The painting inviting us to Koen Fillet’s very first art exhibition, is a statement. Just over 89 by 80 inch, this small work of art is an instant eye-catcher: robust, bold even, and yet minutely painted. As solid as the rivets in the picture.
What does the painting show? A drain pipe? An extreme close-up of a freight train? The lock of a container? It really doesn’t matter. What counts, is the artist’s vision and the work’s intensity. Koen Fillet looks up, locks in on a detail, and has sunlight explode on canvas.
The artist discards the illusion of the day lending weight to an insignificant detail. Having mastered the art of looking, he freezes time in tint, and captures his reality on canvas.
Koen Fillet has painted more of such ‘details’, like the suspension of a steel bridge. It always feels like he’s etching or printing in paint.
Yet his gaze focuses just as well on a dead body. At least I suspect ‘Summer’ does not show a sleeping but a dead woman lying on an almost abstract bed of grass and flowers. A few days ago, Fillet completed the Summer-Winter diptych with a second motionless body in a pinkishly cold winter field. In the background cars are rushing by. ‘Look! Why don’t you look!’, the artist seems to say.
Fillet also feasts his eyes at family parties, gatherings which he transforms in blurred paintings of seemingly elusive people. Fillet paints a maimed mankind and the human failing.
The artist turns ironic, if not sarcastic when he paints a praying archbishop Léonard – not unintentionally twelve times: the clergyman prays for the salvation of Osama bin Laden, and of George W. Bush. And yes, Léonard also prays for Koen Fillet.
Next to Léonard a painting of thirteen white coats (of painters, doctors, students or Jesus and his apostles?) on a rack. They bathe in an acrid light. Cold, dead, purposeless.
Koen Fillet has resumed painting two years ago. His work stands.