The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art
presents Raoul De Keyser: Watercolors, on view through May 3, 2009. Raoul De Keyser is a painter, born in 1930 in Deinze, Belgium, where he still lives. His works have been exhibited since the 1960s, and since the middle of the 1980s his painting has enjoyed the highest international acclaim. While Raoul De Keyser tries to avoid the glamorous side of the contemporary art world, his work is shown regularly by the leading museums and private galleries on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2005 Museu Serralves presented a comprehensive painting exhibition of his work. The present show presents 60 watercolours from 2001 to 2008 which have never been exhibited before.
For over half a century Raoul De Keyser has developed an idiosyncratic body of painting that communicates with the decisive achievements of 20th century painting, from the constructivist abstraction of De Stijl, Malevich and other Russian painters of that period to the Abstract Expressionism of Barnett Newman, post-painterly abstraction and more recent works such as Robert Rymans research into the fundamentals of painting or Gerhard Richters dialectical implementation of diverting painterly concepts, without ever seeking a straightforward connection to any of those models or claiming a definitive historical position in relation to such oeuvres of reference and orientation, whether precedents or contemporary, and without sharing their ideological implications. De Keysers work is informed by the search for a place of its own for his painting.
Watercolours are one part of this eminent painters oeuvre that has to date remained virtually unknown to the wider public even though some exhibitions, albeit a few, have been devoted to that specific practice. The watercolour work has undoubtedly been overshadowed by the primary interest in Raoul De Keysers painted work. This focus is understandable. Throughout his artistic career, De Keyser has continually shifted the parameters of his painting and thus regularly renewed the challenge posed by his work. In some ways there has never been a particular need to look for additional aspects to his work.
As Ulrich Loock, the curator of the exhibition at Serralves argues in his catalogue essay devoted to Raoul De Keysers watercolours, his paintings are triggered usually by a specific observation, location, or situation, by a painterly precedent or an object belonging to his close environment which is then embraced and consumed by the particular work or group of works on their way to gain a sort of self-sufficiency. While the watercolours are one part of Raoul De Keysers oeuvre.
and share the concerns he is engaged with in his painted work, they belong at the same time to a field of experimentation which presents clues for his paintings. To be clear in this respect: De Keysers way of working does not allow for preliminary studies, he is not an artist who plans and projects his activity. He is an artist who progresses by responding to certain precedents, not really knowing or seeing what is ahead of him, expecting this to unveil itself in the course of the picture-making the watercolours like other things assume the status of such precedents.
As with his paintings, Raoul De Keysers watercolours negotiate different measures of diverting from figurative precedents towards abstraction, and of returning to the things visible in the outside world. They do this, however, in an easier and more rapid, namely more intimate way than the paintings. Thus encountering his watercolours will be an eye-opener for the public making that experience for the first time.
Raoul De Keyser, Watercolours has been curated by the Deputy Director of the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Ulrich Loock, and co-produced with The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Ireland, represented by its Director, John Hutchinson.