Ilse D’Hollander (Victoria Miro Gallery)
Victoria Miro Gallery, 2018
In her short life, Ilse D’Hollander (1968 – 1997) created an intelligent, sensual and highly resonant body of work. Born in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, in 1968, graduating from the Hoger Instituut voor Beeldende Kunsten, St Lucas, Gent, in 1991, D’Hollander was steadfastly committed to painting as an intellectual and emotional endeavour. Her often small-scale canvases and works on paper are charged with references to the everyday. Yet, enlivened by an expressive, though always economical, touch, her work resonates just as strongly as a sustained, self-reflexive enquiry into the act of painting: what it might take to bring an image into being on a bounded, flat plane.
D’Hollander drew upon her impressions and experience of place, particularly the Flemish countryside where she spent the last, highly productive years of her life. Occasionally her work recalls lowland vistas – vast horizons that belie an intimate scale. However, while alluding to objects and places in the world, as well as specifics of temperature and light, D’Hollander’s paintings are seldom immediately recognisable as straightforward landscapes. Instead, drawing the viewer in, her work reveals a masterful command of graphic and painterly touch that captures, holds and, often, diverts attention. Monochrome or near monochrome fields might be interrupted by blocks of colour; geometric volumes softened by streaks or strokes of paint – applied with a brush or sometimes the artist’s hands. The results can be read as a series of accumulated impressions, adjustments and layerings within her judiciously pared-back compositions – a visual record of the artist’s thought processes.
In 1991, in the only published text she wrote about her work, D’Hollander explained her process: ‘A painting comes into being when ideas and the act of painting coincide. When referring to ideas, it implies that as a painter, I am not facing my canvas as a neutral being but as an acting being who is investing into the act of painting. My being is present in my action on the canvas.’
Ilse D’Hollander committed suicide in 1997, at the age of 28. A single solo exhibition of her work was held during her lifetime. However, over the past decade her work has been the subject of a number of solo and group presentations in Europe and the United States, where it has found a receptive new audience. Writing about D’Hollander’s paintings in The New York Times in 2016, the critic Roberta Smith commented that ‘They share some common ground with Belgian painters like Raoul de Keyser and Luc Tuymans, but their softened geometries are more open, accommodating suggestions of landscape, seashore and weather as well as abstraction.’
Published on the occasion of the first exhibition of the late Belgian artist in the UK, this book focuses on the rich dialogue between abstraction and representation in D’Hollander’s paintings, with an illuminating essay by David Anfam, writer, critic and Senior Consulting Curator at the Clyfford Still Museum, Denver.