Critics’ Picks

Untitled, 2006, oil on canvas, 19 5/8 x 15 3/4".

Untitled, 2006, oil on canvas, 19 5/8 x 15 3/4".

London

Stef Driesen

Alison Jacques
16 - 18 Berners Street
November 23–December 22, 2006

While Belgian artist Stef Driesen claims he’s referencing old-master themes and color palettes, the smallest painting in this group of new canvases (all Untitled, 2006) echoes Magritte’s surreal empty faces. Two trees—mere stalagmites in pink and the verdigris of corroded copper—claw up from the perspectival void above the chin. Another painting features a head with a mane of black hair, prominently parted, obscuring a face one can only assume is blank, a presumption supported by the faceless lovers elsewhere in the gallery. Across the room, a supernatural landscape is steadfastly held to some measure of reality by two deliberate, forceful lines at the bottom of the canvas.

Mauve makes a big appearance throughout. Whistler once said, “Mauve is just pink trying to be purple,” and I can’t think of its manifestation in anything Flemish until now (save perhaps for Driesen’s distant cousin in style—if not geography—the London-based Dutch painter Rezi van Lankveld). But the fleshy tone of his mauve, blended with the admixture of that copper-green patina, draws something positively unreal from the figures. (It might be more relevant to think of how the color signaled danger in Dr. Who.) An attempt at pink—or purple, for that matter—is not the aim here.