Y V E S Z U R S T R A S S E N
"The painter combines spontaneity and a renewed gestural energy, a formal and colourful audacity, a rhythm in the movement that, in harmony with the structuring of pictorial space and collage - décollage, attests to a mastering of language and liberty of expression."
- Francoise Dumont, Curator, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Liège
Landau Contemporary is proud to present our online solo exhibition of works by Yves Zurstrassen.
Free of formalism, Zurstrassen's singular abstract technique of application and withdrawal, of building successive layers of pigment then removing the stencilled sheets beneath,
reveal the archeology of the artist's construction and allows the viewer to immerse themselves in all the stages of creation.
These works represent a process, a gesture, and a moment that transcends temporality.
A self-taught painter who trained in graphic art, Zurstrassen began his artistic career at the age of 18. Initially honing his craft by visiting museums and pursuing his interest in Tachism in the 1980s, Zurstrassen then immersed himself in the works of master Abstract Expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly and Hans Hofmann, whose groundbreaking theories on action painting, subjectivity and pictorial space contradicted the prevailing French ideology that painting had ceased to be a progressive art form.
"All works date back to the Dadaists, date back to Matisse, but have also evolved a lot. But without these great artists, I wouldn’t be here."
- Yves Zurstrassen
In pursuit of freedom of expression espoused by this group, Zurstrassen deliberately chose to focus on painting, with only the stretchers, the canvas, paper, and paint as his tools. Employing colour like words to convey the subtle nuance of thought, attitude and feeling, the artist sought to create an art form whose sole function was to express more than describe.
At the end of the 1990s, the artist found an old cotton factory and converted it into a studio, believing it to be the optimum environment for creation with its vast interior space bathed in natural northern light that poured from the glass ceilings; here he set about discovering the appropriate form for this expression.
Steered by his love of Dadaism, namely the work of Kurt Schwitters, Zurtsrassen’s aesthetic experienced a Renaissance as of 2000. The works from this period concentrated on small-format studies, which allowed him to experiment and improvise with collage on an intimate scale, using torn, cut-out newsprint that was integrated into the picture and then detached to reveal successive layers of paint beneath, or the history of the painting as Zurstrassen would say.
Zurstrassen's innovative use of décollage later evolved as he discarded the newsprint in favour of shapes cut from photos of public spaces, urban motifs or details of everyday life that are digitally reworked and printed on a cutting machine on paper-thin blank sheets that are subsequently and meticulously applied to the painted canvas. The result is a highly sophisticated spatial duality, at once physical, through interlaced collage elements, and optical through the precise removal of elements by décollage.
The process is a complicated one. The contrast of painterly application, where the artist's meandering gestural strokes find their counterpoint in the calculation of the digital prints, create a dialogue between the concrete and the abstract. For this, Zurstrassen builds, not only through layers but in size, growing his ideas as they develop; mounting studies and discarded works on the wall for reference and reworking old canvases into new ideas on a monumental scale.
"My sheet music!" He says of the small works mounted on his studio walls. "I study them. Everything is born from there. I start small and I grow.
Small shapes, I miss, I tear apart, before moving to the big canvas. I like opposites. Like in jazz, improvisation is decisive! ”
- Yves Zurstrassen
(Photo property of Mercatorfonds, Belgium)
Zurstrassen investigates all aspects of a theme or problem in an expanding series of paintings that develop in scope and size before he transfers them onto large-scale canvases. However, these small works are not cursory studies, each is a fully worked out pictorial concept that exists on its own.
"In this delicate and fast succession of working steps, there is a serial intervention in time and space, which is the originality of such a technical procedure and perfectly represents its actuality. The potential of expression of this way of painting seems nearly unlimited."
- Francis Feidler, Artistic Director of IKOB
These smaller works, or 'research areas' as Zurstrassen calls them, are the seeds of his creativity. As the artist moves toward large-scale canvases, the paintings that were carefully filed in his archives are photographed, digitally manipulated then reappear in new canvases, in different media, with different gestures - they too are deconstructed. His exploration of the past, therefore, is not only that of art history but of the development of his pictorial language.
Before we reach the apex of Zurstrassen's large-scale canvases, the result of his studies, deconstructions, works that are inspired by improvisation, happy accidents and calculated planning, these monumental works were preceded by another phase in the artist's oeuvre.
The black and white paintings signal a break from Zurstrassen's colourful output since, according to the artist, working in monochrome requires a completely different mindset and viewership. The black that initially blanketed the canvas loses its predominance once the filigree white collage components are removed.
