Raoul De Keyser’s oeuvre is permeated by an original, internal and inherently spatial constellation. De Keyser’s paintings do not fit within the Renaissance idiom of a window upon an illusory perspective. The paintings shift, glide, oscillate, overlap and, at times, they also fall. Even when they do in fact suggest an architectonic space, a cabinet for example, there is a certain spatial friction. It is precisely this extremely controlled sense of turmoil that lends the works their independence and noticeably removes them from the context in which they are shown. The structure and material construction of the works lends them a degree of autonomy; they juxtapose themselves against their architectural surroundings.
This is a particularly valuable and above all deliberate attitude, a balance on a knife’s edge between pictorial presence and space itself. The art of Raoul De Keyser is what it should be: a critical presence. This challenge, therefore, has its advantages. It demands that the architecture adopts the role of a guardian towards the works of art, a shelter; it asks that it define a path, a trajectory; it asks for light and visibility. And it asks, above all, that it be a place for the encounter between image and viewer. ‘Initiatief’ (Ghent, 1986), ‘Documenta IX’ (Kassel, 1992) and ‘The Things I See’ (Brussels, 2011) are all, as much as they are experiences, what we would also call critical encounters.
The exhibition architecture for ‘The Things I See’ took place in the counter hall of the former seat of the Belgian Postal Service by Victor Bourgeois, now the Flemish Parliament. Within this very specific architectural environment of Bourgeois, with its rhythm of beams, a course of walls was created and a slightly raised, dark wooden floor was put down. A route was marked off with the help of five niches – U-shaped interior spaces with rectangular ground plans of unequal sizes – with as a ceiling only a winding narrow edge, on which the lighting has been hung. The five large niches lay perpendicular to one another in a row behind and opposite one another, creating a sense of intimacy while screening off the works. It is only in the rooms themselves, and through some incidental perspectives from one room to the other, that we see De Keyser’s intimate, modest painting.
Robbrecht en Daem architecten
scenography for the exhibition ‘De dingen die ik zie/The Things I See’ by Raoul De Keyser
Paul Robbrecht, Hilde Daem, Johannes Robbrecht, Florence Daem