The painting series: a chronology

A Transformative Gaze (2013—2014)
The extensive exhibition 'A Transformative Gaze' reveals how Dr. Hugo Heyrman as a painter explores the possibilities of his medium. The paintings and works on paper provide an insight into the recent development of prior periods: Another Reality (2013), Inside the image (2011), City Life & Body Language (2009). This is his 12th solo-expo (since 1975) in the gallery De Zwarte Panter, Antwerp.

Turning points
Heyrman paints —"because it’s a fascinating experience, how different the world could look on canvas.” The works are reflections on the appearance of the real. From a personal archive, experiences, memories and imagination, cinematic scenarios are coming into existence. They are pictorial transformations about the mystery of the flux of life. Recurring themes are philosophical and psychological turning points, city life, body language, love, loneliness and the human condition.

The transformative atmosphere of the work belongs to an imaginary world. His work has a unique look, which opens up the imagination in interaction with the work. The images seem to vibrate and have a liquid look. They speak for themselves. It’s a crystallization of the painting process. They also show us the beauty of not understanding something. In the artist’s oeuvre the gaze is always moving, between an outer and inner world. On canvas, the transformative gaze of the artist continues further in time.

A relevant characteristic is that Heyrman gives expression to an uninhibited sense. He creates images with a promise of what is still to come. His approach is deliberate and informal, without rhetoric or irony. By building up suggestive layers of paint, he evokes a mental space. The sensual tactility of his brushstrokes, together with the symbolic/emotional meaning of the colour, encourages an involvement with the world, in an atmosphere of resonance.

The artist shares the experience of a another reality with us, by making the extraordinary in the ordinary visible, for example; The Cherry Pie (2014), a deep reflection on presence and absence, with a crystalline transparency, or Personal Tempo (2013) and Yellow Visibility II (2014), where a solitary figure moves forward in a cosmological-like environment of colour, light, shadow and elemental forces. These are images in which the gaze can get lost endlessly. Dr. Hugo gives the gaze of wonderment an existence in painting.

Another Reality (2011—2013)
In the sixties, Heyrman revealed himself as the tender but inveterate anarchist, when he introduced happenings, video and conceptual art. With this rebellious attitude he started to paint.

Potential images
About his motivation Heyrman says: "My reflections on the world and society are motivated by the idea that a single moment of understanding can flood a whole life with meaning. Art creates another reality. Starting from existing images, I paint the ambiguities of the visible, potential images with ambivalent meanings, so that another pictorial and mental space is opening up: cinematic, enigmatic and open-ended". In Dr. Hugo's painterly world, there are no boundaries between abstraction and figuration, objective and subjective, memory and imagination. The painter allows the viewer to explore a potential space an atmospheric dimension of depth, tonality and color gradations. This transparent thinking leads to a liberating insight in the psychology of the image. Relevant for Heyrman's 'perspectivism', is the discovery of the unknown in the known.

Mental filters
For Heyrman, painting is a source of visual pleasure, but also a reflection on the visual and mental filters through which we experience the beauty and complexity of all images that surround us. The visual content of the informally painted images goes beyond words. It's all about what's happening when you look at a painting. Forms and colors act on us pre-reflectively; they affect the viewer before they become aware of what the brushstroke actually represents. Characteristic for his body of work is that it stirs emotions and the intellect equally. He shows us that essentially everything is a matter of degree. Dr. Hugo Heyrman's paintings function as potential images, which resonate in our minds.

Inside the image (2009—2011)
With his work Dr. Hugo Heyrman explores the physical, visual and conceptual boundaries of an image. Since the 1960s he has emerged as one of the most important painters of his generation. A central concept in his work is the appearance and disappearance of images; the temporality of atmosphere, perspective, reflections, shadows and traces. Another returning theme is
the fragility of modern life, whereby the body language of human emotions are situated against a background of changing urban existence. Heyrman says, "The act of painting leads me to other dimensions within the image, it opens up new imaginative meanings." In the exhibition we can experience these intentions, translated into matter, form, colour, light and transparency. The artist takes you along on a psychogeographical journey, making you aware of the fact that in the experience of a small world you can discover the whole world.

