Paintings by Belgian artist Jan de Vliegher is made up of works from three series (2012-2015), each defined by its focus on a singular subject matter, and is characterised by the artist’s ability to straddle realism and abstraction in each composition.
As introduced in his debut exhibition at Gow Langsford Gallery in 2014, de Vliegher’s most well-known subjects are porcelain plates. The subjects’ origins are often revealed in the work titles; V&A, Chinese Yellow, Blue Flowers (2012), for example, depicts a 16th Century Chinese porcelain dish held in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (collection number 653-1907), while Kuthaya, Girl with Birds (2012) references a 18th century Kütahya porcelain dish.
Although his subjects add context to his works, they are in a sense ready-mades as his intention is not to convey a social message but rather to engage in the discussions of contemporary painting.Unified by the same composition (a single plate on a glass shelf, set against a neutral background) de Vliegher shifts the focus from the subject’s traditional function- revered object in a glass museum case - to a vehicle for his expressive paintings.
In these works the fragility of the plates is subverted by the vivacious brushwork. Similarly in his Glass works the delicate nature of the crystal glassware is contrasted by a heavy handedness and deft brush work.
The most impressive work of this grouping is Garden 1 (2014), a large format landscape painting. Although the style is distinctly different, it immediately recalls Monet’s water lilies and his obsessive investigations into colour and light. Its scale creates a truly immersive experience.
The divergent subjects in Paintings - glasses, plates, gardens - are clearly recognisable yet are primarily the vehicle for de Vleigher’s “abstract” paintings. The combination of expressionism and realism in an abstract technique, adds an unusual dynamism to these works to elevate them beyond traditional representational painting.