before the crow crows
October 14 – November 25, 2017
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in the United States by Belgian artist Ben Sledsens, before the crow crows, opening October 14 and on view until November 25, 2017. Comprised of ten new works, Sledsens utilizes the language of his idiosyncratic painting to explore subjective moments caught between nature, domestic life, pastoral idyll and public space. Influenced by aspects of classic genre painting through post-impressionism and early modernism, Sledsens’ paintings rework historical motifs within distinctly private moments of personal experience, tracing the people, settings and situations – both real and imagined – that order his inner experience of life.
Living and working in Antwerp, Sledsens has developed a chromatic use of oil and acrylic throughout large-scale works that document varying situations in an almost diary-like format. The works range in perspective, shifting between first person viewpoints to the detachment of a witness, placing the viewer in an uncertain role as to whether they are viewing from the perspective of the artist or a removed observer. This uncertainty underscores the individuality of each work, and the individuality of each of Sledsens’ subjects, whose essential character is questioned and interrogated through his distinct brushwork and coloring.
Included in the exhibition are a series of works that depict subjects and figures in social, natural and more fantastic settings. In one work, five young adults amuse each other in a cafe with conversation, drinks and flirting glances while, in another, a fair damsel is watched over carefully by a knight in battle armor. Two works depict forest scenes, with one portraying a nighttime landscape with dark green hues delicately contrasted against the blues of a starlit sky reflecting off the surface of a lake. Other works depict wildlife, such as birds, foxes and flowers, painted in an almost folkloric manner, merging visual languages ranging between traditional European motifs, handicraft and impressionism.
Sledsens embraces all manner of art-historical references within his individual and unique mastery of paint and brushstroke. Cezanne’s serene natural landscapes, or the visual motifs of Matisse’s late cut-outs may be conjured and rooted out in individual works, yet Sledsens deftly merges these influences within his own unique perspective, focusing instead on the little trifles that structure and comprise the experience of daily life. This aspect is no better seen than in his piece composed of dozens of individual drawings of faces, flowers, swords and birds that eventually find their place within his large-format works, elevating the moment-by-moment minutiae of daily life into the serenity of a heavily-labored work of art.
Ben Sledsens (b. 1991) lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium. This is his first show with Nino Mier Gallery, as well as his first show of work in the United States. Sledsens is represented by Tim Van Laere Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium.