A Guide to Brussels Gallery Weekend

The city’s galleries put their best foot forward this weekend – here’s a rundown of some of the shows not to miss

BY Kadish Morris in Critic's Guides | 06 SEP 18

Galerie Greta Meert
7 September – 20 October

Unfurling across Galerie Greta Meert’s three floors, ‘Wiggle’ showcases the work of 15 international artists who use sculpture to interrogate the notion of materiality beyond simple denotation. Donald Judd uses stacks and blocks to create non-referential works of art while Terry Adkins assembles locally found objects such as musical instruments and reintroduces them as resounding installations. Katinka Bock experiments with natural materials, using clay ceramic liquid and webbing to articulate thoughts on history and geography and on the other end of the spectrum, Diane Simpson’s work transfigures clothing, furniture and industrial architecture into sculptures that are an observation of the architectonic vs. the domestic. Countering painter Ad Reinhardt’s modernist joke that a sculpture is a thing that you ‘bump into while you back up to look at a painting’, the group show pushes back against convention, giving the form more leeway than tradition has previously allowed.

Ed Atkins, Untitled (Old Food #3), 2017, ink and acrylic on paper, 30 x 40 cm. Courtesy: the artist and dépendance, Brussels; photograph: Kristien Daem

Ed Atkins, ‘Members’
5 September – 18 October

Working predominantly in high-definition video and moving image, Berlin-based British artist and poet Ed Atkins uses literary devices to bring intimacy into constructed virtual worlds. In his latest show at dépendance, Atkins employs video and sound to delve into dialogues around love, sex, death and relationships in the context of digital abstraction. For those who have encountered Atkins’ work, the immersion into his hyperreal narratives is near involuntary. His surround-sound, CGI-heavy digital performances allow viewers to become absorbed into the work’s attempt to decipher a computerized world that is rapidly becoming more real in both an optical and psychological sense. However, the artist's latest show at dépendance features only drawings; intimate portayals of hands, arms and faces belonging to people that he knows personally. Reminiscent of his previous show at the gallery in 2015, there’s a focus on the command technology holds over physical bodies. With artificiality now at peak production, we’re all invested in unzipping what passes for ‘experience’ – in a world where we respond with emotional depth to occurrences and events that are increasingly immaterial. While existential questioning reigns heavy in the artist’s practice, here, Atkins doesn’t ask how close we are to dematerialization, but rather, how our physical selves can be present when media is incessantly reconceptualizing the meanings of the veridical and the imagined.

Ambera Wellmann, Outerspace, 2018, oil on linen. Courtesy: the artist and Office Baroque

‘Above the Treeline’
Office Baroque
6 September – 13 October

The group show ‘Above the Treeline’ is concerned less with finished objects and more with displaying diverse experiments in material and figuration. The four artists featured, Virginia Overton, Jon Pestoni, Rezi van Lankveld and Ambera Wellmann, use the latitude where trees are no longer able to grow as a metaphor: Overton uses ‘masculine’ materials such as mud, sheetrock and wooden beams to create works that feel half-done, while Canadian artist Wellmann’s oil paintings depict porcelain figures often erotized and deformed. Underlying ‘Above the Treeline’ is an attempt to alter the viewers’ perception so they experience something familiar but also new. Jon Pestoni’s geometric paintings are layered with both texture and colour and are expressive through their animated brush strokes and Van Lankveld’s work has long been engaged with the activity and motion of paint itself, often pouring it directly on to the canvas and persuading it into a composition.

Sharon Lockhart, Nine Sticks in Nine Movements: Movement Two, 2018, chromogenic print, 1 x 1.3 m. Courtesy: the artist, Jan Mot, Brussels and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels and neugerriemschneider

Sharon Lockhart, ‘Movements and Variations in Two Parts’
Jan Mot
7  September – 20 October

Los-Angeles based artist Sharon Lockhart is taking over both Jan Mot and Gladstone Galleries with a series of photographic and sculptural works. Born out of ideas around female empowerment, the exhibition is based upon a display of bronze sculptures cast from black walnut sticks collected from years of visits to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. For A Bundle and Five Variations (2018), a collaboration with Ravi GuneWardena from the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, the sticks appear balanced in varying arrangements. The sticks are also presented as nine photographic portraits, in addition to pictures which feature a female protagonist performing choreographed poses with each of the bronze sticks that reference stances influenced by art and historical sources. Nature, labour, and agency are themes that are present throughout Lockhart’s practice which hones in on social subjects and communities that she has followed over long periods of time: from teenage girls living at the Youth Center for Socio-Therapy in the Polish village of Rudzienko to factory workers in Maine. Building on existing work that prizes architectural construction, extensive research and locality, in this show, Lockhart is able to formulate layered narratives that gives weight to both communal histories and individuals, using her established composite of choreography, portraiture and quasi-formulaic arrangement to supply viewers with stories from uncharted spaces and environments.

