I had seen music
Through his work Giel Louws, (1975) explores the art of painting in a poetic manner. The, at first glance simple works, consisting mainly out of circle-shaped paintings within this exhibition, come together in almost jazz-like compositions. Louws launches his imagery, just as a musician produces meaningless sounds.
Starting out as a figurative painter, the artist increasingly distanced himself from purely representing. He deduces what painting really is and he explores, among other things, how separate paintings in one and the same room embrace, conform or repel each other. Seeing his large cd collection and his interest in early Twentieth century poetry, both clearly present in Louws atelier, it comes as no surprise that his works are just like compositions.
About the work with the circle shaped paintings on lightly bended shelves, the artists himself comments that it reminds him of staves, an interpretation that, even though not his direct intention, all the more emphasises that his work scans the borders of the art of painting and that they echo musicality.
Louw’s paintings are often remarkably small, like portable amulets. It seems as though they can be picked up at any time and be taken anywhere and anyplace. This would mean though, that the relationship between the work and the/its space will be destroyed, which makes Louws’ works extremely vulnerable and present. To the artist, no material is useless, ranging from wood to tissue-paper and from plastics to metal. Certain characteristics of the materials are clearly reflected in the presentation of the works: fragile tissue-paper which passes colour, iron mesh which functions as a pattern, and wood that suddenly gains an accidental base by the already present paint splashes. In both his compositions and his technical process, Louws combines this contingency with deliberate, but always playful, choices.
The paint is clearly present, as, according to the artist, it leaves behind traces of “a visible struggle”. Contrary to musical or poetic compositions, visual art is physical and tangible. This simultaneous physical and musical or poetic experience is what gives these works their existence. Those who are looking to find narrative meaning behind these works can be deceived: one should dare to view and experience these works, without being distracted by attempts to reconstruct their narrative. One should rather feel the power of these abstract works by directly experiencing them.
The contrast between Louws’ early figurative work and his present exhibited paintings, stress that abstraction does not always lead to indistinctness. Precisely because there is no representation of a story or situation, makes the abstract works hit you even harder. The materials, colours and compositions speak for themselves, without distracting the viewer by a possible situation that the work might represent. The works could even be regarded as religious, but without the familiar religious symbols that are usually associated with that. One could rather speak of idols, in the most classical sense of the word: artefacts that do not merely refer to, but simply are of a higher order. The works actively raise questions, and even seem to be questions: questions about art that can only be answered by looking.