The debate in the field of visual arts in Belgium records, in recent decades, the coexistence of dissimilar attitudes in a fluid panorama which, in the expression of a permanent dissatisfaction with regard to the meaning and nature of art itself, brings together returns to tradition and open and critical confrontations of individual artists with international events and movements (see in particular Fluxus, Arte Povera; influence of the Zero group of Düsseldorf).
According to Best-medical-schools, Belgian research, while reflecting the fragmented intertwining of international trends, presents ” regional ” and autonomous drives (see the exhibition Echelle I, Brussels 1981), who are opposed to the simplistic homologation of artists under the terms of convenience of the art market, and at the same time some independent positions such as eg. in the hyperrealist experience, which rejects the banal mimicry of the American group and develops a more analytical and abstract character, placing the anecdotal element in the background (see the production of H. Duchateau, M. Maeyer, alongside the more pragmatic still lifes by R. Wittevrongel). The multiform process of research parallels the development of opposing responses and aesthetics; if on the one hand some artists recover significant experiences of the recent past, a fact that can be found in the expressionistic connotation of the aggressive figuration of Y. Vandicke (b.1942), D. Josse (b.1952) and the younger D. Matrige (n.. environnement) in its social and natural value, has given life in Belgium, particularly since the seventies, to positions that intertwine sociological elements, intellectualistic and subjective attitudes borrowed from the Dadaist and Surrealist experience.
In addition to the ironic and very personal activity of M. Broodthaers (1924-1976) in the field of Mec art (see his presence at Documenta 5, Kassel 1972), experienced by various artists including P. Bury, and his de-contextualizing actions and metaphorical (see Bern Kunsthalle in 1982) in the use and assemblage of different objects, other experiences also fall within the field of the conceptual, such as the reconstructions of real environments with ironic insertions by G. Bijl (b. 1946) or the works of more detached N. Todoir (b. 1954), who works on codified objects, inserted in a context of signs of artistic language, both of which are also affected by Magrittian surrealism.
The individual and hermetic experiences of the ” mythologies ” on the theme of flight by Panamarenko (b.1940) and those of L. Copers (b.1947) on the ” creative energy of art ” still refer to this area., which underline the emergence of the creative element, streaked with regressive utopian characters, as well as the search for a direct relationship between artistic production and natural textures that takes on ethnological connotations in the use of natural materials, assemblage collages and outdoor sculptures from part of R. Bruyninckx (b.1946), M. Martens (b.1921), together with many other artists who have ventured into different fields of visual research (P. Alechinsky, C. Van Breedam, Y. De Smet, P. Courtois, J. Lennep, and others).
Other aspects born in the field of conceptual art, aimed at analyzing the meaning of iconic signs, are to be referred to the “ visual poetry ” of the group of P. De Vree (n.1909) and of the magazine De Tafelronde, and to multimedia experiments in the comparison between different expressive systems of M. Couturier (b.1957) and relational art – a term coined by J. Lennep (b.1941) and P. Courtois (b.1950) in the field of video – times information and multidimensional description of the observed object.
In other cases, different and previous experiences find a ground for development in the common rejection of the rationalist values of ” modernist ” culture; the activity (sixties-seventies) of J. and M. Wyckaert (b. 1932) for the Belgian section of the Situationist International has for example. an echo not only in the futuristic connotation of the proposals of L. Deleu (b. 1944) of a mobile architecture made of interchangeable elements, but also in the architectural design of the last decade.
On the other hand, the complexity of the panorama includes in the context of abstract research and the analysis of the forms and structures of vision, in addition to the optical experiences of the 1960s with the “ monochromes ” of W. Leblanc (1932-1986) and to the kineticism of P. Bury’s “ slow movements ”, the development of the reflection on the constructivist experience (begun after 1945 by J. Delahaut and L. Peire), in the minimalist constructions, in the monochrome reliefs and in the architectural integrations of the group of Ghent and Y. De Smet (b. 1946). An aspect that unites dissimilar experiences is then the research, conducted in the field of primary rhythms between structures and material elements, by D. Van Severen (b.1927) and M. Wéry (b.1930), to which he associates the archetypal character.
In the context of the return to figuration, it should be emphasized, in particular in the Eighties, the presence of needs for greater legibility, which can be found for example. in the free landscapes of Wyckaert, and of eclectic and vitalistic attitudes, placed under the common denominator of the ” new subjectivity ”. The works of P. Roobjee (b.1945) and Raveel can be traced back to this expression, together with the updating of the Venetian “ view ” by G. Degobert (b.1914) and the avant-garde problems of J. Vancruysse (n. 1948), which introduces contradictory elements in the categories of classical genres (eg. the self-portrait), but also the imaginary rediscovery of R. Nelleus (n. 1937) and the figuration of symbolic and imaginary strips of F. Schutten.
As regards the plastic arts in particular, the signs and volumes inscribed in the urban space by J. Mareschal (b. 1913) should be noted; F. Roulin (b.1931), using the traditional technique, integrates figurative and abstract elements, while beyond the minimalist research there is the flexible sculpture of Tapta (b.1926), who works on spatial development and ” will ” plastic inside the materials (industrial caoutchouc).