An absolute gem of an exhibition was recently held in Bruges, Belgium, where painter Kristof Santy teamed up with a local designer Thomas Serruys, for a solo presentation of his paintings. After 8 years of quiet yet prolific studio practice, the self-thought artist has decided to finally reveal the body of work he has been patiently and passionately developing and inaugurate his friend’s new space.

 

We rarely see an artist debuting with a show comprising large-scale paintings that are both working with diverse imagery and are thoroughly consistent in their aesthetic and ambiance. And Santy’s debut is certainly one of those anomalies, revealing the artist’s dedication and commitment to his practice as well as technical curiosity and accomplishment. Unburdened with implanted information and knowledge about structures and/or rules of art-making, as well as confident about his dedication to the practice, the Roeselare-based artist has been rigorously researching the world of painting over the course of the past 8 years. Aiming “to find a meaning of the world around him through his paintings,” he has been creating stylized renditions of everything from mythologies, works by other artists, to fragments of a personal or experienced moment. The show includes a big selection of large-scale canvases as well as a cluster of small-scale pieces which are basically studies of color, texture, forms, etc. Allowing the artist to experiment with visual elements and technique while creating everything from abstract compositions to classical portraiture these small canvases are keys to the more elaborate pieces with everything from interior scenes, over still lifes, to landscape and/or narrative-based visuals.  

Interested in images with accentuated perspective and composition, in which all the elements are in complementing harmony and are forming an exciting picture plane, Santy is often contrasting the scraped surfaces with more polished sections, strict patterns against wood grains, and vibrant color sections against velvety surfaces. Approaching his practice from a curious and experimental standpoint and driven by the strong urge to create and discover, the finished paintings are often layered with marks of the creative process. Such intense surfaces and textures certainly add to the overall aesthetic of the work that reveals the artist’s obsession with painting. Using the materiality of oils to construct a captivating depiction of the softness of smoke or clouds, a variety of organic and artificial surfaces, as well the shine on glass or metal objects, Santy is creating a great sense of volume around his objects. Looking up to the oeuvre by the likes of Jean Brusselmans, European pop art painters such as  Konrad Klapheck and Domenico Gnoli, Philip Guston, as well as the 19th-century folk prints (imagerie populaire), the work is highly stylized, simplified, utilizing the impact of iconography, and imbued with a sense of humor. The combination of such peculiar yet particular influences along with Santy’s determination and obviously clean vision about his work results in one of the strongest debuts we’ve witnessed in a long time. —Sasha Bogojev