But what makes Ben Sledsens so successful? Spotted by the eminent Antwerp gallery owner Tim Van Laere before he even graduated, the Belgian painter (born in 1991 in Antwerp) cannot satisfy every order he receives – to the point of having a waiting list – while each of his new exhibitions is sold out! Who would have thought that his large figurative canvases with naïve features and bright colors, which seem to go against all fashions and trends, could be so successful? Could it be precisely because they seem out of time? Perhaps we should see it as an antidote to our disenchanted world.
Drawing from the mythology of naïve painters (from Pieter Brueghel the Elder to Henri Rousseau) and the great colorists (Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, James Ensor, Claude Monet…) and creating his own mythology, Ben Sledsens’ painting is indeed a re-enchantment. In the Yellow Forest (2022), Moon Above the Lake (2018), Girl Lying in the Grass (2019), Girl in the Blue Room (2020)… “In his large-scale canvases, he reveals fragments of his imaginary world, a utopia in which he would like to live himself,” a universe with acidulous fairy-tale colors. In this “new world” with its “idyllic radiance” and lack of shadows, where the elements of the “real world” – the surrounding nature or his daily environment – appear enlarged, idealized, as if transfigured by an unreal light and pure colors, there is nevertheless a “disturbing strangeness.”
From his landscapes inhabited by animals or women lying on flowerbeds, as well as in his carefully composed portraits of interiors, emanates a troubled feeling, a dull tension threatening to make this too-polished and too-perfect world falter. And the painter, beyond the sweet flavors of his candy pink or canary yellow monochromes, sows here and there some anomalies likely to extract us from this waking dream in Utopia. Thus, of the all-blue crockery of the china cabinet, seemingly contaminated by the blue spread on the door and the wall of the Woman in the blue room, whose black look and shiny boots cannot pass unnoticed…
TIM VAN LAERE GALLERY Jos Smolderenstraat 50,