Jan Van Imschoot

La présentation des Absents

Following on from his 2020 exhibition, Le bouillon de onze heures, a homage to Dutch artist Willem Claeszoon Heda, Flemish painter Jan Van Imschoot is unveiling the second part of a trilogy dedicated to the masters of Western painting. La présentation des absents sets up an encounter between two imaginaries: the artist’s and that of the man he considers to be the unrivalled master of modern French painting, Édouard Manet.

Jan Van Imschoot – La présentation des absents, TEMPLON Paris, 2021
Jan Van Imschoot – La présentation des absents, TEMPLON Paris, 2021

Van Imschoot wanted first and foremost to pay tribute to Manet’s deep-reaching knowledge of the traditional Northern School and his admiration of Flemish painting, possibly sparked by his relationship with Dutch pianist Suzanne Leenhoff who went on to become his wife. Van Imschoot set himself the task of studying Manet’s language, much as Shakespearean language is learned, with a particular focus on his intriguing palette, constantly shifting between “the black of the Inquisition” and “the elusive, subtle grey light of religious Holland.”

L’échange des bêtises, La présentation des absents and L’empire se trompe give us a glimpse of the modernist’s scenes, from Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe to Un bar aux Folies Bergère, or the series of seascapes and still lifes with asparagus.

As always in Van Imschoot’s work, the painting becomes an ideal playground for exploring the triangular relationship between his three greatest passions: art, language and truth. The City of Light’s riverboats are depicted as the insects referred to in their name in French, bateaux-mouches, literally “fly boats”, in Le pari de Paris. And Magritte’s The Treachery of Images appears more than once on the surface of the fameux paresseux heureux. 

As Van Imschoot sees it, the beauty of painting lies in the fact that it alone can shatter the codes of language and truth. “What is true? What is thought of and what is dreamed of? All these questions prove to me that reality and truth have no place in art. The relationship between language and image remains open ground; words meet their limits there, while art flies above it, free as a bird.”

La présentation des absents


The artist

Born in 1963 in Ghent, Jan Van Imschoot has been living and working in France since 2013. Jan Van Imschoot’s exploration of the possibilities offered by painting have resulted in a body of work that draws its power from highly critical and dramatic themes and contains references to countless artists, from Tintoret to Luc Tuymans, Goya to Matisse. Jan Van Imschoot places his figures, decors and narratives at History’s margins, using assembled perspectives, strong tones, bodies in motion and brushwork he describes as ‘anarcho-baroque’. His work delves into a number of recurring motifs: freedom, censorship and the violence of political and ideological systems.

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