Duo exhibition with works by Carole Vanderlinden & Carlos Caballero
Carole Vanderlinden (b. 1973, Belgium. Lives and works in Brussels, Belgium)
Carlos Caballero (b. 1983, Camagüey, Cuba. Lives and works in Ghent, Belgium)
Carole Vanderlinden: Reflections on her recent works during an animated studio visit
It is rare to encounter the kind of artist with no fixed style, unafraid to give up the work's initial recognizability and paint in a straightforward way, out of necessity. Carole Vanderlinden belongs to this group. During my visit at her bright studio in Royal Laken, it immediately became clear that she doesn't care about being artistically trendy, she paints 'hands-on' in formats ranging from tiny to monumental. She finds inspiration in the moment itself and carries a small booklet with shapes and illustrations that could become an alibi for a painting. I scan one work after another, the painter’s surprising and, at the same time, very literal 'pictorial' walk, back and forth, linking banal encounters of forms and figures with complex-relevant painting that, in full 'eclecticism', suggests a kaleidoscopic sequence of modern painting.
Carole Vanderlinden's strategy is unbound, she sets out like a beachcomber, aimlessly in search of something that's hard to find in everyday circumstances. Out of changing backgrounds on the canvas, where some can already find subtle references to recent painting history, figurations emerge that zigzag along motifs of textiles, folk art, flowers and untraceable, yet slightly recognizable, shapes.
It is a pleasure to observe the performance of Carole and her productive output, at first sight it is as if her works are part of a group exhibition. Her oeuvre is a delightful mix of colors that appear as faded administrative colors but also as vibrant color nuances that, in the case of the color red, generate such an energy they almost become unbearable.
In the current state of contemporary painting, her pictorial production can be regarded as downright unique. She doesn't get carried away in stories or anecdotes that can quickly become boring or instantly ruin the mystery of the painting.
In her work, Carole Vanderlinden knows how to let painting itself 'speak out'. In the nooks and crannies of her tangled compositions, shapes and amazingly beautiful colors create unspoken and heart-warming innuendo within the canvas. They do not demand 'aha moments', they simply 'are' and position themselves as vulnerable and 'out in the open' based on particular intentions.
Her works can be approached each time again, painting after painting, freely interpretable as imaginative unique adventures that avoid the thought of a mechanically produced series of works.
From the depths of painting, Carole Vanderlinden juggles and improvises as she pleases with well-placed and edited motifs. For the viewer, this interplay results in a game between plasticity and a broad range of primary and secondary thoughts.
There are no conceptual troubles attached to her work; Carole Vanderlinden knows how to protect her painting from control, definitions and 'boxes'.
Her art is a tribute to the imaginative freedom. She takes this resistant stance by adopting a totally free attitude and not letting herself be swayed by today's mainstream.
Her oeuvre is like a dissonant symphony in which incomparable colors create the 'timbre' for composition-focused paintings that resemble free-jazz and noise music.
The noise meanders like a sweet undercurrent that saves the paintings from all kinds of false misunderstandings, statements and interpretative enslavement.
“Le montage permet de voir les choses et non plus de les dire”. (Jean-Luc Godard, 1980)
Luk Lambrecht 30.07.2021
Translation: Mathias Swings
About the fragile, delicate paintings of Carlos Caballero.
The fact that contemporary painting tolerates versatility and diversity is a sign that it still holds a broad and relevant expressiveness. Abstract painting — not directly referring to lifelike subjects and themes — is overshadowed by the recent success of pictorial expressions where technical bravado and skills are coupled with detailed storylines.
It is remarkable that, in our country as well, recent modern painting history shows that rural expressionism always prevails over the more urban and utopian abstract, non- figurative art. Among other things, this has to do with an ideology that may or may not attract the taste for art whose comprehension lies at the boundaries of the (un)recognizable motif on canvas. In his socks, Carlos Caballero works on a tranquil body of work in which no significant stylistic turning points can be detected.
His 'silent' oeuvre is like a fresh ripple of water, floating on the processing of nuances, details and compositional-spatial shifts, both in terms of color and motif.
His paintings are usually of a small size; a format that allows him to work in a concentrated and precise manner. The images appear immaculate, almost geometrically exact and reveal very little tangible information. The viewer finds him- or herself in a thin dialogue with a visual language that remains cryptic-abstract. And yet, when putting your patience to the test, it becomes clear that the motifs in the paintings refer partly to typography and the suggestions of architectural details. Carlos Caballero's paintings don't 'cry out' this information; the use of softly and evenly applied acrylic paint brings peace and allows the (attentive) viewer to narrate the story. The monochrome, flat paint lends itself perfectly to the sparse introduction of 'elements' that, independent of each other, start a 'conversation'. One could describe this 'living' oeuvre, constant and slowly progressing, as a linear pictorial sequence.
Hard Edge design trumps any trace of visible personal gesture. The perfect execution seems 'mechanical' but is still the result of patiently, masterly and 'concretely' painting motifs that occasionally beckon and/or wink at reality. The composition of the separate motifs is not fixed and is sometimes at odds with each other; clearly the artist's intuition plays a key role in the search for peace and balance. Punctuation marks and other stylized characters refer to slowing down the pace of perception; the titles remain enigmas – keys that don't always match a lock. Painted surfaces in and on top of other surfaces tend towards a layered, unreadable content. The motifs, positive or negative space suggestions, leave behind the content-hungry viewer, eager to decipher the image. Painting after painting, the ambivalence and ambiguity of this visual language interlink like train carriages, weaving together like non-sequential pages of a novel.
The punctuation marks, which are reminiscent of the characters on a computer keyboard, reveal a typographical background. In Caballero's tactile-fragile oeuvre, figuration is mostly out of the question, with the exception of one work: “Row” (2020). Here, two graphic motifs, referring to torsos, are painted in line one under the other – perfectly in rhythm with two 'circumflex' computer keys, one painted 'upside down'.
In the French language, this sign indicates the correct pronunciation of a word. Here, the sign is immediately doubled upside down, rendering its logic and 'direction' partly useless. Caballero applies this particular ‘vocabulary’ both in color mixtures and in the
sparse selection of characters.
Carlos Caballero's paintings can be regarded as one permanent process in which every hint at content and spectacle is avoided. This oeuvre is modestly reduced to a grand mini-universe that functions as a wonderful projection field for all possible interpretive associations that lie within the mental range of the viewer. The oeuvre of Carlos Caballero fits in nicely with the influence of 'concrete' poetry, which is a particularly gentle thought.
Luk Lambrecht 31.07.2021
Carlos Caballero (Cuba, 1983) is trained as a painter and graphic designer and has been living and working in Belgium since 2014.
His work is currently on view in the group exhibition 'Regenerate' at WIELS, curated by Zoë Gray and Helena Kritis.
Translation: Mathias Swings