Edi Hila, Open Museum Series (#1), 2017, oil on canvas, 102 x 98cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels

Edi Hila, ‘Open Museum’
Galerie Nathalie Obadia
6  September – 27 October

Galerie Nathalie Obadia is presenting the first exhibition in Belgium of Albanian painter Edi Hila, showing newly created works and previous series by the artist born in Shkodër in 1944. Considered one of the most important figures in the Balkan arts scene, Hila’s works respond heavily to the post-communist times in which they were created. For his show at Galerie Nathalie Obadia, several paintings which were also featured at the 14th Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2014, pictorialize the cultural, social and political reality in a country that Hila refused to leave despite the hostility and that he now considers to be in ‘permanent germination.’ As proven throughout his career, Hila is an observer of circumstance, surroundings and tensions and through this attentiveness, he is able to solidify his position as a painter of politics. His offerings are reflections on the bleakness of everyday life following the regime of Prime minister Enver Hoxha (1944–54), resulting in tones and scenes that embody a chromatic and melancholic temperament. Influenced by expressionism, his subtle meditations on history, domestic interiors or antique weapons, produce soft hued depictions of photomechanical images that communicate something poignant about the murky world around them.

Jean-Marie Appriou, Ophelia (detail), 2018, cast aluminum, 74 x 250 x 54 cm. Courtesy: the artist and CLEARING New York, Brussels

Jean-Marie Appriou, ‘Griffe, langue, rose et écailles’
7 September – 20 October

Jean-Marie Appriou’s third solo show at C L E A R I N G, ‘Griffe, langue, rose et écailles’ (Claw, Tongue, Rose and Scales), sees the artist presenting large-scale sculptural installations cast in aluminium. Craftsmanship lies at the heart of the Paris-based artist’s practice and his monumentally impressively sculptures are built from – and for – an alternate universe in which nature, rather than humans, takes centre stage. Here unpolished, roughly hewn and darkly marked figures show the aftermath of the artist’s curiosity into alchemical process and studio-based experimentation. A continuation from past work, Appriou fabricates strange mythical forms influenced by symbolists, from Gustave Morea’s feathery markings to Fernand Khnopff’s statuesque women. If Appriou is a god, he is a creator of imperfect creatures: monkeys, serpents, jaguars with uneven textured exteriors that imply the presence of movement. The ecosystem created for this show, as well as the rose bushes installed in the exhibition space, symbolize the ‘mystical and romantic rapport’ humans have with nature.

Otobong Nkanga, Masterplan, 2018, acrylic and crayon on paper, 42 x 30 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Mendes Wood DM, Brussels

Otobong Nkanga, ‘Transition’
Mendes Wood DM
6 September – 20 October

Fifteen years-worth of work has gone into creating ‘Transition’, Otobong Nkanga’s first exhibition at Mendes Wood DM. A new series of fleshy-toned drawings by the Antwerp based, Nigerian artist, sees the human body transform from a fully formed thing into fractured objects. Circling around the notion of land as a place of non-belonging and doubling up as an anthropological study, Nkanga’s work, ranging from paintings, sculptures and video, is a consumption of social and topographical changes that also factor colonization processes and the violence of which minerals are extracted from their natural environment into the equation. Alongside work that explores our physical and metaphysical relationship to the earth, Nkanga also references current affairs in her work, specifically Donald Trump’s ‘rusting state’. Steel to Rust (Calibration) (2018), a woven textile work, draws parallels with the corroding political state which, due to lack of care and attention, has decayed and oxidized.

Brussels Gallery Weekend runs from 6 – 9 September 2018, with shows continuing until mid October. 

Main image: Ricky Swallow, Reclining Sculpture (open #6), patinated bronze, 17 x 34 x 13 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Greta Meert, Brussels

Kadish Morris is editorial assistant and staff writer of frieze, based in London, UK.