28.11.15 – 31.01.16
For the occasion of her show Billenkoek (‘Spanking’), Nel Aerts has assembled a new company of characters in the form of collages, drawings, textile pieces and a selection of old and new paintings. Together, they visualize a practice that freely and intuitively moves between different media.
The paintings and collages in the facing cabinet rooms depict abstracted, still-living subjects that peer at each other and the visitor from one eye, while stubbornly pursuing their own course – floating, bobbing, soaked or wound up. The figures cling to the wood with their expressive, blobby or geometric ‘head shapes’ like so many solitary statues on their plinths.
During a residency in the Vincent van GoghHuis at Zundert, Aerts created a new series of drawings. Zelfportretten uit Zundert (‘Self-Portraits from Zundert’) relates a non-linear black-and-white story without a beginning or an end, in which the artist stages herself: 52 freeze-frames of just as many momentary moods. Entering the scene in turn walking, wobbling, painting, smoking parading or posing. Posing frontally, she jumps from one set onto the next. An insecure look in an indistinct room is countered by flexing muscles, everyday studio business merges into travels to distant lands, from a traditional North-Campine pub she moves to a kitschy Tiroler cabin or a dolled up English tea party. This 21st-century portrait gallery is filled with a pink glow of humour, jest and anguish. The drawings are flanked by two monumental textile self-portraits that also serve to screen the room; the drawn space flows into the done up exhibition space and the paintings.
Juggling different formats and media, Billenkoek plays a game of revelation and screening, with cartoonish, playful and serious glances. The (self) portraits are tragicomic in the contrasts they evoke. They can be sad or funny, extraverted or inward-looking, deliberately or playfully crawled out of the wood or arisen from the imagination as a drawing, but invariably they are introspective and unassuming.