Untitled (Hibou) (1995)
Within Walter Swennen’s idiosyncratic paintings, figures, shapes, and words are freely and spontaneously associated to produce compositions that cannot be reduced to a signature style. Taking his interest in philosophy, poetry, and psychoanalysis as a point of departure, the artist produces images that wrestle with problems unique to the medium of painting, rather than serve as a pictorial representation of a concept or an experience.
Like many of Swennen’s works, Untitled (Hibou) draws a direct parallel between the title and the subject, by placing the caricature of an owl on top of the picture plane created from painting and scratching the surface of wood. And yet the painting simultaneously stages an interesting conflict between figuration and abstraction through limiting the quick, skillful croquis of the owl to the left half of the picture plane. The right half of the wooden support is rendered in a texture slightly different from that of the left, as shown by its muted color palette as well as the slab of white marble glued on top. With the dividing line placed slightly off center, the various elements that comprise the painting create a compositional tension that permeates throughout.