Philippe Vandenberg

Ghent Belgium 1952 - Brussels Belgium 2009

To Philippe Vandenberg art and life were one. This outlook determined both the strength and the dramatic quality of all his work. By the time Vandenberg finished art school in Ghent, in 1976, he was already considered a highly talented artist. In 1981 he received the Prix de la Jeune Peinture Belge, and soon after this he would be among Belgium’s most successful painters. Vandenberg was an artist who sought the connection between mind and soul. In his paintings he expressed the human condition, often referring to his political, philosophical and literary concerns. Painting was his means of coming to terms with life – with his own complex personality, with the absurdity of the world around him and with the art world, by which he was both celebrated and dismissed. Having made a virtuoso debut, he then renounced any display of skill. His work became, especially after 1996, increasingly austere. Vandenberg’s development is characterized by creative ruptures in which he alternated between painting figuratively and abstractly. From the mid 1990s onward, drawing began to assume increasing significance in his work. While his paintings are often searching and obdurate, thousands of his pencil drawings take up a continuum of associative, occasionally cartoonish images, in which fears and obsessions are warded off. There are also works in which language becomes image; sometimes he achieves this with a single word, other times with invoking statements. Time and again, Vandenberg questioned form and content, trying to fathom his own depths and to understand why painting was such an adventure to him. Taking risks and exposing oneself to them were the consequence of his perspective on life as an artist. In June 2009 this ended with his suicide.