"These pictures confound the eye," wrote Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Becker. "The white anonymous arabesque perforate the black surface and draw the gaze through the apertures into the black ground. And just as the alternating relationship between ground and plane balances out in the eye of the beholder, so too does the composition of 'floating' motifs on the picture plane gradually become tangible as the result of guided chance."
As Zurstrassen adds hints of gold or grey into these monochrome compositions, he is no longer satisfied with the constraints of black and white, and inevitably, he returns to his vibrantly colourful, large-scale canvases. The monumental works that mark the crowning achievement of his creative process.
"Zurstrassen is not a theoretician in the usual sense of the word, but is rather an experimenter who does not eschew any risks."
- Renate Puvogel
(Photo property Zurstrassen Studio)
"The greatest source of energy may indeed come from the tension, which is provided by the risks of this new technique. Much more than the application of colour, it is the process of reduction, the uncovering of hidden parts through décollage, which is full of surprises, since success or failure only become evident at the last moment, when the covered segments appear from below the removed collage parts. It is as if the curtain opens on a new scene, where the painter quite suddenly stands before the final result."
- Renate Puvogel
Zurstrassen reminisces about his past through a series of pictures.
Yves Zurstrassen currently lives and works in his birthplace of Brussels. Since 1993 numerous galleries have presented his work at international art fairs such as ART Basel, ART Brussels, ARCO Madrid, and FIAC Paris, however his first North American show was in Montreal at Galerie Dominion.
Eschewing the implementation of concrete images, Zurstrassen maintains the concern of painting as a manifestation through the history of art itself. In the early 1980s, Zurstrassen began examining the work of his artistic precedents and colleagues. His investigation of the painting process came through the scrutiny of Tachism or Abstract Expressionism as found in the work of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Hans Hofmann.
By 2002, he gradually introduced pure colour into his work, further employing collaged elements by cutting up his paintings and inserting portions of them into new compositions. His preoccupation with spatial depth and movement has resulted in the employment of the ‘décollage’ technique, which is the process of applying cut-out elements and treating them as stencils. After painting over the cut-out shapes, they are carefully removed, thereby building multiple textured layers that create an optical pulsation across the canvas. Zurstrassen’s paintings on display at Galerie Dominion represent a selection of his most recent work. These pieces enliven the gallery space through vibrant colour and erratic forms, infusing the atmosphere with what art authorities have labelled a ‘new abstraction’.
As well as having had numerous solo and group exhibitions over the years, Zurstrassen has participated in a public exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain Liège. Zurstrassen has been a major presence in the international market and is represented by galleries in Paris and Madrid, among others.
A Beautiful Day, Metro Gare de l'Ouest, Brussels
2019 Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo, Spain
2019 Landau Contemporary at Galerie Dominion, Montreal,
2017 Galerie Xippas, Geneva, Switzerland
2016 Fonds Hélène & Édouard Leclerc, Landerneau, France
2016 Galerie Triangle Bleu, Stavelot, Belgium
2014 Museum Kurhaus, Kleve, Germany
2012 Galerie Triangle Bleu, Stavelot, Belgium
2012 Approche aux Constellations, Gr. Ex., Atelier 340 Muzeum, Belgium
2012 Galerie Eric Linard, La-Garde Adhemar, France
2011 Espacio de Arte Antonio Perez, Guadalajara, Spain
2011 Carreras Mugica, Bilbao, Spain
2011 Fundacion Antonio Perez, San Clemente, Spain
2011 Fundacion Antonio Perez, Cuenca, Spain
2010 Musée National des Beaux-Arts Riga, Latvia
2009 Museum van Bommel van Dam Venlo
2009 Grid Paintings, IKOB, Eupen, Belgium
2009 Metro Gare de l’Ouest, Brussels
2008 Aboa Vetus Ars Nova, Turku Finland
2008 The IKOB Collection, Museum van Bommel van Darn, Venlo, Netherlands
2008 The IKOB Collecction, MOYA – Museum of Young Art Vienne, Austria
2008 Musée des Beaux-Arts Mons, Belgium
2007 Art Basel Miami Beach, Landau Fine Art
2007 Landau Contemporary at Galerie Dominion, Montreal,
2007 Art Basel Switzerland, Landau Fine Art
2007 Art Chicago, Landau Fine Art
2007 TEFAF Maastricht, Holland, Landau Fine Art
2006 Musée d’Art moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Liège, Belgium
2006 Landau Contemporary at Galerie Dominion, Montreal
A Beautiful Day, Metro Gare de l'Ouest, Brussels
We thank you for visiting our online exhibition. Please contact the gallery to find out more about this exceptional artist.