Egon Van Herreweghe

always a thief and never caught

Egon Van Herreweghe unravels idiosyncratic processes and operations that may lead to the creation of autonomous images. The results of his research are temporary presentations of visual art and ephemeral spatial interventions that eloquently annotate the status of the image and its genetic material. Subcutaneously shining through is the thinking garnered from the impossibility of the photographic image. The mechanical operation of the camera limits the (tactile) experience. Egon Van Herreweghe transposes the image output from the camera-space to the context of the workshop and then to the exhibition site and thus chooses to create images manually.

Imbued with the inability to reproduce reality, he attempts to work within a range that makes visible the operations and processes that can lead to the creation of autonomous images. He not presents the viewer with an intimate vocabulary with which to interpret the images as an open field of infinite and changing possibilities. In recent years he has collected a non-organised archive of photos and clippings from newspapers, magazines and books. He investigates them by repeatedly processing them with reproduction techniques such as copying, scanning and printing. The realisation that he grew up with and was surrounded by reproductions contributes to his finding that the experience of the materiality of the image is blurred. The representation of the image has repressed the intimacy of the experience. Egon Van Herreweghe treats the image as a body and the carrier of that image as a skin. He attempts to reveal the possible pictures found within the texture of their carriers. In the exhibition we see a non-hierarchical set of overhauled colourful ads from Vogue magazine resulting from this view. The photographs function as pigment. No paint is added. A cloth impregnated with solvent disrupts the wrinkle-free ideals depicted. In an extension of this idea, within the elongated room, he draws the line to a kind of archaeology of the exhibition space, in which he inflicts scars on the walls, and glosses them over with foundation cream. This is a gesture borrowed from make-up stylists. It accentuates the smoothing of layer after layer of traces of former artworks. In another area, a residual image of a previous action is recuperated. The unexpectedly emerged image is granted here the same status as a consciously chosen image. The unconscious registration of an abstract negative image can generate new interpretations. It indicates the aspiration of the artist to see what is already present and his desire to emphasise this rather wanting to constantly rewrite or to formulate.

In the adjacent room, the artist has pasted on the walls a baroque painting in a reproduction sequence. It is a clew of bodies lashed with iconoclastic tears to the picture surface. One feels an art historical reference to Picasso’s Guernica and subversive décollage. Essentially it is a searching gesture towards the openness of the image by dissecting layers. He offers an intimate vocabulary to liberate the interpretation of an image as an open field of infinitely variable possibilities.

The work frivolously prepared on the partition wall of the storage space is a documentary record of a museum space, in which the installed works have been wrapped up. The architectural background is conveyed by the floor plan, revealing the space in its naked form. Without the ability to actually enter the space, the visitor is encouraged to consider it contemplatively. This incitement to imagination is emphasised by the strong presence of a reproduced design object, whose coverings is composed of recycled rags. The object, which presents itself as an abstract negative or inside-out image, is a copy of Poul Kjaerholm’s recliner, reconstructed from a photograph. The ragged patches throughout the covering layers convey the indelible tracks and brittle non-functional way in which they are sewn together, referring to the body as a carrier of irreversible decay.

Egon Van Herreweghe (b. 1985) studied photography at KASK in Ghent, followed by a Master’s arts & design at St. Lucas Antwerp. In January 2014 he started the postgraduate course at HISK in Ghent. Always a thief and never caught is his first institutional solo exhibition in Belgium. This summer, MER. Paper Kunsthalle, brings out a publication that follows the book project, Best Available Copy that he developed in collaboration with Dominique Somers.