Walter Swennen (*1946 in Brussels) is a true ‘artists’ artist’ – a painter who has become an inspiration for countless younger artists outside mainstream trends. However, his work is hardly known to the general public, even though he is represented by international galleries and his work has been celebrated in Belgium and the Netherlands through numerous exhibitions in important museums.
The exhibition title The Phantom of Painting echoes Swennen’s conviction that what a painting reproduces as a motif is never identical to the image itself and that motif and painting are nevertheless inextricably interwoven. With his image-sceptical approach, Swennen pursues the content-related investigations of the Belgian surrealist René Magritte as well as the reflexive strategies of Marcel Broodthaers.
In his search for a form of painting that undermines any form of clarity, Swennen draws on a wide range of motifs ranging from Belgian comic traditions to philosophical and belletristic literature, encyclopaedias and advertising logos. In his work, he refers to Constructive Art, Surrealism and Pop Art as well as to the rediscovery of painting in the 1980s, which he promoted significantly with his subtle form of ‘bad painting’ and his pictorial and linguistic wit.
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