By Lecia Bushak, REA Intern
Hans op de Beeck is a Belgian artist whose themes touch upon alienation in modern society, recreating unremarkable and desolate landscapes in painstaking detail. Through architectural drawings, tiny models and films, Hans op de Beeck depicts the emptiness, melancholy, and absurdity he observes in modern scenes such as parking lots, gardens and homes.
“I see such situations as absurd bits of information,” he once said. “As artist you are able to present them. It is a human inability to grasp the reason for life, but it is possible to, in certain ways, touch upon it.”
One Person Landscape is a disturbing scene designed for the viewing of only one person. It is the ability to capture the individual viewer’s memory and isolation in an almost enchanting way, that makes Hans op de Beeck’s work quite melancholy and romantic.
Location (2) (First Version) moves beyond individual memory and observes the artificiality of modern public space. His website states, “…The artist comments ironically on the contrast between the Western preoccupation with the romantic notion of an idealized nature contrasted against the rusty playground equipment and artificial rocks.”
The creative writing of Hans op de Beeck is equally poignant as it’s rooted in memory. The narrator in “Spa” is an aging man who, against his wishes, is sent by his daughter to a therapeutic spa for three weeks. During his lonesome stay amongst sad, aging bodies, the narrator, once a motivated scientist, looks back upon his life and wonders where all the ambition led him – nowadays the simple companionship of a stray dog can bring tears to his eyes.
In Staged Memory (2) the viewer stands in front of a small table upon which a tiny backyard garden sits. That tiny scene is little yet powerful — limited in physicality, but boundless in the memories it conjures. Do you remember your grandparents’ garden, behind that little house, or perhaps the first house you ever lived in? Maybe it’s a house you were only in once, but the smells and colors of that certain place still reside in a little cupboard in your mind, that in front of Hans op de Beeck’s tiny table model, are opened anew. They can be beautiful memories or disturbing ones that you have closed off for years. This little model is artificial, but feels very real.
Memories grow more evasive as one grows older; the details are forgotten; there is only a feeling that remains – a feeling of that time. Hans op de Beeck is able to capture that feeling in his work.
Staged Memory (1), 2000
Below you will find more examples of Hans op de Beeck’s work depicting desolate landscapes or quiet scenes. You can also find more of Hans op de Beeck’s portfolio and short stories on his website, which is a work of art in itself.