Belgian artist Adelheid De Witte (BE, 1982) is an autodidact. After wandering around Barcelona and painting behind closed doors for five years, the artist has been showing her masterful paintings and surprising objects for a short while now. In that span of time her works have become more and more abstract.
Representation turned out to be too restrictive for De Witte and so figuration disappeared into the background to finally dissolve into cloudy structures and vibrating line figures. From her research into light and shadow effects as well as colour creation, abstract landscapes emerged in which occasionally elements appear that vaguely recall objects. Objects that the artist found on the streets of Barcelona back then and which she incorporated into assemblages and installations. Spatial interventions such as a collection of cut umbrellas on the floor already testified to De Witte’s fascination with materials, but also to her urge to break out into space.
Today she pushes the boundaries of the two-dimensional surface further and further away with her often larger-format canvases. The landscape fades out and eventually evaporates. It is up to the viewer to project a landscape in the clouds and the incidence of light. Contrasting shapes and colours, the confrontation between old and new, West and East intrigue the artist. Sources of inspiration include antique art, pietas, wooden statues of saints condemned to abstraction by the hands of time, paintings from the Romantic period, objects from De Witte’s childhood, prints of Japanese woodcuts and Japanese pattern books. In these Japanese art forms it is mainly the use of two contrasting colours within one monochrome movement that fascinates and inspires the artist.
According to time-honoured tradition, De Witte works layer by layer, wet in wet. Dark layers are alternated with various transparent lighter layers. Line figures in different materials (wasco, pastel chalk, charcoal, ...), always in one movement, are applied in between and on top. Paint is rubbed or scratched away again. The result are slightly estranging works in magical-realistic colours, rather opaque, as if they were closed off by a ‘dirty’; layer of varnish, though clearing up here and there.
De Witte’s more recent works are remarkably lighter in tonality. Bright colours frame abstract landscapes or flash by like fireworks. The works have something festive: calligraphic lines dance gracefully up and down in the air, like the rhythmic ribbon of a gymnast. For her paintings the artist does not limit herself to classical canvases. Their shape is unusual: round, polygonal or that of a (round arched) window. In addition to canvas, she also brings materials such as wood, slate, old lace machines and drumheads into the studio. De Witte does not necessarily apply colour with a brush or not even with a binder mixed into paint for that matter. She also rubs pure pigment into canvas, puts it into tubes and lets colour light up in neon sculptures.
Adelheid De Witte’s way of working is characterised by an intuitive process, a quest in which the artist allows herself to be surprised by the rawness of her materials, the emptiness and an unpredictable jumble of movements. Something happens. At 11pm? Rather out of time, or somewhere in a twilight zone. De Witte’s work is crackling. She surprises with a stunning window on reality.
Adelheid De Witte
There are Fireworks at 11pm
19 September - 25 October 2020