City Life & Body Language #2 (2006—2009)
The works from the cycle 'City Life & Body Language' are making the tension between experience and imagination visible. Dr. Hugo transforms visual experiences of atmosphere, light and dark, colour and time, into statements about painting. The 'painted image' reinvents the world. The paintings are about the discovery of the unknown in the known, investigating how meaning is created. One central theme with Heyrman is his existential engagement with the fragility of contemporary life: the city and street as a form of society.

City Life & Body Language #1 (2003—2006)
I consider my paintings as
pictures about pictures (meta-pictures). They are reflections on the influence of images. I create the physical reality (the skin) of a painting, by giving 'paint' an independent dimension. I feel as much image-maker as painter. The paintings are a visualization of two concepts: "City Life & Body Language". They show the ambiguous link between the painted image and reality, by presenting 'reality' as a moving target. The paintings are 'ways of seeing', 'forms of visual thinking', they make the virtual and mental space of an image real. The power of painting (it is more than a medium) is based on the fact that it is a nonverbal, manual, immediate, silent and static form of art.

Cinematic (2002—2003)
Art can touch us deeply when it says something specific about the space/time we live in. For me, ideas are tools. With an experimental approach to the blank canvas I want to turn matter, surface, texture and colour, into imagination; when I paint, I enter the dimensions of the liquid image, an appeal to several senses at once. A painting becomes alive when it looks back at you, at this moment it becomes cinematic and activates our own individual 'films'.

Museums of the Mind (2000—2002)
The paintings are visualisations of what I call the 'space of an image'. What I make visible is the connection between the meaning of the image and the structure of attention, within the field of vision. It gives the paintings an intense optical interaction. The viewer relives the making of the image. Towards the borders, the image seems to dissolve in front of our eyes. The atmosphere of the paintings is at the same time dreamlike and real: they approach reality, but go beyond it to become a mind map of an 'inner landscape'.

The Fuzzy Logic of Icons (1998—1900)
The paintings are based on synesthetic experiences —the interaction between the senses. I enjoy working with the dimensions of synesthesia. I love to find new configurations in what I see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Everybody is synesthetic to some degree. I see the fuzzy logic of imagination as experiments of the laboratory of the mind. For example in the painting 'Ivory Tower' (1999) I bring perception and conception closer together. It is my intention to create new icons and synesthetic metaphors, to give the term 'reality' a new meaning, without seeking to mimic it, but to spell it out in terms of pictural power.

Fuzzy Dreamz (1996—1998)
I transform my new media experiences into painting and vice versa. In dreams we cross the borders of time and space. In this adventure, my scope is wide-ranging: from the main themes of perception, time and memory, to the immense diversity of the whole spectrum of human experiences. I interact with the (un)consciousness of fear, desire, tragedy, sorrow, joy, humour and surprise. Paintings like 'What is Fear?' (1999) are presented as sequences: a montage of moments, a syntax of condensed and extended time, a juxtaposition of six paintings (diptychs and double triptychs). In "Fuzzy Dreamz" we are real close to 'who we are' and 'what we want'.

Interactive Dreams (1994—1996)
A visual research on the basic aspects of perception. More specific, an interaction between three concepts: form invariance, colour constancy and the digital image. The picture elements are pixel and grid. The pictures are build up pixel by pixel. The painted pixel is used in its ultimate elements —a maximum of mimesis with a minimum of pixels. I use patterns of pixels to create a visual paradox of abstract realism, yet, it's impossible to call it realism or abstract. These back to basics paintings reveal that the less information the brain receives, the harder the imagination works. A painting is a self-made reality.

New Models of Reality (1988—1994)
Pixel-paintings and 3D models. I analyse the visual structure of form and meaning. We see: simplicity, painted square pixels and constructive patterns of clear colours. I paint how an image 'appears', how a picture 'takes form'. This approach is based on my doctoral thesis "Art & Computers: an exploratory investigation on the digital transformation of art". The paintings are a form of mental cubism, a personal morphing of meaning. In this vision seeing is the intuitive discovery of an unknown unity. With the lightness of the imagination the 'Models of Reality' show that recognition can increase as the naturalness decreases. Illusion becomes transparent, non-existent.

