Located south of Brussels, Saint-Gilles is one of the liveliest districts and the most beloved by artists. Also, since spring 2019, that’s where the public can explore Eleven Steens, a vast space dedicated to modern creation. Owner Jean-Marc Dimanche has added a new feather to his cap which already boasts many prestigious appointments including artistic direction at Luxemburg and the Festival of Gardens of Chaumont-sur-Loire – where Eleven Steens also showed a tapestry by Luzia Simons earlier this year. What’s original about the “stages” in this space in Saint-Gilles which hosts exhibitions and performances is the manner in which it puts an emphasis on the materiality of its works; paper, canvass, and stone are not meant to fade into the background but rather to be exploited to the fullest, in a building which itself is rough, quite unlike any sanitized white cubes.
An exhibition highlighting three artists for the fall 2019 season perfectly illustrates such an emphasis on materials. One of the stages is devoted to Frédérick Gautier who works in ceramics. But don’t expect his work to be pretty or sentimental. The fact that his pieces are made of ceramic concrete is a clear indication of a brutalist esthetic based on enhancing utilitarian shapes. Gauthier’s sculptures resemble construction site material; they have simplicity, sequentiality, obvious functionality and sometimes even ridges that indicate attrition. Nothing however, neither a curve nor an indentation, denotes the artist’s actions. Although it has not yet been discussed, this presentation would be ideal for the Bauhaus centenary as a tribute to the modernist ancestors’ prolific visions.
Yoan Beliard, who has a different approach to organizing shapes, is similar to Gauthier in that he uses plaster – but a plaster veneer with multi-layered surfaces which are used to create stunning arrangements for his paintings which exploit full and empty spaces. The inorganic aspect of his compositions and the recurrence of the fossil motif give the impression of a kind of pre-human tale (despite traces here and there of a face or an artifact); yet his work is not monotone either as its variety of textures and its brilliance sends the eye on a journey into a world void of whites, grays and ochres.
Humanity returns in full force with the third artist showing at Eleven Steens, Belgian illustrator Priscilla Beccari. With her, a flair for lines is combined with a feeling of slight concern, as if the viewer were given access to an imagination full of strange dreams and burgeoning fantasies, sometimes bordering on the edge of madness. Surrealist collections, incomplete or disarticulated bodies, gritty lines all create a miniature theatre of cruelty that arouses genuine curiosity. Curiosity is precisely what Jean-Marc Dimanche manages to inspire, beyond the diversity of the artists that he unites in his Brussels space. Undoubtedly, Eleven Steens is worthy of future visits.
Frédérick Gautier until October 26, Priscilla Beccari and Yoan Beliard until December 21 at 11 rue Steens, 1060 Saint-Gilles, Belgium.
This article was originally published in French by Art Critique’s Alain Rauwel on September 6th. It can be read here.