Irène Laub Gallery, Brussels (BE)



Irène Laub Gallery is delighted to present the first solo show of historic Belgian artist Bernard Villers (1939, Brussels).


Bernard Villers’ painting, built on the potentialities of the medium and its support, acts as an open window on the astonishing explorations lead by pictorial movements stating with Malevitch and the first monochromes. Fuelled by American Abstraction and Supports/Surfaces, he developed his reflexion since the 60s with steadfastness, openness and humour. Knowing that each title provides a key to understand the artwork, Through, the artist’s first solo show at Irène Laub Gallery, appears like a journey through a selection of recently-produced paintings on paper and wood, as well as a vast installation of artworks originating from found objects.

Through. The meaning of the word also refers to the gestures made by the artist. The large
“Mingeishi” papers displayed in the window reveal the radicality of Bernard Villers’ principles. In these five pieces, his hand draws a line as thick as the brush – a single stroke, made irregular by the fluctuating pressure of the instrument and the coating of paint. Blackness penetrates the thin surface and the paper is unfolded. The line is partitioned as the support is flattened, the fold almost disappears. From gesture to idea, unless it is the other way around, Bernard Villers turns the process into the artwork itself. Unpretentiously, he gives value to what is actually happening. Any protocol thus created is not necessarily followed to the letter but, nevertheless, arbitrary decisions find their logic within this given framework. There is no chance in “Un coup de scie”. The work refers to Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem, Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance), which itself later inspired an artwork by Marcel Broodthaers. In these pieces, split by a saw and held on the wall by a single nail, the fragile balance is enriched by the referential layers contained within.

Through. Lewis Carroll’s imagination, recurring in the artist’s work, is unsurprisingly present in this exhibition. Bernard Villers has always been attracted by what is happening on the other side of the canvas. Maintaining and demonstrating the equal value of the front and back side of his works, he plays with their potential reversal, from the effect of an invisible verso to the surface of the work itself, or even that of the wall it shines upon. Although they are often destined to be perceived as a whole, they are not sculptures, but a vast exploration of painting’s possibilities in a conscious relationship with the history of art, literature and philosophy. The supports have therefore long since ceased to be traditional canvases. The varied forms of the found objects gleaned by the artist are ready-mades that he appropriates, diverts and transcends through painting to profoundly displace our pre-conceived notions about contemporary art.


– Cécile Vandernoot
Cécile Vandernoot is an architect and writer. In 2018, she was co-curator of Bernard Villers’ solo show « La couleur manifeste » at Botanique.


On Thursday January 10th, Irène Laub was invited on LN24 TV to present Bernard Villers’ first solo show at the gallery.


Read more about Bernard Villers