Vistamare and Vistamarestudio are pleased to present The Presence of Absence, a single exhibition straddling two venues, Pescara and Milan, in tribute to the Belgian artist Jan Vercruysse, who passed away last year.

The investigation of Jan Vercuysse was focused on the spiritual nature of art and on the idea that art acquires a value entirely detached from that of reality, finding its raison d’être in a deliberate “artificiality”.
As a student he wrote poems, and start to consider the artworks as words in a discourse, capable of generating a form of visual poetry. He worked in “cycles”, the most important of which are ChambresTombeaux and Places, which, like the lines of a sonnet, construct an ineluctable question: what is the role of art and the artist today? The void, or emptiness, becomes a feature of his work in the series entitled Atopie – non-places that have no need to relate to reality and which find their most perfect expression in non-being.

Opening on March 23, the exhibition at Vistamare in Pescara features works from the 1980s to 2010, organized thematically rather than chronologically and presented in the form of a photographic narrative/narrationof Vercruysse’s research, narrated in images. 

Vercruysse had his first show in an Italian Museum in 1992 at Castello di Rivoli, but he was part of the Italian art scene since 1987 first with the Atopies and then with the Tombeaux. The Tombeaux, often take the form of monumental sculptures in wood, bronze and glass and the ambiguity of the French title – which refers to both a tomb or gravestone and a form of musical or poetic elegy – reflects the combination of gravity and playfulness that was one element of Vercruysse’s poetics. Occupying the central room of the gallery, Les Paroles [Letto] Vll, 1999, are three lectern-shaped structures in painted wood, combining flatness and volume, and opening out to hold imageries that are etchings of erotic frescoes that were found in Ercolano and Pompei. This etchings (gravures) come from the book ‘Cabinet Secret du Musée Royal de Naples’.
Places is a series on which Vercruysse began to work in 2005: the title itself indicates the underlying idea of places favoured by memory, where the meaning of past events and fragments of human life collect and linger. The artist molds a new form of language in which the letters of the Roman alphabet are replaced by the “pips” or symbols found on playing cards. Hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds form hidden phrases on weightless wall-hung installations or heavy commemorative plaques placed on the floor. Camera oscura, 2002, is a photographic sequence – a medium Vercruysse adopted throughout his career. Precisely because it adheres so closely to reality, the photographic image (which in Vercruysse’s work often takes the form of an unblinking self-portrait) becomes a powerfully communicative expression of the insurmountable gap/void that separates art and life.

From March 27, Vistamarestudio in Milan will be presenting a group of works produced between the 1980s to 2002, dialoguing directly with the gallery’s physical spaces, offer a very precise summary of Vercruysse’s artistic vision. The exhibition’s central piece is La Sfera, first presented at the Venice Biennale in 1993, a large bronze sculpture in the shape of a tortoise trying to climb onto a sphere: a perfect balance of conceptual certainty and aesthetic ambiguity. In the Tombeaux and the photographic work Zonder titel (zelfportretten) XVI, 1981 (which illustrates Vercruysse’s characteristic use of photography as a form of expression independent of the medium’s intrinsic poetry), the objects’ silent forms speak of the artist’s desire to strip his works of any conventional meaning, their constituent elements referring to nothing but themselves: empty frames embodying the absence and totality of art, conceived as infinite potential.

Jan Vercruysse (Ostend 1948 – Bruges 2018) represented Belgium at the 1993 Venice Biennale. His works feature in many important European and American collections, including Castello di Rivoli, Turin; the Tate, London; MoMA, New York; MOCA, Los Angeles; MhKA, Antwerp; Herbert Foundation, Ghent; and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. In 2001 Jan Vercruysse was awarded the Flemish Culture Prize for the visual arts.

A special thanks to the Jan Vercruysse Foundation and the Janssen Collection.