Emerging Belgian artist Michiel Ceulers pushes boundaries of painting tradition with his experimental approach to abstractions, from tactile grids to shaped canvases, collages and shimmering plains of green paint. Ceulers’ process incorporates both predetermined and random marks and gestures, as well as such mistreatments as sanding, puncturing and tearing.
Ceulers is intensely aware of painting’s long history and seeks to strip his works of the baggage that comes with it. Discussing his grid paintings he has said: “I am interested in the possibilities of abstract painting because it is politically dead. It failed, it’s like the idea of Malevich going from the peasants to the black square then going back again. So there is not really much to say, but because of that there is a possibility to explore that and then you really move towards that idea of modernism being what it is and there is nothing more, and you are already at that point of 0 degrees, which I think is really interesting to work with.”
What his works share with other great paintings from history is a vital energy and a luscious materiality. Colour is used effectively and emotively; sometimes sparingly behind rough grids of white, and at other times almost in overdose as with his It’s not easy being Green series that takes inspiration from Kermit the Frog. Playing with meaning and interpretation, Ceulers often uses long-phrased titles – philosophical statements, song lyrics, movie quotes or bon mots – to further generate associations for the viewer. These include I’ve Got A Vision of Nature Implanted in my Brain / Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose, or My name is not a game (Old school), or, for a disjointed diptych, A Little less Conversation – and one gets the sense that the artist is teasing the very nature of abstraction, while also sincerely investing his talents in its progression.
Born in 1986 in Waregem, Belgium, Ceulers did his MA in Painting at KASK, Ghent and thereafter was the youngest artist ever to be admitted to a two-year residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Ceulers now lives in Berlin and has participated in numerous group shows internationally, as well as having had solo shows with cutting edge galleries in Amsterdam, LA and London.