‘So you must always look at the paintings of Jan De Maesschalck at least twice. Besides, the devil is in the detail, and that’s a good thing. The painter proceeds with subtlety. Not everything happens on the surface, far from it, and whoever takes the time to look slowly will notice that the power of these works lies in their suggestiveness. There is almost always a sense of undefined menace. Everything can come crashing down, but you never know if or when that’s going to happen. Something can go off the rails, a secret can come to light.’ (from ‘leeslust / kijkzucht’ by essayist Eric Min) From Now On is the fifth exhibition of Jan De Maesschalck (b. 1958, Sint-Gillis-Waas) at Zeno X Gallery.
De Maesschalck draws inspiration from his personal image archive: a collection of files with his own photos that can lead to new works. He also clips illustrations that intrigue him from magazines and newspapers. His own sketches and collages can also form the basis for new work. He deliberately seeks accidental developments that emerge during the painting process. He describes them as alert phases that can end well or badly. De Maesschalck works in daylight; that is why the falling of the dusk, with its changing light, is an important motif in his oeuvre.
Untitled (Asperger’s) emerged while photographing a ‘frozen’ shot from a detective series on TV. De Maesschalck ‘cropped’ a portrait of the lead actress out of the blueish, colourless shot, and through painting, transformed the colour palette into warm tones, with more yellow, umber and violet-pink strokes. The panel is now bathed in seductive light. Although colour is used summarily and in a subdued manner in his work, it is nevertheless essential.
Light also played an important role in the creation of the diptych Clay Pit. The right-hand panel is a free interpretation after a portrait of Georges de la Tour. While he was painting it, De Maesschalck’s attic studio grew darker and darker. By contrast, the left-hand panel, which had already been completed, gave off a subdued light. In the morning, it became clear that both panels belonged together.
The Squeaky Sand series is based on photos that De Maesschalck made of voyeuristic films. The title of the work refers to the silica sand that ‘squeaks’ at the slightest movement. De Maesschalck also emphasizes the intervention of another medium by rendering the blur of the lens.
The title of the exhibition, From Now On, refers for De Maesschalck to that moment of euphoria that an artist experiences when he feels that he has completed good work; he then has the impression that, ‘from now on’, things will go better. This impression enables the artist to believe time and again in a new idea and to find the energy to develop this idea, unmindful of the possibility of failure. The work of Jan De Maesschalck has been shown in exhibitions at Museu Berardo in Lisbon, the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Marseilles, the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, Mu.ZEE in Ostend, Museum Dr Guislain in Ghent, De Warande in Turnhout, the Museum of Ixelles and the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. His work is sought after by many private collectors, but has also entered the collections of MOCA in Los Angeles, Museum Dr Guislain in Ghent and Mu.ZEE in Ostend.