Forms of Waywardness

Raoul De Keyser Dalton 1990

“De Keyser was adamant in his commitment to the most economical use of materials and compositional strategiesDalton (1990) is only four Cobalt dots organized on a flat ground the color of dead grass. The whisper of that same blue flashes through just where the canvas turns across the stretcher bars. This small, unassuming painting does a lot with a bare minimum of tools. The four dots reflect the boundaries of the canvas itself, making it a kind of object painting; they suggest a grid structure. The wobbly brushwork blurs into the wet ground—obviously painted, erased, and repainted. These visible imperfections intentionally reveal De Keyser’s mistakes, his rethinking during the process of painting. After relentless scrutiny and repeated editing, only the most essential elements remain.” [Stephen Truax on Raoul De Keyser]

Raoul De Kyser Front 1992

“To return to your question about why I used an absorbing surface: the painting is essentially about these traces of this white line. Many of my paintings are an exercise in recalcitrant painting, a purification of lines or surfaces. I used to have a neighbour whose job it was to paint the white lines on the football pitch. He did so with a bucket and a brush. When he was painting, he sometimes had to go back, because the wayward grass resisted… I, too, always searched for forms of waywardness. What is technical competence? Going from A to B. Some do it as straight as possible, others do it waltzing…” [Raoul De Keyser in conversation with Hans Theys]

Raoul de Keyser Bleu de ciel 1992

“In truth, when you encounter a De Keyser it doesn’t take too much imagination to attribute it to an amateur painter having a try at abstraction after seeing reproductions somewhere of paintings by Clyfford Still and Jean Arp. He manages to lay down a few jagged shapes, usually all the same color, against a monochrome ground. The limited palette suggests not any reductivist strategy but a novice who has invested in only a couple of tubes of paint. No effort is made to hide the laborious adjustments to the contours of the shapes or preliminary pencil markings. No line is quite straight; placement of shapes and dots of color appear either senselessly random or stiffly coordinated. As French curator Jean-Charles Vergne puts it, De Keyser’s work “constantly asserts the impossibility of painting free of touch-ups, mistakes, accidents, set on laying bare the seams, the second tries and the failures. . . . [There is] a constant stuttering in the painting.” [Raphael Rubenstein on Raoul De Keyser]

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