Sophie Kuijken

Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Brussels, 2022
September 19, 2022
Galerie Nathalie Obadia is very pleased to present the sixth solo exhibition of the Belgian artist Sophie Kuijken in its Brussels gallery.
Sophie Kuijken's work, which remained undiscovered for almost 20 years, was brought out of the shadows for the first time in 2011 at the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Deurle (Ghent- BE). As a whole, it constitutes a highly singular contribution to the art of portraiture. If the artist had not met Joost Declercq (the former director of the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens), we would probably never have seen her works with their captivatingly strange figures that appear surprisingly familiar. This retreat to the inner world of her studio, painting out of sight, has enabled her to create a powerful body of work that not only confuses but also touches the viewer, right down to the core.
The exhibition presents the artist's latest paintings, which manifest her irrevocable taste for the art of portraiture. At first glance, the viewer recognises classical figures painted in the manner of the great Flemish Primitives. Sophie Kuijken builds up her bodies and backgrounds through successive thin layers of acrylic paint, oil and glaze, which she superimposes until she achieves a smooth and deep surface. The history of art seems to permeate the paintings in the exhibition through some of the details and attributes in them. The many brushstrokes, both precise and light, are delicately applied to the wooden panel and create deliberate morphological deformations. In some paintings, the silhouettes are stretched out and the raw flesh tones evoke the mannerisms of the Renaissance. The neutral background of her portraits, their tight framing and the powerful chiaroscuro that shapes her figures also recall the art of Caravaggio.