A Vision is finer than a View (1985—1988)
Reinventing painting. I paint images of images, of facets and fragments of the endless sea. We see the restless energy of waves. A continuous metamorphosis of the element 'water'. What I express is 'nowness' —a microscopic vision of 'here and now'. Preview: 'Rough Point' (1985). The paintings are as much image as imagination, as much sign as meaning. Their truth is closer to the experience than to the presentation. Outer and inner vision blend into an after-image. Painting is about visual experience. A vision is finer than a view.

The Nature of Reality (1983—1984)
The paintings are a synthesis of my early experiments and series on water, light and time. It is a psychogeography of the Irish landscape in thirty-one large paintings —from landscape to mindscape. A landscape is never static, both past and future lay claim on the present. I respond to the terrible beauty of the natural world. The enigmatic, the mysterious, the metaphor, the romantic and the unpredictable are all part of my act of painting. The luminous canvasses freeze and magnify time, they capture a passing glimpse of existential life forms. The tactility of the painted surface is like a transparent skin. It looks as if we can touch the inside of reality.

Cycle of Time (1981—1983)
Time is the medium of life. In the paintings we see a pictorial articulation of the rhythm of summer and winter, of night and day. Time becomes crystallised. These intentions also reflect in the titles: "Singing Summer" (1982), "Coming Storm" (1982) and "Breaking the Silence" (1983). The spectator finds himself in a world of silence somewhere on the horizon. Synesthetically speaking, it is as if we can hear the pregnant silence of time itself.

Cycle of Light (1980—1981)
In fifteen large canvasses I explore the nature of light. I observe the contrast and nuances between the light of the morning, day, evening and night. I study the colours and temperature of light, the recurring patterns in time. For example, the painting 'Snow' (1981) transports us beyond the surface of what we know, yet keeps us grounded within it. The paintings show that light is meaningful only in relation to darkness —how light creates shadows, depth, distance and perspective. There can be no light without shadow, or warmth without cold.

Cycle of Water (1977—1980)
Motto: "Water that cries and water that laughs, water that talks and water that flows, water that shivers in the night". Water is a mythical element. Water makes life possible. Water comforts all the senses. In twenty-seven large paintings, I trace its pictorial analogies, family resemblances and metaphorical parallels. The paintings are showing an existential relation between:

1. The act of painting as a process between: wet and dry, sensuous and serene, opacity and transparency —I use experimental action painting techniques and water-based translucent layers.
2. A correspondence with the material world of opposites: hard and soft, solid and liquid, stone and water.
External reality, a context of conditions all related to water: the weather, climatic changes, reflections, mist, mud, vapour, rain, snow and ice.

Street Life Cycle (1974—1977)
Motto: "To perceive the perception, remembering is the isolation of a visual fragment". In a cinematic way, I paint the street life of a crossroad under the ever-changing atmospheric conditions (twenty-six paintings). All the works are based on personal observations, drawings, photography, film stills, video and Super 8 film. This slice of 'reality': a small world, a time/space continuum, a metaphor of life as a whole —becomes a painterly challenge. For over a period of four years, I paint the view from the window of my studio at Belgiëlei - Mechelsesteenweg in the city of Antwerp. It is an ode to common things, to the poetics of the changing of seasons, the rhythm of the traffic lights, scenes of everyday citylife. We see: passing cars, taxi's, tramlines, bicycles and the diversity of people. For example 'Figure in the Snow' (1975). In the frontal figure an inner state of isolation is accentuated by the suggestive context of cold and snow. The enigmatic figure under a transparent umbrella is seen from a distance, standing still at the corner of a street. I paint the physical distance between the figure and myself. Preview: 'Belgiëlei, Autumn' (1975). Basically, it is a sober conceptual confrontation between vision, image and reality. As a witness of the fragilities of my time, I am amazed about the extraordinary fact that the world exists.

The First Mind Expansion in Colour (1965—1966)
Presented at the gallery Wide White Space, Antwerpen. Ten paintings of glamorous women and female filmstars: Molly Peters, Malibu Beachnik, Carol Leland, Ursula Andress, Jean Harlow, Jocelyn Lane, Carol Lynly and Kristine Keeler. Together with Panamarenko, I made two 3D figures: styropor dolls covered with felt, Feltra (1966) and Molly Peters (1966).

|| Motions of the Mind ||