After initially working in the field of poetry and performance Walter Swennen (born 1946) developed an extensive artistic oeuvre since the early 1980s that makes decided use of painting as a pictorial medium. In the process, the artist retains a conceptual proximity to a painting that is now once again all too gladly elevated as art’s supreme discipline. And although it might seem traditionalistic upon first glance he nevertheless concentrates on the self-made picture with all the strengths and weaknesses of painterly means.
It is the material circumstances of painting, the convention of the panel picture that Swennen plumbs in order to generally explore the quality of iconic and symbolic signs. Put differently, he tests image and word through painting with a view to its significance and effect. This approach can be characterised as a cognitive critical project that, references philosophical, semiotic and psychological discourses despite being carried out wholly in painting as medium, currency and institution. It is consequently not surprising that every picture once again represents its innermost problem that in each case must be handled separately and brought to a painterly solution and must also simply ‘succeed’ as a picture. Walter Swennen’s oeuvre is accordingly heterogeneous. It thrives on the complexity of the individual picture without taking style, manner or genre into consideration.
Organised in close cooperation with Walter Swennen the retrospective exhibition A Perfect Alibi at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf features circa 35 works by the Brussels-born artist, who now again lives and works in his native city. Featuring numerous loans from collections in Belgium, the Netherlands and French, the works made over a period of some thirty-five years provide an exemplary overview of the production of this artist, which can now be seen in such detail for the first time in Germany.
The exhibition likewise serves also the opening salvo for a series of events in the Kunstverein that are specifically devoted to the increasingly problematic position of the object in art – or rather the ‘thing art’.
Curated by Hans-Jürgen Hafner
The exhibition is supported by