Mark Luyten

Micheline Szwajcer

In an essay published by the Douglas Hyde gallery in Dublin in 1985, Philippe-Andre Rihoux wrote, “To see the work of Mark Luyten is to explore the weavings and interactions of neutral planes, the interferences of literary and artistic categories. His work has its roots in literature, in a poetic substratum which provides both stability and stimulus for growth.” Over the past ten years, Luyten has consistently explored the area between categories like painting, photography, literature, landscape, and portraiture, and has fashioned a body of work that is intricately tied to the notion of this investigation, to the possibility of expanding these categories by creating combinations that confront and challenge the spectator.

This exhibition extended his approach by incorporating ideas of absence, repetition, and chronology. The main gallery included four works. Untitled, 1991, features a large, unframed black and white photograph of rocks in a stream of water. It is completely covered by a veil of metal gauze. Next to it is hung a white canvas, with words or phrases stamped into it: “autre” (other), “je coule” (I flow), “als drijven” (like floating), “dormir” (to sleep). Luyten frequently uses text as an element to connote both painting and poetry. Here, its juxtaposition with a concrete image points to the difference between description and approximation.

The same photograph reappears in the other three works, in various mutations. In another untitled piece from 1991, two identical photographs hang next to each other. A large white square, the blank of a section of the negative where nothing has been printed, takes up the center of the work. In Dormir, 1990, two small frames abut each other. On the right, a lead painting provides the “representation” through the characteristics of the material itself; on the left a cropped version of the same rock photo is covered with fine white paper.

Finally, Je relis (lettre G. F. 1984) (I reread [letter G. F. 1984], 1991), seems to sum up all of Luyten’s strategies of masking and repetition. Here, four panels fit together to form a rectangle, the entire surface of which is covered by metal gauze. In the center, occupying most of the surface, is a painted black square. On the borders of the frames are series of writings. In fact, what is covered by both the paint and the metal is a 1984 work by Luyten, in which he used a text from Flaubert’s correspondence. In this case, the personal attempt at communication becomes not only a function of reading, but of remembrance. The “rereading” refers to the physical veiling of the text as well as the former work of the artist, now situated in a different context. In a sense, this work is the inverse of those involving the photograph of the rocks. There, an objective image is turned subjective through the foregrounding of the artist’s manipulation. In Je relis, the subjective has been transformed into the objective by the same manipulation. In each case, however, traces of the other approach survive.

––Michael Tarantino