A. van Campenhout

Harmonious Blacksmith

26 Nov - 22 Jan 2012

The drawings of A. van Campenhout (1957) have an abstract appearance, yet many references and reminiscences lie hidden in their twilight. This is the craquelure, he says, of ‘the human condition’ that he wants to portray in grey or in black, with charcoal or chalk. Sometimes, in the drawings, a landscape or a vaguely familiar type of figuration can suddenly be recognized. The eye is drawn to a point or to a white, framed geometric figure. Countless variations become possible, since each viewer makes his own rambling associations.

When you ‘draw endlessly,’ says Van Campenhout – line after line, layer upon layer, one weave atop another – you arrive at a nearly pitch-black window to an infinite space, a transition from the tangible to the intangible. Even though the traces of the drawing’s point of departure have been obscured by continual scratching, rubbing and erasing, the drawing still offers an ample view of that apparently obliterated image. In the deeper layers of the drawing, in the charcoal accumulated and then shed, the original image can still be discerned. Each of Van Campenhout’s large ‘black drawings’, nailed to the wall, is the echo of an image, an ‘afterimage’, which often comes into view only after a longer observation of the drawing. What we see is reconstructed, as it were, by our brains as we look. What has triggered these drawings keeps on reverberating.

Drawing, to Van Campenhout, is a way of describing while observing. The drawings serve as the means of conveying personal experiences and memories and as formal constructions. He nails the large sheets to the wall of his studio, climbing a ladder and scrawling with the charcoal, repetitively, smearing and erasing until a certain ‘fatigue’ arises and the drawing becomes more loose. In some drawings the handwriting is very lyrical and untamed; in others he approaches the work with much greater control and wishes to ‘pull back the reins’. In series of works, smaller in size, he seeks out the visual possibilities and strengths of charcoal or pastel. With these he takes a meticulous approach reminiscent of the old masters.

The whole of Van Campenhout’s work is imbued with reminiscence. Though, more and more, he leaves his works untitled. We can, or think we can, discern things in certain works. In terms of intent as well as execution they involve ‘recollections’ and ‘experiences’. Van Campenhout incorporates acquired impressions, sometimes from travels. Their character can relate to both landscape and architecture. During his investigative periods abroad, he works in museums; the work resonates with familiar sounds, art-historical references to Goya’s moving Los desastres de la guerra or to Piranesi’s Carceri. The eighteenth-century artist and architect Piranesi,

famous for his hundreds of views (vedute) of Rome, frequently delved below the surface. He produced engravings that show catacomb vaultings and hidden subterranean prisons, venturing into a world concealed in darkness.Like Piranesi, Van Campenhout also takes the plunge into such Dantesque surroundings. (Paul Depondt in Septentrionn° 2, 2011)