HANS OP DE BEECK

Sculptures that deliver a moment of wonder, silence and introspection.

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Hans Op de Beeck was born in Turnhout in 1969. He lives and works in Brussels and Gooik, Belgium. Op de Beeck has shown his work extensively in solo and group exhibitions around the world.

Hans Op de Beeck (be) produces large installations, sculptures, films, drawings, paintings, photographs and texts. His work is a reflection on our complex society and the universal questions of meaning and mortality that resonate within it. He regards man as a being who stages the world around him in a tragi-comic way. Above all, Op de Beeck is keen to stimulate the viewers’ senses, and invite them to really experience the image. He seeks to create a form of visual fiction that delivers a moment of wonder, silence and introspection.
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Characters
Series of 5 Sculptures, 2016. Mixed Media, Variable Dimensions

The closed eyes suggest a tranquil state of mind, as if the figures are experiencing a moment of silent introspection. The poses cite those of the classical nudes that belong to the long tradition of autonomous sculpture. Here, though, there is a contemporary component, for these ‘nudes’ wear jeans, shorts, sweatpants or swimming trunks. Props such as soft drink cups, mobile phones, cigarettes and headphones make these fictive characters emphatically of the here and now.

The children ‘Lauren’ and ‘Lucas’ hold props that advert to childhood: freshly picked blackberries or a piece of string knotted into a big loop to play cat’s cradle with.
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Characters
Series of 5 Sculptures, 2016. Mixed Media, Variable Dimensions
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Dancer
Sculpture, 2019. 110 x 110 x 146 cm, Polyester, Steel, Coating
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Dancer - Detail
Sculpture, 2019. 110 x 110 x 146 cm, Polyester, Steel, Coating
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Home
Sculpture, 2019. 262 x 48 x 172 cm, wood, plexiglass, polyester, stainless steel, polyamide, mixed media, coating
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Sleeping Girl
Sculpture, 2017. Mixed Media

Sleeping and dreaming are hermetic states invoked by the artist in his figure work. Eyes closed and curled up on a sofa, 'Sleeping Girl' submits to dreams, her slumber separating her from the realm of the spectator. The sofa, a classic deep-buttoned Chesterfield, associated with gentlemen’s clubs the world over, appears larger-than-life and cups the young female in its comfortable hold. Based on the artist’s personal experience it captures a blissful moment when a parent watches over their child’s sleep. It is the child’s body at its most vulnerable, deserving of protection and care, yet at the same time its conscious mind is elsewhere, in a parallel world.
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Sleeping Girl - Detail
Sculpture, 2017. Mixed Media
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My bed a raft, the room the sea, and then I laughed some gloom in me
Sculpture, 2019. 400 x 400 x 114 cm, polyester, polyurethane, steel, polyamide, epoxy, wood, coating

'My bed a raft, the room the sea, and then I laughed some gloom in me' depicts a young female figure asleep in her bed which hovers above a raft, which, in turn, is afloat on a lily-pond. The floating sensation is commonly associated with the onset of sleep. As the raft has no sail or tiller it is controlled by chance and the natural elements, becoming a fitting metaphor for surrender. By the side of the bed are books, candy, a flashlight, a glass of water and sleeping pills. Butterflies flutter about, emblems of mortality and transience. In ancient Greece they were considered representations of souls while classic animated cartoons employed them frequently as playful interludes. Each object or element placed by the sleeper forms part of an arsenal of theatrical devices used by the artist to create an ambient or atmosphere. They serve to invoke a hyper-fictional state – guiding the viewer to the story, or perhaps into the girl’s reverie. Sleeping and dreaming are conditions that frequently recur in the artist’s work, but rather than supporting their presence with psychoanalytic readings, they encourage the audience to submit to their own dreams through the imagination.
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Tatiana (Butterfly)
Sculpture, 2017. Polyester, Wood, Polyamide
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The Cliff
Sculptural Installation, 2019. 420 x 940 x 291 cm, Steel, concrete, wood, polyester, styrofoam, coating

