Profile: Hans Op de Beeck
Hans Op de Beeck studied Fine Arts at St Lukas College in Brussels and enrolled in the post-graduate program at the Higher National Institute for Fine Arts. Later he worked in the patronage of the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam for two years.
Op de Beeck won the prestigious prize for Young Belgium Artist and took part at the renowned PS1 project in New York in 2003.
He became known instantly with a model he created during his time at the Rijksakademie: a crossroads with traffic lights at night. This work is typical in its dealing with one of his recurrent themes, that of alienation in modern life and the superficiality, monotony and miscommunication that accompanies it. The situations that Op de Beeck highlights emote atmospheres of deep desolation en emptiness. A couple having a drink at a café, without uttering a word to each other or even glancing at one another. A long line of bored till workers sitting twiddling their thumbs in a deserted supermarket; not one customer is to be seen. Desolate ruin landscapes reminding one of human activity, although it seems that these people must have died off a long time ago. This is modern life as Op de Beeck presents it: a sinister no man´s land, where there barely seems to be a place for people. The artist is not interested in moralizing or even making a value judgment: “I see such situations as absurd bits of information. As an artist you are able to present them. It is a human inability to grasp the sense of life, but it is possible to, in certain ways, touch upon it.”
His spatial works, videos and photos of many different scenes of everyday life are all decontextualisations. His representations rip scenes from their original context so that their reason for existence becomes instantly disputable. His videos for example are fragments of everyday life, that have been enlarged to such an extent that an alienating image emerges. The same goes for his life size models. It is just these uninteresting spaces, such as an unremarkable housing estate, or an empty cross roads with traffic lights at night that he rebuilds in every exquisite boring detail. However by omitting certain small elements his representations gain a bizarre character.
Op de Beeck is very subtle and also somewhat romantic. It is not just the high degree of care he takes in carrying out his work, but also his focus on small, often unconscious actions: a look, a silence, a gesture, a symbol etcetera that, apart from alienating, also evoke something quite enchanting. The recognition and the compassion, or even the memories these representations conjure up in the viewer, strike very close to the bone. His inspiration comes often from personal experience: such a ´Determination 1´ of the boy that stares back at you from the back seat of a car, or ´Determination 4´, the rushing family that never gets anywhere.
From January to March 2004, GEM housed the first solo exhibition of this Flemish Artist in the Netherlands. He received international acclaim for his unique works in diverse media such as video, drawing, photography, sculpture and installation. Aside from a brief synopsis of his oeuvre, Op de Beeck presented a large new installation he created specifically for GEM. With the help of two assistants and fifteen students from the King´s Academy of Fine Arts he build his largest installation to date. In an area of 11 by 21 metres, Op de Beeck built a Flemish style motorway restaurant in monochrome tints that could be accessed by the viewer.. When taking place in the restaurant, there expands from the other side of the restaurant window, a night time motorway scene, with the road seemingly stretching out over an infinitely long distance, finally disappearing into the horizon. In turn this installation becomes the backdrop for a number of new video pieces. This installation was designed and completed in three months under supervision of the artists in a hanger in Scheveningen.