Elodie Lélu: 'Esthetics of re-integration'
Details: To plunge into the painting of Bob De Groof, is before everything else to know it by detail. Without going as far as Daniel Arasse can our looks easily collide with pieces of old posters, granny's lace, cans, paintingtubes, music-scores, women's lingerie and why not, if we get nearer, sand and pieces of shells. Are we face to face with collages, marouflages, assemblages or integratiens? How do we call these skilful composition which mix historical, sociological and publicitary images? Difficult to find a name, except by going back and look at the entire picture.
Integrations: It then becomes obvious that the the used materials, found by De Groof on his diverse walks, are not only pieces of an assemblage, pieces of a collage, no, those elements are 'integrated materials'. Indeed, to assemble means bringing together all kinds of of strange objects which produce a generally bizarre generally bizarre whole, whereas integration is this action of making complete, entire, bringing an integral part into an emsemble. And it is precisely this integration which produce a generally bizarre whole, whereas integration is this action of making complete, entire ,bringing an integral part into an ensemble. And it is precisely this integration which is at the base of the feeling of a harmonious whole created by his canvases. Those who look at them can always distinguish the outline of external elements, while being persuaded to find themselves facing an organic whole. There will be a constant and non-diffuse state seen by them.
Temporalities: And those integrated objects give the canvases their temporality: an old glove, a piece of wood the sea carried in, used garterbelts. Paintings change themselves with all these lives to be reborn in the same space-time, that of creation. So we do not contemplate a petrified instant, but more a vertical time, which displays itself in successive, sheets superposed between themselves: they are what could be called, in a ensemble 'integrated temporalities'. In the central point of De Groof's most recent works, black blue colours have so much been intensified that it seems as if something burned. The plaine is so fashioned , so pressed together. It is as if its been sedimented: drippings subjected to gravitation have stilled and dried in a magma of sand and woodsplinters. All those outwardly elements, bearers of different temporalities are however being brought to contribution of an interior world, that of the artist.
Expressionism: Which makes that De Groof's work often has been qualified as figurative expressionsm. In fact they let his demons, his visions often tied to anxiety and a clear form of revolt against surrounding society be seen. In logical relation to this, there exists this movement from exterior to interior, which integrate outer objects who express his inner world.
Violence and contemporary suffering: And this interior world is intimately linked to the actual universe in which we evolve: De Groof's paintings speak to us about our present. Like Georges Bataille the painter gathers shock-images, clichés of Chinese crucifixions, of torture, which he re-actualises in his canvases. The war pictures he integrates , certainly express his mangled world, but also and more they summon the violence of our societies. Because soldiers face publicity symbols, because Baader's gang faces Mickey Mouse, there has been played with a reflection of our contemporary values. De Groof shows us, in an explosive form, how much we infantilise suffering. There exists today a contained violence that the painter tries to make us see.
Humour: Nevertheless it is always in a humorous way De Groof talks to us. He plays in his integrations, on the discrepancies of outwardly elements. The integrated interruptions enjoy and amuse the painter: so there is nothing asthonishing about a Christ juxtaposed with tortured naked women mixis with graffity style or that yellowed children photo's cohabit with sjamanistic totems. There are continuities in this humoristic universe ,like these Tex Avery characters which he distorts from canvas to canvas. So, in consequence, when the painter, when the painter parodies ' Naked women in bath' by Bonnard he exchanges her for a accumulation of ducks and takes good care to clue a showercurtain on the linen. The arrangement in space of his fearful demons is made comical.
Legacies and prolongations: Clearly the painter enrols himself in the COBRA tradition. His vital gestures, the illusions to tribal arts, to totems which he puts in all his canvases, but also this famous childisch tone precedently evoked, all this elements inscribe De Groof, not in a break, a split but in a continuity towards those painters who preceded him. The legacy of Fred Bervoets is also quite perceptible, this painter whom De Groof discovered when he visited his uncle, the famous art critic Walter Korun is in this universe that the painter has bathed, and it are those pictiral investigations which he prolongates all while registering his own sensibility in them.
Esthetics of re-integration: The orinality of De Groof's style sticks also to his personal history, present in his work. The painter has, so to say, realised a true catabasis by falling in the world of addiction: he has known suffering, destruction and almost has not made it back from the kingdom of shadows. Nevertheless De Groof has reintegrated the world, with a disire yet stranger disire to paint and a freshness towards the rediscovery of the perceivable world. As violent as it is, his painting offers what we may call a celebration of life. Thus we could push the concept of integration a bit further and look for, in the paintings by Bob De Groof, the traces from an esthetic of re-integration.
Elodie Lélu Art histiricus and filmdirector. Maker of the documentary " Tweede Kans" 2009 ( Second Change) about Bob De Groof