Mario De Brabandere
- A Look at the Art of Mario De Brabandere –
Art that doesn’t immediately confront the world head-on captivates, stirs, and leaves aside the 1/1 projection with reality, guiding the viewer’s thoughts to the backside of things. When art doesn’t present itself right away or pretend to be flawless, it leads to a ragged thinking without frills. The French painter/artist Niele Toroni, who has stuck to a ‘scripture’ throughout his career, limited to the imprint of the same concentrated brushstroke, within a self-imposed instructional pattern and disciplined production, wrote in 1997:
“To paint is not to create art, and in any case, I am now convinced that painting is not done to create art. Art may let itself be made, painting does not let itself be made (dirty, but not a slut).”
Art doesn’t stop at the instantaneous but at the apparent; an artwork lingers on in our ability/inability to define an image and/or name it in words. Mario De Brabandere’s art explores the byways of our expectations; his art is like a sigh through which images pass that barely fulfill the desires of our perception, striving for balance and equilibrium. Just as the American artist Richard Tuttle conceives ‘abbreviated’ compositions on unreasonably angular mini-formats, where color, flat volumes, and unprecedented hues engage in a friendly skirmish. This all happens seamlessly within a coherent image that holds water and engages the eye, without compromising the thought of art history. The narrative is left behind, the art of Richard Tuttle, just like that of Mario De Brabandere, stops at the visual and converts into an open expanse, where interpretation becomes the spectator’s private domain and ownership.
In the hyper-real of coexistence, art has become an extraordinary escape that diverts time and entices us to pause at dissonant visual images that, within the context of the gray-uniform reality, are called art. Art as an artificial regime of exceptions that sets a person on track, capable of transporting towards a different, wondrous, and instant-consumption-slowing way of engaging with the world and the immediate surroundings that envelop us.
Mario De Brabandere’s art production is, in a sense, ‘program-supported’ in subtly shifting depictions of an unreal reality; he is a master at making our eyes stumble gently and softly; making our preconceived ideas of recognizing and dominating reality waver. This brings me to a beautifully formulated thought by the Italian author Italo Calvino, describing a similar process when attentively looking at Mario De Brabandere’s paintings and drawings:
“Everything I see immediately falls into a context of flattened information. This world I encounter, usually recognized as the world, when it comes to me, is (largely) conquered, colonized by words. A world with a thick crust of chatter. The facts of our lives are already classified, judged, and commented upon before they even occur. We live in a world where everything has been read before it even begins to exist. Not only what we see, but our eyes are soaked in written language.”
The drawings and small paintings that draw the viewer closer are ingenious compositions strongly reminiscent of architecture as a practice for organizing material boundaries in space. There is no state of logic present here; sharply defined color planes zoom past like racers on a winding race track, never veering off course. The constellations of juxtaposed, cohabitating abstract forms – which at times also spontaneously evoke typography and letters – extrapolate his art (also) – in unguarded thoughts – far beyond the bounded image plane.
It often seems that the composition within the image plane – which coincides with the ground plane – becomes a detail of a broader idea that continues to resonate mentally beyond the artwork.
Aura, as defined by Walter Benjamin, is present here to some extent; Mario De Brabandere does indeed undermine any trace of wandering illusion in these works, not only through unparalleled use of color and sensation but also by (occasionally) visibly leaving behind a subtle grid that indicates a desire to create a deviant, reasoned composition on reclaimed paper or found wooden panels. Mario De Brabandere’s art remains down to earth and can be read, as Walter Benjamin posited regarding the experience of nature, as “the experience of a distance, however close it may be.” This statement closely aligns with the perception of the so-called ‘abstract’ part of the artist’s oeuvre. Aura and sacralization, to which these works occasionally allude within the history of abstract art, are wonderfully subverted by playful formal composition constellations and winks that link the abstract to language (letters) and other architectural allusions.
Mario De Brabandere breaks through geometry like a glider; he cleverly plays with the exact mathematics of his work, generating an exceptionally adventurous viewing experience with an emphasis on observational pleasure.
Peculiar geo-forms with the most vivid and administratively neutral colors collide or find each other at a razor-sharp point where the touching moment of tipping gracefully turns like a unique intentional and sharp pictorial-artistic gesture.
The small formats; the poor, worn, found wooden and paper supports that Mario De Brabandere uses to address the relativity of art and, by extension, time, turn these works into poignant-relativizing and lived art production. This body of work is seemingly the result of intensely concentrated artistic labor, in which art becomes free play against the backdrop of unpredictable and uninitiated life, as well as the unknown and unexplored things in life.