The enigmatic work of Belgian artist Stan Van Steendam challenges our ideas of tradition and modernity. His work reflects a sense of intimacy that exists between the artist and his craft, his materials, and the emotions and sensations captured within his meditative creations — sculptural objects, and large-scale, monochromatic explorations in painting.
Van Steendam’s practice aims to deconstruct the materiality of painting, which he explores by way of an extensive process of layering raw pigments, plaster, and other matter, such as ash, dirt, and dust. Desiring to be close to his materials, and to control their traces and movements, Van Steendam works primarily with his bare hands.
His intuitive compositions command a unique physical presence in their space; they gently encroach, reaching out from their mountings to enter the space of the viewer. By placing emphasis on the physical presence of the object in the space, Van Steendam’s works become almost interactive in their approachability. Viewers can observe the texture and tactility of the pieces from all sides, placing them in conversation with the audience and allowing for a heightened state of perception.
With the elevation of the creative process in his pieces and by working with his body to treat his material sculpturally, Van Steendam is questioning the notions of the limits of painting, and of sculpture and of our preconceptions of art more broadly. This adventurism enables him to propose new approaches to tradition and allows his work to co-exist with history in a way that is reflective as much as it is in tribute.
Van Steendam — who lives and works between Brussels and Portugal — is motivated by classical paintings and the work of other artists, but as well too, he draws much inspiration from the places where he chooses to reside and from nature; from lakes, water, cork trees, and dusty roads. He is situated currently in a studio in Lisbon, where he has been captivated by the influence of, he says, the light and skies; that which can be seen reflected directly in his recent output — an exploration of monochromatic painting works, among other pieces.
This year has already seen Van Steendam exhibiting his deceptively intricate creations in a handful of group and solo showings, including at Archiraar Gallery’s White Cube in Brussels, Barbé Urbain in Ghent, and for Freud Monk Gallery. And the second half of 2019 sees more outings forthcoming, with solo exhibitions due at Magazyn, Antwerp, Belgium, and The Court, Pescara, Italy. Van Steendam will also embark on an artist residency at Palazzo Monti in Brescia, Italy, later this year.
by Erin Stobie