The current exhibition at Barbara Seiler Gallery in Zürich (Switzerland) features paintings by Belgian artist Michiel Ceulers. Michiel Ceulers has graduated from the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in 2011 after his studies at KASK in Ghent, BE. He has been awarded Young Belgian Painters Award, Gaverprijs and is included in the Michael & Susan Hort Collection, New York, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, David Roberts Art Foundation, London, and various other collections worldwide. Michiel Ceulers’ solo show at Barbara Seiler is titled ‘Laura (a friend of Dorothy)’ and will be on view until 12 February 2022.
Michiel Ceulers: Laura (a friend of Dorothy). Solo exhibition at Galerie Barbara Seiler. Zürich (Switzerland), January 20, 2022.
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Barbara Seiler Zurich is very pleased to present the first solo exhibition of Belgian artist Michiel Ceulers (*1986, Waregem, BE) at the gallery, after the artists participation in three group exhibitions: Subject sitting in a darkened room in 2020, A Fair Proposal (with Annaïk Lou Pitteloud and Judith Kakon) in 2017 and And Mea and Mac and Me (with Mark Hagen and Alexander Lieck) in 2013. The exhibition is titled ‘Laura (a friend of Dorothy)’ and will be on view from 15 January to 12 February 2022.
Michiel Ceulers (1986 in Waregem, Belgium) is concerned with the specific conditions and possibilities of painting, taking an experimental approach to abstraction. His process-oriented abstract paintings and sculptures are known to bear traces of misuse in the artist’s studio. He often tears, glues, grinds and punctures his canvases. His works feature imperfect geometric shapes and patterns, a playful exploration of art historical styles. A painting like ‚Living Mirror/Rotten Sun‘ (2021-2022) combines lyrical and geometric abstraction, has something of punk and graffiti, and plays with abstract art’s experiments with the frame.
Michiel Ceulers’ practice is associated with excess of materiality. Ceulers has a fascination with cheap and shabby materials, especially cardboard. The paintings are often composed of found materials and thick layers of paint that are blithely smeared on the paintings and their frames. Michiel Ceulers‘ paintings represents the artist’s work in the studio, showing decay and scars, and raising the question of documentation and fiction. Each painting is a reflection of the result of a process, a physical experience that alienates the works from the artist himself. This conversation is the visualization of an inner process that questions its subject in a constant loop, as a mirror that confronts itself, or as painting that contemplates itself.
The exhibition ‚A Condom Over A Zeppelin‘ (2021 Island, Brussels) was based on a line by Edina „Ed-die“ Monsoon and Patricia „Patsy“ Stone, the main characters in the classic BBC series ‘Absolutely Fabulous’, which Ceulers considers one of the most complex relationships of our time. Michiel Ceulers has a penchant for titles. They come from different cultural fields: science, pop music, film, art, history, science fiction, the art world, philosophy or they are simply the result of his own associative imagination. Many works have duplicate or very long titles and add subjective and conceptual layers, as well as art about art dimensions and clever wordplay. The condom transforms the already phallic Zeppelin into a penis. Rather than evoking the passions of a size queen, the title seems to jokingly assume the inflated artist ego. ‘A friend of Dorothy’ (FOD) originates from the wizard of Oz and is a euphemism for a gay man and, by extension, any LGBTQ person. The term dates back to at least the World War II era, when homosexual acts were illegal in the United States. Saying this or asking if someone is a friend of Dorothy was a secret shibboleth for talking about sexual orientation while avoiding hostility.
Paintings such as ‘Lucy in the Sky/Zu oft existieren die Kunst und die Ideen auf der gleichen Ebene’ (2021) depict a canary. The canary has been a constant companion in Michiel Ceuler’s work in recent years. It appears mainly in yellow, some in orange tones. Most of them appear alone, but there are also pairs. Occasionally they sit behind black bars. Many of them are depicted with mirrors and perches made of cardboard, wood and plastic caps. Most of the birds are painted with a firm texture and grip, with the painting style showing echoes of the Neo-Expressionist style. Michiel Ceulers’ work is usually concerned with the idea of narrative, physicality, and content. Thus, the canary refers to the Belgian artist Roger Raveel (1921-2013), who, like Ceulers, always felt the need to combine art and life in a more intense way. Or Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997), who used the canary to bring art closer to everyday life, depriving it of its great aura. Canaries are cultural signs, but also betray a shameful attitude: in Dutch they can be called ‚kanaripik‘, and ‚pik‘ can mean cock in itself.
Michiel Ceulers workes in series, giving each series a title based on the visual components of the works themselves: lovebirds (diptychs), raster images, pixel images, and graphic characters. Ceulers loves to play with color as matter, with the painting as a layered structure, and with the surprise of small pictorial details within a whole. These details are not just random smears and drips, but necessary particles within a balanced whole. It is an exploarion of relief-like layers by working with stencils or tape that Ceulers painted over and then removed. The process of removing the tape or stencil reveals the subtle, multi-layered character of the paintings, and leaves marks, little dents, raised, pasty little details, little smears and sloppy spots.
Michiel Ceulers has graduated from the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in 2011 after his studies at KASK in Ghent, BE . He has exhibited in institutions and galleries in Europe and the US with recent solo exhibitions including De Garage, Mechelen BE; Island, Brussels BE; Island, Brussels BE. He has been awarded Young Belgian Painters Award, Gaverprijs and is included in the Michael & Susan Hort Collection, New York, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, David Roberst art foundation, London, and various other collections worldwide.