay that arises between the figurative representation and the tactility of the canvas is a constant in Vanden Eynde's oeuvre.
In At Any Given Moment there are six works. Although none of these works form a series, there are some clear thematic overlaps between some of them. For example, Sweep (Green) and Sweep (White) are both from 2015 and they have the same large size and a similar pattern. Entwined (Silver) is from 2022, has a smaller size and depict an entanglement. The turtles that figure in The Contrarians (2022) seem to swim against the current, but climb up a series of flexible, blue bars that are recognizable as part of the pattern that we also find in the Sweep paintings. Coincidence or not, in the oldest work of this exhibition, Duckhunt (2012), we also find an erecting turtle at the bottom right. The work has the same format as the Sweep works from 2015.
Vanden Eynde often uses a compositional technique that involves making a close-up of a certain object and then enlarging it until it becomes unrecognizable. When we look at the strands of Entwined (Silver), for example, we recognize some sort of braid. But of what exactly? Is it knitting work? Or perhaps a wicker basket? Braided hair maybe? Due to the close-up and the subsequent enlargement, the figurativeness of the work has in no way been lost, but we can no longer find out what exactly it represents. As a result, a different reality arises before our eyes. The strands take on an organic character: they almost seem to be living, entwined entities. Snakes and worms that make their way along each other and get entangled? It is anyone’s guess. This uncanny effect is enhanced by the tactility and texturality of Vanden Eynde’s painting technique. The oil paint with metallic color gives the works a shine, but at the same time emphasizes the materiality of the canvas. If you look closely, you can still see the minuscule metal elements in the paint.
Vanden Eynde achieves a similar effect with Sweep (Green) and Sweep (White). But where Entwined (Silver) seem to pull together due to the compact size, the large size of Sweep (Green) and Sweep (White) ensures that we are, as it were, included in the work. Here too, the painter has made a small cut-out of a real object and has subsequently enlarged it. We are looking at something that we can no longer identify. As a result, it takes on an organic quality. The sweeps look like the leafy entrance to an alien green forest, slowly beckoning us in; the thick white sweep feels like the swishing hair of a huge animal that only exists in our imagination. The layered painting technique, in which layer after layer is applied, provides the paintings with an enormous textural depth. A tension arises that we cannot resolve: the figurative image that we can no longer identify but that lures us into the painting on the one hand, and the painterly texture and tactility that throws us back onto the two-dimensional space of the canvas.
Faced with the green forest that Sweep (Green) suggests we are just as vulnerable as the various ducks that are targeted and shot in Duckhunt (2012). But one might also say that we, as viewers, should be just as steadfast and calm as the turtles of The Contrarians (2022). These turtles are quietly swimming against the current, with a slow but effective movement. And this is exactly what Patrick Vanden Eynde has been doing in his own work for years. With At a Given Moment we get a cut-out of that unique oeuvre, a cut-out and enlargement of ten years of craftsmanship that is almost as surprising and striking as the works of the painter himself.
Text by Bram Ieven