Raoul De Keyser's diminutive paintings of loosely brushed forms appear dashed-off or nonchalant. On first glance, the fifty paintings peppering the walls of this exhibition appear lackluster. Yet somehow they lure you to keep looking.
Still, you can almost hear the layperson complaining: 'Look what this costs; my kid could make this'! That is to say, De Keyser's art does not impress by means of obvious skill. In fact, the work almost seems purposefully deskilled. The thin canvases are lazily stretched with knobby triangle folds at the corners, mimicking those used by many a hobbyist. The painting technique the artist deploys is frequently spare and largely unassuming--except in the most rudimentary of ways.
Given these attributes, by what measure do we evaluate De Keyser's work? The artist seems to ask us to enter into a rarefied arena where impact is restrained and a reduction of overt technical prowess is meant to unnerve our jaded viewership and allow us to unaffectedly see again.
The feasibility of this strategy is, of course, debatable, but De Keyser's efforts still somehow feel laudable. The artist is often able to articulate a quizzical painted space with the barest of means. His is an experiential art that addresses descriptions of the world, but is ultimately concerned with abstract renderings as hallmarks of nuance. In 'Drift', for instance, the surprising weight of a washed out red at the top of the canvas anchors a flock of turquoise marks angling across the central white ground of the painting. To notice this curious balance is to give in to the elementary aims and simple pleasures of these paintings.
"Raoul De Keyser Terminus: Drawings (1979-1982) and Recent Paintings" is on view through 24 October at David Zwirner.
All images are courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner.