Description & Technical information

Walter Swennen is counted among the ‘new painters’ who came to the fore in the 1980s, parallel to the Italian transavanguardia and the German heftige Malerei. On first view his oeuvre seems like it was made by different artists, but appearances are deceiving. Indeed, Swennen is no slave to any typical style; he is a pre-eminently free artist. According to critic Hans Theys, Swennen’s poetics are ‘marked by a radical stance, that he himself sums up in the sentence: “Listeners do not make the music” (headphones and the public create nothing). For Swennen this implies the total autonomy of the art work; it does not have to be understood, does not have to evoke emotions. The art work does not have to do anything. It owes its status to the fact that it was made by an artist.’ The movement known as ‘new painting’ was characterized by great productivity (in contrast to the scarce works of conceptual and minimalist artists), and by the unscrupulous re-use and combining of techniques and motifs taken from old or modern currents. The creative freedom that exudes from Swennen’s work – that sometimes seems nonchalant, but always engenders confusion – is not motivated by an aim to shock, it is related to a rather defensive egocentric attitude. And if there is anarchism here, then it is of the individualistic, Stirner variety. An announcement of a large-scale retrospective of his work speaks of ‘a poetic-humoristic analysis of the relationship between symbol, readability, meaning and execution; marked by a free but precise painterly treatment.’ – A novice swimmer on the gallows or a figure who spits or shouts in two overlapping positions emphatically testify to a ‘poetic-humoristic’ spirit, but even more so to an anti-pictorial attitude. Before starting to paint, Swennen was active as a poet, and the way that he handles motifs – he takes them as he finds them, high or low, and manipulates them at will – harks back to this previous incarnation. What is said about Magritte, about his best work, also holds for Swennen: he makes paintings with images like a poet makes a poem with words.

Date:  2007
Period:  21st century
Origin:  Belgium
Medium: Pen and ink on paper
Signature: Signed and dated WS 07 lower right.

Dimensions: 18.5 x 13 cm (7¹/₄ x 5¹/₈ inches)
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints