Stef Driesen & Leon Vranken, BEND, STRETCH, RELAX

Nieuw Zuid

‘BEND STRETCH RELAX’ shows the first duo exhibition of Stef Driesen (°1966, Hasselt) and Leon Vranken (°1975, Maaseik).

‘BEND STRETCH RELAX’ is about tension: building tension, stretching it and finally letting go. The rhythm of this exhibition is determined by a sequence of images, sculptures and interactions. Together they create a context that was expertly determined by both artists.

There lies a certain freedom in making art: artists borrow ideas and forms from all kinds of disciplines. They are free to bend and oppose the conventions and rules, and also free to adopt and appropriate them.

Unlike artists, designers are problem solvers, they have to think about efficiency. Utensils have a rich history, one that is deeply rooted in functionality. Leon Vranken’s work deals with a lack thereof. The different components that act here as applied art are primarily visual art. It’s not the division or hierarchy between design and art that captures Vranken’s attention, but the underlying motives. Vranken engages in a charm offensive with the viewer. One that is marked by wit, cleverness and a strong sense of aesthetics. He alludes to recent art historical categories, concepts and genres, often derived from painting. They also refer to themselves, to how they are exhibited. Stuck, as if anytime tension could break. Objects as an instrument of reflection instead of use. As if they are mediators between different disciplines.

Stef Driesen's paintings feel cold. Like bodies, saving their own flesh, with alternating round shapes, hard lines and a skin in soft gray tones. Looking becomes touching. Sometimes the paintings glow, like overwrought fantasies, then you see vague, anonymous bodies in a swirl of hues and tones. Driesen paints them as studies of time and light. As ‘fleurs du mal’ they are a combination of sexual subjects and an emphatic aesthetic, they are major themes that Driesen makes tangible through painting. On the canvas are no empty gestures, the paintings are almost inaccessible. He shows vaguely recognizable shapes and uses paint to give meaning through light and depth to, at first sight, insignificant shapes. He creates an abstract space where the love for matter triumphs.

Each artist has procedures and limitations, unique to his own field. Stef Driesen and Leon Vranken investigate how different disciplines interact. In this exhibition they describe an open-ended research. They reveal what normally remains hidden: the pleasure of making.

Represented artists