The monumental sculptural installation features an adolescent couple sitting atop a headland on the edge of the precipice. The girl’s open gaze lingers in the distance, as if preoccupied with something beyond the setting, while the boy’s attention is entirely focused on her. It is a bittersweet image of young love’s vagaries laced with innocence and designed to appeal to the viewer’s sentiment. The story of childhood, of growing up, is represented as a form of sublime enchantment punctuated by the overwhelming perception of a world not yet lived to which we are enticed to return. It also highlights Op de Beeck’s recurring concern with change, where different stages of our lives are punctuated with the weight of waiting before transitioning into a new phase – here, the advent of first love signals the passage into adulthood and the loss of innocence.
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The Cliff - Detail
Sculptural Installation, 2019. 420 x 940 x 291 cm, Steel, concrete, wood, polyester, styrofoam, coating
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Timo (Marbles)
Sculpture, 2018. Polyester, Glass, Coating

The appearance of life-sized grey plaster figures in recent years shows a departure from the artist’s previous sculptural output, which focused on largely depopulated spaces and environments. Featuring mostly children and young adults this ensemble cast of characters or players features in his exhibitions throughout the world. Despite their life-like qualities and expert modelling, they do not address the spectator directly, since the figures are generally self-absorbed, their eyes closed: 'Brian' sits cross-legged holding a crystal sphere, as if divining a mysterious future, while 'Timo (marbles)' plays with a set of glass marbles on the ground, and 'Timo' aimlessly shoots an arrow with a rubber stopper from a little bow. Their arrested gestures and actions are mundane, inconsequential and evoke a world of introspection and quiet reflection.
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Gestures

Each work in this series of life-sized sculpted arms and hands, performing small unremarkable everyday actions, is a tiny autonomous scene – a writing hand resting on a book, a hand throwing a paper plane, a child’s hand holding a bubble it’s just blown or a balloon on a string, a hand that looks like it’s about to plant a scaled-down tree, a hand offering a bowl of blackberries, two hands cupped protectively together, two hands holding a letter.


All we see is the arms and hands, apparently emerging from the wall; the figure to whom they belong remains completely anonymous. All the actions are very simple and ordinary. Thematically, they all depict the simple act - the small gesture, which despite its size, can still be of great poetic significance.
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Gestures
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Blackberries
Sculpture, 2019. 200 x 200 x 145 cm, wood, polyester, coating

Blackberries are commonly associated with loss, sorrow and remorse, but for the artist, the fruit presents a more positive, individual reading. It represents a personal mnemonic catalyst that draws him back to the hot summers of his youth and the stonewalled garden of his parental home, overgrown with wild blackberry bushes. The sharp taste of the blackberry symbolises a childhood whose unfolding lay in the still-distant future. He refers to the fruit as his ‘Proustian Madeleine’, a symbolic object whose consumption induces a freefall into remembrance of the past.

The sculpture shows three unfeasibly large blackberries displayed on a pedestal; both the fruit and the support are the same grey colour as if a layer of dust had literally been blown over the memory. The artist therefore links memory with scale, a recurring feature in many of his works. When size is drastically increased it results in gigantism; this can instill feelings of awe – engendered by the romantic sublime – or fear of a physical threat, depending on the object selected. Contrariwise, to be overcome by giant soft fruit is of course bathetic – an instance where gigantism instigates humour and ridicule.
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Roe Deer
Sculptural Installation, 2018. Polyamide, Glass, Wood, Concrete, Steel, Coating
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The Tree
Sculpture, 2017.
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The Tree - Detail
Sculpture, 2017.
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Silent Piano
Sculpture, 2015. Wood and Mixed Media

‘The Silent Piano’ is an entirely sculpted monochrome grey grand piano; an unplayable, deaf-mute interpretation of the instrument. On top of the piano is a still life of empty photo frames, books, drinks, cigarettes.

Grand pianos often end up silenced and gathering dust in country houses or other bourgeois haunts. They have the same stifled presence as libraries of old books that haven’t been opened in a very long time. The sound, the music, is left to the imagination.
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Still Life (wall piece)
Series of Sculptures. Plaster, polyester, MDF, coating, 2019.
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Still Life (wall piece)
Series of Sculptures. Plaster, polyester, MDF, coating, 2019.
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Still Life (wall piece)
Series of Sculptures. Plaster, polyester, MDF, coating, 2019.
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Still Life (wall piece)
Series of Sculptures. Plaster, polyester, MDF, coating, 2019.
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