Encounter with Raoul De Keyser
At several points in Raoul De Keyser's (°1930-2012) life, Robbrecht en Daem architecten provided a spatial intervention in function of his artworks. There were the scenographies for his work in Initiatief 86, Documenta IX, De Dingen Die Ik Zie, a spatial intervention in the artist's own studio and the creation of a bench for the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens. Later the posthumous retrospective Oeuvre at S.M.A.K. was added. Each intervention was about creating a space for that very specific work by De Keyser - that is, for works of art that emanate a great tension and that immediately strike the eye. His works are what we could call anything but final paintings, anything but a final image.
Special within our own architectural work process is how De Keyser’s paintings especially do not want to attach themselves to space. His work tends to have a wariness about the place it is in. It is not 'place-affirming', it almost seeks disintegration. Therefore, in the process of creating a space for these works, we beheld the artworks as satellites in space. This was a recurring phenomenon in all of De Keyser's exhibitions, no matter how different the contexts. Where Initiatief 86 had a very wide room, the paintings became almost points in space. During Documenta IX, in a room with two glass walls, his very ephemeral works became almost non-existent paintings. In all exhibitions, a seat was required in order to be able to interpret everything. The bench, the sitting and understanding became a permanent theme.
"His paintings will never become part of something. They seem to me to be crystallisations, compressed materials, given extra definition by the sometimes limited dimensions of the painting. Some of his works are like temporary delineations of endless surfaces or fragments plucked from an endlessly advancing linear structure." ¹
1 Original Publication: Paul Robbrecht, “Bilder, Vorübergehend an eine Wand gelehnt”, in Ulrich Loock, Kasper König and Ulrich Wilmes, eds, Raoul De Keyser, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bern (Bern and Frankfurt, 1991), pp. 55–6.