Walter Swennen

Walter Swennen °1946, Brussel, Belgium

In the early 1980s, Swennen stopped writing poetry and switched to painting as his primary means of expression. Although his oeuvre varies greatly in scale, style and materials, it can be construed as an on-going exploration into the nature and problems of painting (its potential and limitations), the fundamental question of what to paint (subject matter), and how (technique). Often working on supports made from found objects, such as sheets of old plastic or salvaged wood, Swennen allows his chosen imagery to float loosely atop a background made up of more allusive elements, such as blocks of colour, dripped paint or unusual textures. The images he deploys are often derived from popular culture, advertising and magazines, or take the shape of everyday objects such as wine bottles or bicycles. The way that he handles motifs – he takes them as he finds them, high or low, and manipulates them at will – is akin to a kind of visual poetry that harks back to his early career as a writer. Freely associative, and above all humorous, Swennen’s paintings explore the relationship between symbols, legibility, meaning and pictorial treatment.

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Walter Swennen, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, 1986 Drawing on label for liquor bottle, ⌀ 7 x 29,5 cm
Walter Swennen Julie's Vase of Flowers, 2017 Mixed media 100 x 45 x 37 cm Courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens
Walter Swennen Voor Marc, 2017 Oil on wood 49,7 x 44,4 x 3,7 cm Courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens