Visual artist Hans Op de Beeck is somewhat of a master of all mediums, but it’s with his digitally-led techniques that he builds mystifying visual constructs. 

Francesca Gransden  |  Ed YoungMi Lamine |  14 July 2020

© Courtesy of the artist.

Born in Turnhout, Belgium in 1969, Hans Op de Beeck now lives and works in Brussels. Ultimately fascinated about questioning the relationship between reality and representation, his work bounces between the physical and the abstract with his impressive oeuvre of work spanning across video works, installation, sculpture, photography, animated films, short stories, paintings, drawings, photography, new media and stage design. As his latest solo exhibition ‘The Horseman and Other Stories’ is set to open this month at San Gimignano’s contemporary Galleria Continua in the heart of Tuscany we take a look at some of his digital works which have underpinned his extensive and successful international career.

© Courtesy of the artist.
© Courtesy of the artist.

Staging Silence (3) (2020)

First screened at the Flagey Cinema in Brussels in February as part of the Anima Animation Film Festival, alongside Night Time (2015) and The Girl (2017), Staging Silence (3) (2020) was the final installment concluding a series of three films under the same name. The newest film is a forty-four minute exploration of time and space. Taking the viewer on a gradual and methodical journey, the viewer witnesses two pairs of hands creating unpopulated, impenetrable and often melancholic worlds. These small scale black and white scenes are handcrafted by the pair – clearly signaled as male and female through additional accessories such as a pearl bracelet – with precise delicacy and purpose, and seek to create and dissipate expectations of space, time and light. 

As Hans says “I like to detach, knead, direct and show.” Channeling this energy through a powerful dance of intervention, they perform, reflect and decide on the life, death, growth, blossoming, decay, or ephemerality of the mini film sets they create. The interior and exterior landscape and domestic scapes are brimming with cultural and subcultural references, drawing on historical and current themes. Exploring how we exist in space and time with minimal visual language, Hans seeks to humanise empty spaces with interventions of nature and architecture, to create real meaning, solid identity and a logical relationship with time. 

© Courtesy of the artist.

Rooms (2017)

The incorporation of digital tools means as a method of bringing imagination to life can also be seen in Op de Beeck’s 2017 series: Rooms. This body of work focuses on the melancholic loss of self and the subtle moment in which a person within an interior space is able to sink into a space of mental absence. 

Always seeking to stimulate viewer’s senses in his visual fiction, Hans places each protagonist in distinct surroundings. The interiors offer insights into the life and social background of the individuals but also places them in a specific moment of their lives. Stylistically, these pieces can be described as closely related to paintings, as Han’s capacity to digitally design interiors is reminiscent of crafting imaginative worlds with precise brush strokes. The realism achieved is astonishing, appearing almost photographic to the viewer. Further to this, Hans employs a digital ‘frame’, alluding to the classical paintings of artists such as the Flemish Primitives. In using a central perspective with a single vanishing point, Hans invites us to metaphorically enter the digital space, pause in introspection and enjoy the bewildering wonder.

Despite this parallel with painting, Hans more obvious reference is to that of film noir. The use of characters – or actors – in his virtual photographic studios, alludes to cinematographic, black and white big widescreen films and invite the viewer to fully experience the three-dimensionality of presented images. But he never denies the artificial nature of these spaces, made ever-present by the use of computer-generated imagery, questioning yet again, what it means to exist in these spaces and in these modern times. As he describes, “in a very natural and obvious way, a kind of distance and alienation sneaks into my imagery. But there is also the conscious choice to isolate and abstract aspects of the complexity of life from the bigger picture.”

© Courtesy of the artist. Sea Of Tranquility by Hans Op de Beeck | MOCAtv Presents The Poetics

About the Artist

Hans Op de Beeck was born in Turnhout, Belgium in 1969 and now lives and works in Brussels, Belgium. His diverse range of work has been featured in an extensive range of solo and group exhibitions for over twenty years. 

“I generally try to evoke an artificial world, a condensed version of reality that says something about us as human beings and that often awkwardly stages our life, our relationship to others, our environment and our mortality (…) Beyond the support I use, I hope my works are like a consoling hand on the shoulder, a warm hug and a mental oasis for peace and tranquility”, declares the artist.

Key Achievements

His work has been invited to the Venice Biennale, Venice, IT; the Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai, CN; the Aichi Triennale, Aichi, JP; the Singapore Biennale, Singapore, SG; Art Summer University, Tate Modern, London, GB; the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, IN and many other art events.

Past Shows and Fair Booths

Solo Show

Kunsthalle Krems, Krems an der Donau, AT (2019)

Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NL (2018);

Les Moulins, Boissy-le-Châtel, FR (2018);

Museum Morsbroich, DE (2017);

Kunstraum Dornbirn, DE (2017);

Fondazione Pino Pascali, Polignano a Mare, IT (2017);

Group shows

The Reina Sofia, Madrid, ES; the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, AZ, US; the Towada Art Center, Towada, JP; ZKM, Karlsruhe, DE; MACRO, Rome, IT; the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, GB; PS1, New York, NY, US; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR; Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Köln, DE; Hangar Bicocca, Milano, IT; the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, JP; 21C Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, US; The Drawing Center, New York, NY, US; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, AT; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, CN; MAMBA, Buenos Aires, AR; Haus der Kunst, Munich, DE; Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna, IT; Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, DE; Musée des Beaux Arts de Caen, Caen, FR; Kunstraum Dornbirn, Dornbirn, AU; Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, DE; Den Frie Center of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen, DK; Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, BE; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, DE; Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, DE.

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