signs and symbols is pleased to present Scissors, hangers and other batteries, a solo exhibition by Belgian artist Benoît Platéus. For this exhibition, Platéus continues his process of “frottage,” whereby the artist takes objects found in the streets of New York or from his studio in Brussels and rubs them onto paper, which is then glued onto a wood panel and painted upon.
Platéus likes to wander. Objects catch his attention – discarded hangers lying on a curb, coins melded into newly-laid tar in the street, a barely recognizable crushed can. There is a happenstance randomness to the frottages. The objects Platéus instinctively is drawn to have already undergone a transformative event. The coins were dropped, the hanger was bent, the can was flattened. And perhaps these events have gone unnoticed. Yet Platéus recognizes them and continues their transformation, picking up where events left off and choosing those objects to become actors in his work. The frottages are examinations of states of being – of states of preservation and/or absence. Through the rubbings, the objects become ghosts of their former selves, their presence preserved by the traces of their contact with the paper. 3D objects become flat. The object that was is no longer. What is left is a memory or souvenir of its previous state.
There is a sense of freedom in the work of Platéus, in his exploration of mediums and alteration of entities. He refuses to be stuck – like a coin in tar – but instead opens up space and allows for the potential of movement. Operating in these shifting spaces of in-betweenness, Platéus thinks of his work as connectors – links between altering states. The objects, once elements of the street, are now part of the space of the rubbing and that of the subsequent painting. In melding these spaces together on the wood panel, he connects the parts of themselves – the elements of their ontology.
Beyond the materiality of elements, there is a further link between object and emotion. Platéus imbues the objects with emotion, naming them with emotive descriptions – ‘proud’, ‘greedy’, and ‘stoic’. In doing so he gives the objects personhood while preserving their objecthood – attributing emotions usually reserved for people. The flattened can in the street becomes empathic in its identification with the grey paint swirling around it – it adopts that grey for itself. The coins become stoic as they steadfastly persist amidst the chaos of the streets and the artist’s painted rendition of it. In ascribing these objects with emotive states based on their surroundings, Platéus legitimizes their experiences. What is a described experience if not a story? The frottages are stories – of the travels of an object carelessly discarded and carefully preserved yet transformed.
Benoît Platéus was born in 1972 in Liège, Belgium and currently lives and works in Brussels. In his work he investigates and plays with the spaces and relationships between mediums, exploring abstraction in form and content. His work has been exhibited at Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Mu.ZEE, Ostend; Karma, New York; Almine Rech, London; Galerie Albert Baronian, Brussels; Annarumma Gallery, Naples; and Galerie Jeanroch Dard, Paris, among others. He is included in several museum collections around the world, including the Fond National d’Art Contemporain, France and the Musée d’Ixelles, Belgium. Most recently (2019) he has had his first museum retrospective at the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels, which was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog and later traveled to Bonner Kunstverein in Germany.