Bernard Villers’ painting plays on its relationship with space, seen as an internal and cognitive dimension as well as a physical one. Of minimalist appearance – simple ideas, elementary forms, modest constructions – his work shows a very sensitive and cultivated complexity.
First cultivated, because it is built on an omnipresent but unobtrusive dialogue with art history, language, literature and philosophy. Secondly sensitive, because Bernard Villers is always looking for inspiration in the beautiful banality of life, and in seemingly insignificant everyday experiences. Color is at the center of his statement, accompanied by its surroundings and induced effects, highlighted by the choice of medium and form.
As a leading figure of the Belgian art scene, his sensitive and innovative approach was celebrated in a retrospective exhibition at the Botanique art center (Brussels, BE) in 2018. His artworks are present in the collections of FRAC Bretagne, Rennes (FR), Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (FR), Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (BE), Centre de la Gravure, La Louvière (BE), Musée d’Ixelles, Brussels (BE), Musée royal de Mariemont, Morlanwelz (BE), Serralves, Porto (PT), Werserburg Museum, Bremen (DE), among others.
The series untitled ‘Un coup de scie’ experiments with physical laws: the search for balance at the core of the works. “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. 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.”
– curator and writer Cécile Vandernoot
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Bernard Villers first started uning fruit crates as frames out of convenience, but the supports have long since ceased to be traditional canvases in his practice. 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.
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The recent ‘Mingeishi’ series reveals the radicality of Bernard Villers’ principles. In this piece, 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 fragments of his own making, the artist invites us to mentally reconstruct the process.
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“Maintaining and demonstrating the equal value of the front and back side of his works, [Bernard Villers] 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”. – Cécile Vandernoot
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