painting: Beach Paradise
Beach Paradise
Beach Paradise, Oil on curdoroy, 2011
100cm x 175cm
painting: The Beginning
The Beginning
The Beginning, Oil on canvas, 2011
180cm x 120cm

My Private Disaster


Pop Secret # 2

15 September - 9 October 2011 at Rue de Flandre 123 Vlaamsesteenweg (Brussels) 

Introduction by Liv Vaisberg, Director at Ponyhof Gallery

The exhibition My Private Disaster is Ponyhof Gallery's second pop secret (pop-up exhibition) and presents recent works of four of our artists: Pim Arends, Jens Hesse, Céline Felga and Greet van Autgaerden. They all show works based on the recuperation of images of natural and human catastrophes, that they appropriate to better distance themselves from them.


In a context where 24-hour news channels saturate our daily life, images of disasters became for many no more than a 5-second morose entertainment, putting all catastrophes at the same banal level. Like many of their contemporaries, our painters work at the intersection between photography and painting, abstraction and representation. Painting, which suffers from being on and off on the contemporary art scene, has however regained a privileged status towards this overabundance of photographs and videos. Through painting as a medium of choice, our artists revisit the reclaiming of current affairs images, beyond Gerhard Richter’s or Luc Tuymans’ heritage.


This distance that painting allows to be created from the original image does not attempt to hide its photographic basis in order to restrain a photographic effect nor it reproduces the photograph in order to neutralise it. Contrasting with the indifference photographs and videos tend to create towards disaster, paintings of catastrophes enable the viewer to truly face the horror and emotions often lost through other medium.



Pim Arends

Lives and works in Rotterdam


Pim Arends uses media images of disasters as a starting point for his visual study of contemporary life. Media images have become a reality in itself and one can never be sure of the integrity of its images, as each is just a fragment followed by a million other fragments happening that day. These fragments are (if well-made and introduced) powerful images that can become a world on their own. 


“The relationship between painting as a medium and the ever increasing proliferation of media images is like hearing a 5 second sound-bite of Mozart compared to an orchestral concert” says Arends. Painting those images enable him to explore this idea in a visual way.


Arends' work is characterised  by the use of vivid colours, which reflects the battle faced by the artist to reproduce the incessant flow of mass media images, which are meant to be attractive albeit dramatic. But moreover, Arends considers his role as a painter to produce attractive images to lure people into looking at his work and finally to keep their attention long enough to show them his intentions, which he does with his two disaster landscape paintings presented at My Private Disaster.



Céline Felga

Lives and works in Antwerp


Celine Felga engages us in a critique of contemporary visual culture by constantly questioning the relationship between individuals and their representation in a world dominated by mass-media. After having appropriated and digested heavy images she gleans in the news, history or her personal experiences, she then reinterprets, combines and stages them. She perceives human beings as fragmented individuals inhabiting a fragmented world, which she seeks to reflect through the nifty composition of her paintings. 


This leads Felga to paint ambiguous images, reminiscent of the notion of the uncanny. She challenges the viewer in reading her intentions. The latter is free to decide on what he sees in her fragmentally composed paintings. Felga believes that in a contemporary society, where images of tragic events invade our daily life in great abundance, the role of the painter is to give his interpretation on those overwhelming images. 


For My Private Disaster, Felga presents two works of recent tragedies but which needs reading keys to grasp them. “The Beginning” represents the dawn of the Arab Revolution, typically treated in an uncanny way by succeeding in recreating a tension between familiar reassuring elements and the ominous ones.  The “movement” is an abstract interpretation of an image from the Haiti earthquake. 



Jens Hesse

Lives and works in Antwerp


If Jens Hesse is known for his paintings on corduroy representing distorted versions of digital images, what overall truly interests him Jens Hesse are all the side-effects of those nearly perfect images issued by the digital world. His work is not limited to mass media images, however a large bulk of his work is inspired by images of disasters, a few of them are presented at My Private Disaster: the desperate look of a firefighter at Fukushima, a house in Chernobyl taken over by the nature or a beach in the tsunami.


Jens, who was trained as a fashion designer, explores with his work the limits of the canvas and  materials in relation to the paint. He uses painted snapshots to visually experiment, always oscillating between figuration and abstraction while reinforcing emotional expressions in what appears almost surreal in this world of apparent digital perfection. 



Greet van Autgaerden

Lives and works in Mechelen


Greet van Autgaerden paints and draws on monumental canvases, enabling the viewer to plunge into an almost imaginary world of abounding nature. Following her project ‘Kamp’ (Camp), where she delivered a mix of childhood memories, imaginary world and utopia of harmony with nature, she introduces a new direction in her work in her series “True Colours Abstract” which is shown for the first time at My Private Disaster. She used an image of a standard bearer built in commemoration of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The colour’s pallet consisting of primary colours is a symbol of power, reminiscent of totalitarian times. Children, attracted by the vivid colours,  go now playing around the construction ignoring the meaning of the disastrous totalitarian ideology behind it.  


Van Autgaerden uses the idea of the structure as an abstract element while the colors play the role of a distraction and seduction tool towards the viewer. She seeks to convey thereby how on can be both seduced and deceived by colours. She uses this as a metaphor of how an abstraction can cause catastrophic results, if used by someone with a certain ideology, i.e. a specific colour.

Images are almost never what they seem to be, we see what we think we see, what we want to see and enjoy them as we find them attractive if we simply love the colors.