Gilbert Herreyns was born in Brussels in 1943, two hundred years after Willem Jacob Herreyns, flamish painter (Antwerpen 1743-1814). His childhood was marked by long vacations to the North Sea, probably the origin of his attraction to the Mediterranean. After having completed his secondary school studies (Greco-Roman humanities), he decides to enrol in la Cambre (National School of Architecture and Visual Arts), in the art school under the direction of Paul Delvaux, and later Jo Delahaut. The latter would exercise a decisive influence on his training and his understanding of contemporary art. GH’s first exhibition in Brussels takes place in 1965 at the Saint Laurent Gallery, where he shows works on art construit.
These pieces would subsequently lead to the more personal Op Art works, notably exhibited at the Gallery of the Empain residence (1970). These works show the repetition of small serigraphic geometric figures on magnetized plastic modules that can change position with the participation of the spectator.
1965-72 is the period of research, a variety of influences, participation in different groups (Aménophis, CAP, etc.) and the re-evaluations that came with the ’68 uprising. At this time GH is a professor in an art school (CAD) and is interested in graphic arts, engraving and lithography (the R. Kayser studio), and, above all, in serigraphy, which allows him to print his serial works on polyethylene.
In 1969, thanks to his friend Michel Empain, GH discovers Formentera and with his help builds his refuge on the cliffs of La Mola. Upon coming in contact with the blue of the sea, his painting purifies and turns inward, producing dichromatic geometric labyrinths that take the symbol of the cross as their point of departure. In Ibiza he encounters Carl Van der Voort, who, interested in his work, offers him an exhibition in his gallery and work in his engraving, lithography and serigraphy workshop. Without hesitation he accepts and in 1973 goes to live on the Pityuses accompanied by his wife Danièle and his daughter Isabel. He proceeds to work in the workshop for four years and puts on numerous exhibitions in the gallery until 1993, directed during this period by Cati Verdera.
From 1974 to 1977 (after the death of Danièle in Ibiza), GH makes numerous journeys between Brussels, Ibiza and Formentera. This is the time at which he converts his geometric labyrinths into a mural at the Tomberg metro station (Brussels, 1976).
In 1977, after the construction of his first workshop on Formentera, he reaffirms his decision to live on the Pityuses. One year later he meets Neus, who would become his muse and wife until the present day. Together with their four daughters (Caroline, Sandra, Diana and Isabel), they decide to reside between Ibiza and Formentera.
All the work begun in the seventies and up until today comes from the profound conviction that it is no longer a matter of painting, figurative art or formal abstraction, but transmitting the vibrations of things, the elements of life, each with the means at his disposal. With this idea GH abandons the creation of his extremely intellectualized labyrinths in order to rediscover the freedom in the exercise and pleasure of writing and painting. It is with this intention that he uses a system of repetition consisting in the infinite multiplication of small crosses (+++xxx) and the N sign starting with 79: the repetitive works.
In 1981 he constructs l’Atelier Bleu at La Mola (Formentera), where for four years he holds summer workshops in engraving and lithography, frequented by artists and students from all corners of the globe. At the same time, he also becomes one of the founders of the artisan and art fair in La Mola. In the beginning he participates with his own engraving works.
It is at this time that he does a series of engravings on linoleum that are to be a preparation for the following stage of his work: the crosses (1985-92). The crosses are works completed with two hands that are composed of numerous superimposed layers of crossroads. In practice these works allow the meditation that releases energies and establishes communication with the environment. Man, the elements and, later, the horizons are taken as the source of inspiration.
In Ibiza at the beginning of the 80’s, in an atmosphere favourable to art, GH, as the President of Arteivissa and a member of the board of trustees of the Contemporary Art Museum of Ibiza, organizes the “Spring Exhibitions” in collaboration with Néstor Pellicer.
In 1985, with the help of Philippe Rotthier, he builds the Jesús studio (Santa Eulària, Ibiza) where he still works.
In 1991 GH and his friend, the painter Michel Mouffe, leave for New York, where they live and work for two years in a studio at 27 West 27th Street. During the course of this work, the crossroads quickly disappear and there appear points and spots in a progressively more minimal space. He gives equal importance to a double reading of the canvas (from near and from far away).
Abandoning the crosses, realized with two hands, the artist is to no longer use his right hand. It is a time of intense work, and contact is established with the New York art market. The most important components of this adventure, however, are the reaffirmation of confidence in his artistic career and the friendship solidified with his travelling companion.
In 1994, upon returning from NY, there begins in Ibiza a new stage: look upward: a concept that manifests itself in traces of materials and brushstracks in the form of points. More than ever there is a recognition of the pictorial technique as a preferred medium of artistic communication. He also works on engravings and monotypes.
Starting in 1996, GH works with repetitions of not only points but also textures, traces of colour that are deposited with an up-and-down and right-to-left movement: the brush tracks. Brushes cut and used as stencils. These years correspond to a reestablishment of contact with the Belgian art world, facilitated by A. Winance, a collaborator at one time on the l’Atelier Bleu workshops on Formentera.
At the beginning of the 2000s, the appearance of linear structures in the spatial play of repetition and vibration. Undertaking of a collection of eleven paintings integrated in the architecture of a building in Kyoto. At the same time, he organizes and chairs the island committee of the AAVIB (Balearic Islands Association of Visual Artists) for Ibiza and Formentera.
In 2002 the linear structures are set free, mixing with discharges of colour and paint drips. His painting becomes more material and more coloured, with preference given to the use of three primary colours and sometimes black and white. The relationship between the intuitive and the rational is stronger than ever. Vicente Valero would call this period: Luminous textures.
In 2009 GH starts his project centred on colour. The first year would be dedicated to the blue, to be followed by the red, then yellow and finally black. Colour is considered here as a medium, a tool to seek out and come to know its symbolic relationships. The colour-work relationship is a path to be travelled. The painter as the alchemist manipulates this relationship and the project on a support. With the help of his eyes, the images and the vibrations appear. These coloured projections are the sole medium of communication with the spectator, and the preferred entryway to the imagination.
After 2012, GH uses elements of the nature close to his own environment and he incorporates them in his works without droping out his investigations over the colours.
Lastly, Gilbert Herreyns has rebuilt the l’Atelier Bleu on Formentera. He divides his time between that workshop, where he does his work on paper, and the workshop on Ibiza, where he focuses more on painting.