Werk van Narcisse Tordoir [Works by Narcisse Tordoir]

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Narcisse Tordoir once said “I am going to paint in a fashion that is in no way reminiscent of painting”, thereby locating himself outside the medium, but at the same time in an extension of it.

In Narcisse Tordoir – The Pink Spy we see both earlier and more recent work. There is room for paintings, photos and moving images, and collaboration with such artists as the Venezuelan Carla Arocha, the Malinese artist Brehima Koné and the South-African James Beckett.

In this retrospective we are struck by the many sides of Tordoir’s work. After a brief sojourn in performance art in the late seventies, he went on to paint in distinct styles and constantly tried out new things. In the eighties the public were familiar with his small, colourful panels showing symbols and icons, which he arranged in rows or spatial compositions, as in Z.T. (1986), Personage (1991) and Z.T. (1993). In the late eighties and early nineties, Narcisse Tordoir was one of the major innovators in the painting medium. For many years he was unhappy with museums and no longer exhibited. His recent work signals a change in this policy.

For this exhibition, Narcisse Tordoir has done five monumental works for which he took inspiration from the 18th-century Venetian artist of the late Baroque, Giambattista Tiepolo. After reading Tiepolo Pink by the Italian essayist Roberto Calasso, Tordoir started on a series of large-format works whose theme and scale were inspired by Tiepolo’s two series of etchings, the Scherzi di Fantasia and Capricci. The project was given the appropriate name of 'The Pink Spy', after Tiepolo’s pink, and the spy figure who recurs in Tiepolo’s work and is often referred to as ‘the Oriental’.

It is possibly The Pink Spy 3 (2013) that makes the clearest reference to Tiepolo’s desolate landscapes. Two abandoned children look around them. It is not clear what has just happened and what is going to happen. The scene that is taking place just outside the picture plane and which catches their attention remains a mystery. Tiepolo’s renowned clouds here assume the form of white plastic. When combined with withered plants, debris and a marble dog, the whole thing exudes mystery. At first sight this oversized work appears to be photographic in nature. Yet something is not right. A painting by Narcisse Tordoir need not be tied to oil paint: as he himself says, ‘a painting can be anything’. For The Pink Spy he photographed collages, printed them on cloth and enriched them with pastel crayons.

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