The gaze that looks ahead and then slowly wanders down or to the side, looking for traces and signs of a landscape, rather than the landscape itself. Van den Broek paints what others pay no attention to or simply overlook. Cracks, borders, shadows, lines, corners, and also bridges, trees, trucks, reflections. They are set up crisply, and stripped of their frills (or as van den Broek puts it: "Cut away the snoopy!"), which leaves them somewhere between figuration and abstraction. Are we in a video game or in a sun-drenched Californian landscape? It's hard to say. Van den Broek is greatly fascinated by the American panorama, immeasurably wide and lonely, without human figures. Like an experienced DJ, he easily mixes and samples elements from gray-looking Belgium and the country's artists (De Keyser, Raveel, Spilliaert) with characteristics of American colleagues and idols (Ruscha
, Newman). Until at some point he starts sampling himself, and half abstraction becomes complete abstraction. Completely out of place.
Out of Place is the largest and most comprehensive monograph on van den Broek's work to date. It covers a career spanning more than twenty years.
Author John C. Welchman, a prominent academic who previously wrote similar surveys about Guillaume Bijl
and Mike Kelley
, and who has been a long-time friend of the artist, describes and analyses van den Broek's oeuvre to date in a masterly overview.
In his painterly exploration of urban details such a cracks on the road, Belgian painter Koen van den Broek (born 1973 in Bree) develops an ambiguous kind of representation. Looking down at the asphalt and often using photographs as references, his paintings operate by zooming in on their subjects, eventually leading the painter towards abstraction. His work shows traces of human presence: circus tents, highways, bridges, sewers, pipes, fragments of houses or cars. The artist seeks out anonymity, the general rather than the specific. This relationship vis-à-vis photography is essential to his work. Playfulness, diversity and duality—rigid delineation versus wild brush strokes, depth versus surface—are all characteristic of his work. Koen Van den Broek questions the viewing schemes of photography. His paintings are anti-images, reactions against the recordings of the camera.