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With Gao Hang, Ahn Tae Won and Botond Keresztesi

- Until 17.04.22

© Courtesy of Everyday Gallery

The title for Everyday Gallery's latest group exhibition Newtro is a tribute to a recent trend in Korean design, pop culture and fashion. In the past decade, Korean pop culture has crafted a unique style that is characterized as newtro (뉴트로): based off of vintage clothing or design trends, these trends are then reworked into something new, combining the best of new and retro trends.

It is perhaps no surprise that newtro emerges in a world where the world wide web has saturated our imagination with an endless supply of images from both the past and the present. It makes perfect sense to mix these and create a new style. It might also allow us to ask new questions, and even to think critically about the way that our digital past is slowly catching up on us. The artists featured in Everyday Gallery's new exhibition rely on retro elements from our digital past to query what the internet has done to our sense of self, our understanding of images, and our habits of interacting with one another. Today, we communicate through impersonal tokens, like emoticons and memes, we use avatars or online personae to engage with other people over the net, and we conduct a good deal of our work in an oblique way through online communication platforms. So what can the new still be in such a world? Can there still be a sense of identity that goes beyond the seeming neutrality of the internet? And what happens to the early days of the internet, to its utopian aspirations and the initial ideas of finding freedom and solace on the net? In Newtro, three artists who grew up when the internet was already an ubiquitous medium query internet aesthetics from its early days until today. Gao Hang, Ahn Tae Won and Botond Keresztesi mix elements from the early days of the internet with more recent developments. Bringing them together they create something that feels both new and, somehow, retro. In short, these artists explore what one might tentatively call the newtro. Botond Keresztesi (1987) was born in Romania and lives and works in Budapest. He has had work featured in group- and solo shows in Switzerland, Germany, France and Belgium and participated in Everyday Gallery’s show Limbo in the fall of 2020. In Newtro Keresztesi showcases some of his recent works that mix the aesthetics of late 1980s and early 1990s sci-fi futuristic films, and the supple and fluid aesthetics that is more befitting of today’s internet meme culture. By bringing these together, Keresztesi creates a universe that feels both old and new; a universe that is as much reminiscent of robocop as it is of Giorgio de Chirico or post-digital meme culture.

Born in China and currently residing in Houston, Texas, Gao Hang (1991) harks back to the early days of online avatars, when images were still crudely pixelated and the suggestion of three-dimensionality frequently warped the image into something that vaguely resembles a form of internet cubism. Hang’s aesthetics will be familiar to everyone who ever spent some time on early online worlds like Second Life. The shortcomings that these virtual environments had, with bodies being warped and represented in an unrealistic way, are taken by Hang as a starting point for a unique digital aesthetics. This is almost an archeology of early virtual worlds, but always one that retains a sense of humor. It is this sense of humor that, combined with its subtle use of perspective and composition, that allow as Hang to develop a unique and clearly identifiable style that keeps the neutral at bay. The Korean artist Ahn Tae Won works with a similar aesthetics but introduces clearly recognizable elements from contemporary meme culture in his work: a cat. In meme culture, cats seem to play a unique role. Ahn Tae Won however gives his own twist to this internet phenomenon, on an aesthetic level as well as in regard to its lead character: Won’s personal cat becomes the protagonist in the virtual story. Memes are two-dimensional images that rely the ease of digital reproduction in order to circulate on the web, Won’s works are unique and three-dimensional. The fact that memes are suddenly unique sculptures already creates a strange effect forcing us to rethink the effervescent nature of memes, but Won takes this a step further. In turning two-dimensional images into three-dimensional catlike sculptures, Won retains some of the features of the meme. But the cats look contorted and the dimensions and angles are seldomly correct. In short they look warped. This leads to a unique sensation: are we online or offline? Is this new or retro? And does that matter any longer? Artists — Gao Hang, Ahn Tae Won & Botond Keresztesi Text by Bram Ieven


"Beliefs, Apples and Machines"
By Victor Delestre

- Until 17.04.22

© Courtesy of Everyday Gallery

Looking at Delestre's work, the first thing one notices is the poetic character of his visual language. His work manages to reshape reality as we know it to seemingly simple and essential forms. He does this through some well-considered, but also historically charged painting and composition techniques. The subtle way in which he refers to the visual language of modern art is by no means coincidental. Like much of modern art, Delestre's work goes through a double movement. On the one hand, he simplifies observable reality. A complex ecological system is reduced to an iconographic and small-scale network of leaves, and between them are the noses of human figures, of which only the most basic and characteristic features have been preserved. In his use of color Delestre appears to be Fauvist. But on the other hand, reality in Delestre's work gains in complexity precisely because of this. For Delestre's world is unlike ours. His work gives the viewer a view of an alternative universe in which nature, man and technology maintain a very different relationship with each other. His work thus invites careful reflection on the history of art and on the way in which we want to shape our future in a world in which the relationship between nature and technology is becoming increasingly complex.

Victor Delestre (b. 1989) studied at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux (France) and at the Sandberg Institute of the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam (Netherlands). Together with Amaury Daurel, he formed the artist duo Deborah Bowmann in 2014, whose playful experimental work has been exhibited at Centre Pompidou (Paris), among others. In his solo work, Delestre develops a more personal and intimate side of his artistic work; here, his artistic reflection on nature, people and technology often starts from everyday experiences and observations.

In Beliefs, Apples and Machines, his first solo exhibition for Everyday Gallery, Delestre presents works from three different series on which he has been working since 2016. The first series, titled Life Still, consists of a series of bas-reliefs. Since 2016, Delestre has been charting his personal life at regular intervals. He does this with a tool that almost everyone has access to: the digital camera of his telephone. Delestre is particularly interested in the apparently banal, but in fact intimate moments that are unexpectedly hidden in everyday life. He treats these images as clichés in the original sense of the word: a photographic negative that still needs to be developed further. There is usually little to see in the bas-reliefs that follow: the rooms in works such as Old Domestic View and All These Things We Don't Say are deserted, nothing seems to be happening. That is a conscious choice. The atmosphere that is thus evoked is alienating, perhaps even enchanting. Just like a cliché, in these works there is a lot of room for the viewer to give meaning to what is seen. The mental space that Delestre focuses on in his work is somewhere between realistic and imaginary. We also see this in the second series from which the artist presents work. In total, the Hymn series consists of 50 plaster works inspired by the animation film The King and the Mockingbird (1980) by Paul Grimault and Jacques Prévert. There is a moment in the film when the bird and the chimney sweep run off with the portrait of the king and give it their own interpretation. It raises questions about creativity, freedom of expression and the joyful destruction of hierarchies. In these works Delestre humorously sketches a world in which power relations have been reversed, in which robots merrily play a flute and neat gentlemen suddenly emerge from the undergrowth. Finally, Delestre presents us Ball Man, an anthropomorphic sculpture made of plastic and epoxy resin. The work can be seen as a metaphor for the new human being: not just any robot or an entrepreneur, not just any human or a machine, but a little bit of all those things and none of them for real. Now one thing, then another. The sculpture of Ball Man is somewhat concealed and unobtrusive, as if he doesn't want to draw attention to himself, as if he is just one of us, a visitor who can leave at any time. Maybe he is, maybe he travels with us, under our skin, this metaphor for the new human being that we are ourselves? Text by Bram Ieven


"Venus and Adonis"
By Magda Kirk

- Until 17.04.22

© Courtesy of Everyday Gallery

For many of us, our earliest memories are related to something physical, often to a bodily experience. One’s hand sliding through the murky water in a boat on the river in summer, and experiencing the coolness of the water. Or the feeling of citric acid that makes the salivary glands in your mouth contract. These early experiences are all related to the body. But tellingly enough, most of these early childhood memories of the body are really just about one part of the body. In the examples given above: the skin of one’s hand, or the inside of one’s mouth. The body as a whole is something we only become aware of later, when we are a little older. And even then, we have great difficulty comprehending the body as a whole. Perhaps we become fully aware of it when we are confronted with others; with other bodies that are unique just like our own. Different and yet somehow the same. This experience of the body as strange and yet familiar, awkward and yet intimate, is central to the work of the Polish painter Magda Kirk (1990). The body, Kirk suggests, can never be completely objectified; and the way we see ourselves is always subjective, determined by our own experiences and by cultural standards of beauty. As much as we try to look at our bodies as they are, as singular and unique, our vision of it is always distorted by social constructs. It is precisely that unique experience of embodiment as something a little strange and yet the most personal we have that Kirk manages to express with utmost precision in her paintings. The Venus and Adonis series from which the four featured works at Everyday Gallery are taken, can be understood as an ironic, deliberately exaggerated way to query how social-cultural patterns influence the way we think about our own body. Kirk’s paintings expresses the non-obvious feelings and sentiments that we all have when we are confronted with our bodies: both realistic and unreal, individual and socially determined, both grotesque and beautiful.

The paintings establish a connection with the viewer, who recognizes something of themself in the body depicted on the canvas. The body on the canvas may not be the same as the viewer's, but it undergoes the same struggle with body and identity that we all recognize. Because Kirk's painted bodies have no heads, so they cannot be identified. That is not to say they're generic. On the contrary, they are unique. The fact that they have no faces is a sign of how insoluble the struggle with body identity is. It thus accentuates the central theme of Kirk's work. Kirk achieves the experience of awkwardness and alienation, in which a body can never quite find its form, through a unique painting technique. Form and content are completely intertwined in her work. Kirk plays with the shape of the body she depicts. It is, of course, about bodies. What is more, the form Kirk's bodies take on further builds on archetypes of the fertile Venus and muscular Adonis dating back to ancient times. At the same time, the edges of the body are made floe, or the muscles seem so pumped up and soft that they almost look like butter. The tattoos or veined flesh that Kirk plays with in her work ensures that this effect is enhanced. A similar effect is achieved by Kirk's use of color. Kirk uses an airbrush technique that allows her to apply layer after layer of transparent color. By overlaying transparent layers of different colors, a glowing and shiny color effect is created that is simultaneously realistic and alienating. Then you also notice how playful Kirk uses colors. In her paintings she likes to use fluorescent colors and other shades of color that can in no way be a realistic representation of an actual existing body. But Kirk's message is that there may not be a real body. Well, of course there are bodies, but our experience of the body can never be traced back to the existing body. On the contrary, it always takes place in our psyche, in which all possible shades of color and experiences can be reviewed. Kirk allows us to learn something about our own physicality and our complex, inevitably subjective experience of it through her paintings. Text by Bram Ieven

© Everyday Gallery
18 Jos Smolderenstraat
B-2000, Antwerp
+32 493 79 42 23



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Contemporary Art Belgium is a platform dedicated to provide a selection of current contemporary art exhibitions in Belgium. It was created to turn a spotlight on the large and very dynamic Belgian contemporary art scene as well as to connect people and start dialogues.

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