press release

PHILIPPE VANDENBERG. Kamikaze
14.04.2019 - 16.06.2019

The Kunsthaus Pasquart is showing the most comprehensive exhibition to date of the work of the Flemish artist Philippe Vandenberg (1952-2009, BE), in collaboration with the Hamburger Kunsthalle, where the exhibition was presented from 16.11.2018 to 24.2.2019. It is the first institutional exhibition of his work in both Switzerland and Germany. Highly acclaimed in his home country of Belgium as one of the most important artists of the last few decades, Vandenberg produced a radical and uncompromising œuvre that is just now achieving greater international acclaim. The extensive retrospective comprises some 70 paintings and 80 drawings and prints from the period 1995 to 2009. Many of the works on loan come from the artist’s estate and are now being presented to the public for the first time.

Vandenberg’s art displays a compelling intensity that has the power to both disturb and excite. The exhibition title Kamikaze refers to a central artistic principle he espoused. Kamikaze meant for him creative destruction, i.e., enabling some-thing new to arise by annihilating what went before. This principle is reflected in myriad ways in Philippe Vandenberg’s paintings and drawings: in the many stylistic breaks, in his overpainting of existing pictures and scraping off paint once applied, and also in Kamikaze as a written word or its enigmatic abbreviation as »K.A.« or »KA.M.«, as well as in many motifs and recurring symbols that open up the field of tension between destruction and creation or starting anew. The latter include for example burning monks (self-immolation as a form of political protest) and the element of the swastika, an ancient sun symbol that, when tilted ninety degrees, becomes an emblemof destruction. Vandenberg’s art is rife with themes from contemporary world events, from literature and art history, myths and legends. What distinguishes these works is nonetheless his devotion to the extreme contradictions to which human beings are subject: the simultaneity of love and hate, beauty and ugliness, innocence and guilt.

The Japanese word kamikaze (divine wind) is used to refer to a Japanese air raid technique in the Second World War and also as a description of self-defeating actions. For Vandenberg, applying the kamikazeprinciple meant a radical change in direction and most of all a vehement demand for agile thought processes and an open mindset: «[...] to destroy your own thinking is equally important. You have to stay mobile, absolutely mobile!»

Curator of the exhibition
Felicity Lunn, Director Kunsthaus Pasquart

Publication accompanying the exhibition
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated publication (dt./engl./franz.), edited by Brigitte Kölle and Felicity Lunn, with texts by Harald Falckenberg, Josephine Karg, Brigitte Kölle, Felicity Lunn, Johannes Muselaers and Marek Wieczoreck. Approx. 100 illustrations, 272 pages, hardcover. Uitgeverij Kannibaal editions, Belgium, 2018