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2 Conflict Paintings + Color Method in 7 Layers
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There’s an empty space under every staircase. And a whole lot of it under our Stairway to Heaven. Because we’re a museum, we wanted to do something creative with that space. So the KMSKA approached the Antwerp artist Boy & Erik Stappaerts (BES Institute), who proposed an art installation in situ: 2 Conflict Paintings + Colour Method in 7 Layers.
The walls of the passageway became surfaces for painting, the elongated space a site where visitors can ‘step into art’. In this way, the installation breaks through the traditional museum pattern – walking from one painting to another – and offers visitors a different viewing and emotional experience.

The colour installations (Conflict Paintings) by Boy & Erik Stappaerts (BES, 1969, Antwerp) are ‘experiential theatres’. A tsunami of colours overwhelms you and offers you a physical experience with an emotional impact. Stappaerts calls himself first and foremost a ‘colour hunter’. He constantly seeks out the most pigment-rich and opaque paints, so that colour in all its fullness can operate as purely as possible on the retina and in the memory. Conflict Painting orchestrates different colour groups in horizontal lines and tones, which are systematically broken up by dissonant hues. Before then making a hard transition to another colour group. As form, the lines themselves are subordinate to the colour. ‘I put the viewer right into the movement between colour groups and hope that people will try to see how the dynamic power relationship between these families plays out. As in society, every Conflict Painting contains militant leaders and followers, influencers and the influenced, hard and soft, assimilation and dissimilation’, Boy & Erik Stappaerts says.

The artist has placed two very different Conflict Paintings directly onto the walls at the KMSKA. At the end of the passageway they come together in a soft stranglehold and it is the oppositions that resonate most loudly. In the second part of the passageway, ten metres in height, the visitor enters a kind of archive of colours: a cabinet of samples or Colour Icons. It is made up of 280 aluminium plaques sprayed with different shades of high-gloss car paint, which visualize the BES colour method. Over seven floors, each with 40 hues, seven colour groups emerge in a subtle play of shades. From white to yellow, from yellow to green, to every shade of apple-blue-aquamarine, from blue to purple, from claret to red, from orange to brown, and from grey to black. Light falls differently on each of the plaques. Each colour offers another reflection. Depending on their viewpoint, visitors get a different view of the forms, light and colours. Sometimes, all 280 colours seem connected and gentle in transition; sometimes they seem brought together by chance. Emotion and reason merge and open the door to reflection.

The installation is a perfect fit for the new KMSKA. The presentation of the modern art collection focuses on the essence of visual art: Light, Colour and Form. Modernist artists made steadily freer use of these visual means. Boy & Erik Stappaerts continues to push his distillation of these themes ever-further, both conceptually and materially. He is a ‘contemporary modernist’ who draws inspiration from the master classes in the use of full colour offered by the likes of Rubens and Ensor – the two main anchor points in the KMSKA collection.

Acquisition history

commissioned by: museum, 2022

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