Just like Marsyas

Without a doubt, the exhibition of Gilbert Herreyns´ work here at the MACE represents yet another step along the career path of this Belgian artist (Brussels 1943) who has been based on Ibiza since 1973.

His works have always been characterised by a tendency to systematise and to order according to criteria of rhythm, subject, form, colour and texture.

His affection, having originated far away, is an identifying mark for the artist going back to his earliest works in 1966.

In the 1970s, the pictorial principle was taken to the extremes of complete geometrical rigour which progressed in comfort and in total harmony with the abstract conviction going all out for the optical and kinetic effects and easing off from then on into the tremor of the hard-earned brush-stroke.

During the long and prolific period of the 1980s and 1990s, Gilbert Herreyns´ painting sought for a retinal vibe through large chromatic surfaces, always woven into an epidermal weave and warp as if the backgrounds tended to overlap at the surface. In this sense, his paintings recall conceptual aspects used by the French pointillists while bridging the gap since it might be said that the intention of Herreyns consists of delegating certain qualities of vision to the eye itself. At the same time there is also a spiritual and formal communion with the masters of the avant-gardist movement of the second half of the twentieth century (Yves Michaud in his catalogue ´La Mirada cap a l´alt` Sa Nostra 1996 accurately quotes Sam Francis and Rothko) lovers of chromatic fields and the contemplative factors understood as the reflection of emotion against the experience of beauty.

Throughout this long career, stage after stage, the painting of Herreyns has been formally conceived as the parts of a whole or rather fragments of a concept assimilated with infinity.

Herreyns, by accepting an invitation from the MACE to mount an exhibition which continues a meaningful dialogue with the host which is the ´Sala de Armas` (the Weapons Hall) and assuming a major risk because, although it may be true that there is the antecedent of the Café Florian (Opera Unica al Florian, Venice, between the 9th of March and the 9th of April 2007) where the painting forms a part of the decorative panels in the café without challenging the obligation to work outside of the box which has led him to consider the space in all of its dimensions, a perfect conditioning for being able to express the consequences of his determined approach to the environment and the landscape which is the forest which he breathes and inhabits during his extended summer retreats in Formentera.

It might be assumed that the harmony between the artists and the environment have grown consistently in strength and depth over the years to become symbiotic to the extent that the contemplative factor which is undoubtedly underlying, has gone on to generate actions which are carried out with the aid of the elements within reach, the ones which are actually the primary objectives of his dream-like meditations. The quotes from Antoni Marí in this sense in this very catalogue, take on a deeper meaning (the repeated allusion to the hand is highly relevant).   

With Herreyns, working with pine needles is nothing new since we have witnessed how he dyes and weaves them together since 2006, how he creates lattice-work with the fine, long leaves of the pine tree which at times appear as a substitute for the directional brush-strokes of his canvases. It was more recently – perhaps in 2013 – when this material began to be taken into account in the original version; acquiring volume and building up small mounds which implies a clear incursion into the world of sculpture.

As a result, his work with the pine branches is a further step in considering the potential of its nature, its flexibility, its adaptability and its lightness. It could be said that Herreyns has been caressing the forest and discovering reasons to stop on the way… to build a different forest; his very own.

By confronting the concept of this project Herreyns has a priori considered: the reunification of the parts into an integrated whole in order to unify the semantic flow. For this he has had to proceed on the principle of fragmentation and to take it very seriously to reform it and construct a complete sensation experience which interacts with the viewer.

While he was seeking out this raw material, Gilbert Herreyns has spent his time in the open air, becoming impregnated with a synthesis of saltpetre, the sun, the wind, interwoven branches, resin, light and blueness; the basic and inherent nutrients of the surrounding landscape.

And then of course there is the land, the earth from which the trees themselves arise, the earth on which the mantle of vegetation of the forest of pine and juniper trees, mastics, rockrose and rosemary trees rests and becomes fertile with the arrival of the rains and the humidity of the sea breezes, receiving the action of the indefatigable winds which in turn leads to the falling of the leaves to make room for the new season´s foliage.

An entire conceptual process of equal importance with that of manufacturing or realisation. A truly vital experience.

Herreyns stands on the land and looks towards the tree and the branch and just like Apollo with Marsyas peels strips from the bark of the trunk which is that of the juniper tree and leaves the polished surface exposed to the light, a surface which is a compendium of a smooth and velvety touch as in the mythical sacrifice, the branch is the body which writhes beneath the hand of the master (god in one instance and the artist in the other) and only in this passing there beats a poetic similitude which brings the work of Herreyns to a cultural and Mediterranean scenario of a confluence of paths and routes where the communicating vessels between the histories of the distinct territories weave together a latent unity which is manifested in diversity.  

Apollo, at once a god and a man, a creator and an inventor, a constructor and supreme judge, takes upon himself the liberty to punish the trickster just as the artist takes for himself the liberty to construct with his own hands the occurrences from his own genius. I like having the knowledge that at the end, among the things which arose from Marsyas was the purity of the river of Frigia and principally because the figure of the river which flows has always been one of the most beautiful representations of life itself and therefore of the possibilities opened up.

So that´s it: the possibilities opened up are what one takes away from the Herreyns exhibition in one´s gaze and when we talk about someone´s gaze we are talking about their body and their soul.

Elena Ruíz Sastre
Director of MACE
9th of March 2015