Ophuis is confronting the public with paintings about human suffering, from Nazi brutality to the Srebrenica massacre and crimes in Iraq. His work fits in a longtime Western tradition of depicting cruelty and violence. In the new body of work that will be on show at The Armory, Ophuis shows portraits of child soldiers who fought in the civil-war (1991-2001) from Sierra Leone. Recently Ophuis went to Sierra Leone to interview the boys and girls that had been recruited in the militias. Followed by a filmcrew that is making a documentary about his work from this period he travelled through the country and gathered first hand information from the former soldiers which together with lots of photos form the basis of his new works.
At The Armory Upstream Gallery will present a selection of works from this serie ranging from portraits on paper and canvas in the size of about 60 x 50 cm (23,6 x 19,6 inch) as well as two large canvasses from 200 x 340 cm (78,7 x 133,8 inch).
In his narrative painting Ophuis shows us something that photography rarely can: the synthesis of unfolding of an event picked up in a single image. He may base his work on photos, but the results are not quick snapshots. What we see is the crystallization of an historic moment transformed into the space-time of a reality that is certainly fabricated but that clearly corresponds to the way that viewers constantly receive and process a huge quantity of visual information without being able to achieve the slightest critical distancing because it all happens in real time. The way he handles his paint adds to the feeling of raw pain produced by his narrative paintings and equally disturbing portraits.
He rubs our faces into the worst part of the reality of today’s world, its institutionalized violence. The repetition of identical scenes around the world tends to deaden our reactions, to relegate these scenes to the level of banal news items. We deplore their intensity then turn the dead into statistics. It is because these works deal with subjects rarely addressed in contemporary painting that they have such an impact on us. Serving an authentic critical function, which doesn’t detract in the slightest from their pictorial quality.
(text Bernard Marcelis/ Artpress)
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