Ever since abstraction has ceased to be considered identical to modernism, realism offers new challenges to the artist’s inventiveness. Hugo Heyrman’s artistic development is paradigmatic of this swing in contemporary art. Ten years ago, the Antwerp painter took up the gage. In a highly perceptive style, his series of paintings of crossroads, observed from his Antwerp studio, combined complexity of details with a baffling perspicacity of vision. More systematically, Heyrman then concentrated on perception itself. The combination of rather commonplace objects, such as puddles and oil-pools, allowed the artist to question the truth of perception, not unlike the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein questioning language.

Paradoxically, however, Heyrman’s pictorial questioning did not give rise to dry abstractions. On the contrary, matter depicted in his paintings started to speak for itself: it showed its untainted beauty. In his recent work, matter does even more than just that: it now glorifies life – since it is, of course, our own life that is at stake.
Thus, this most philosophical of Belgian painters has rediscovered the poetry of matter. By using his mind he has made matter sing a Shelleyan song of rejoicing:

O Happy Earth!  Reality of Heaven!
To which those restless powers that ceaselessly.
Throng through the human universe aspire.

Frans Boenders