PAINTING (WITH A SMILE).
“... here this takes you and goes on with you and goes with you
toward everything and right through everything, through the
small and the great.”
Rainer Maria Rilke,
Letters on Cezanne. Paris, June 1907
Geert Vanoorlé paints in an attic room flooded with light that is shed through the high windows. In the winter his studio is used to dry the washing. At times, you’ll find painting canvasses next to a couple of cotton shirts and a silk blouse. Three recent medium-sized paintings decorate one of the walls. The paintings were painted with a brush. The paint strokes are unempathic. The picture on the paintings reminds me of a piece of cloth that was spread out on the canvas but has shrunk in the wash. The fabric between the corners of the cloth seems to fold itself towards the centre of the painting.
As a result, looking at the paintings is engrossing. They suggest an event that could befall the piece of work at any moment. And they refer to the veronica vernicle. The soft, yet striking colours attempt to drag themselves away from under the cloth but remain covered by the monochrome blue, black and red pieces of cloth on the canvas. The paintings shimmer before the eyes of the beholder and cast their colour patches in the studio room.
Next, the painter has arranged a second triptych with the same theme right underneath the first one. In spite of the different sizes, this series of paintings is still clearly part of the bigger concept. We see two paintings depicting a white piece of cloth draped over the canvas and one painting with a black piece of cloth. The thin moon-shaped remnant outlines that flow from one painting into the other and that remind us of a children’s puzzle catch the eye.
A cluster of smaller works hangs next to the Veronika paintings. You can hear the painter whisper in paint. We’re looking at artefacts that can be on the photo side by side in a family portrait.
Since 1987 Geert Vanoorlé has been steadily painting a meandering oeuvre with the aestheticism of the gentleman. He creates an elegant beauty averse of bravura and big gestures. For a moment, the wicked world outside is left at the doorstep. When browsing through the artist’s sketchbooks, one detects an experienced artist who draws flowers as well as his own hand. His paintings are pervaded with nature’s proportions. The paintings are discreetly permeated by reality. Some paintings refer to Sint-Truiden’s soccer team, others are about the sweat cloth of Saint Veronica, a flag, or a fish. As the painter incorporates these themes in his work in a subdued way, there’s more to it than merely positioning planes within the confines of the canvas stretcher.
On top of that, Piero della Francesca’s work resonates in his paintings, as well as Johan Sebastian Bach’s music, Eric De Volder’s language and Ellsworth Kelly’s drawings …
When I resume our conversation downstairs in the living room, my eye is drawn to a blue sliding door that hides the kitchen. The cobalt blue is hand painted on a wooden board and hangs in the doorway like a moving painting. I recognize the painter’s talking hands from the drawings in the sketchbook. These hands have already done a lot of painting and will undoubtedly do so again on many occasions.
The remarkable thing about the close-to-nothing that Geert Vanoorlé paints, is that it evokes a palpable reality, and by doing so it finds an exit to the outside world at every turn. The artist’s commitment is the delicate way in which he deliberately gives meaning to life on this planet and sings its praises.
Nikolaas Demoen. Ghent, April 2017.
(Dirk Crabeels, 27 april 2017)