Raoul De Keyser was born in 1930 in Deinze, and lived there his entire life. From 1963-1964 he develops a personal oeuvre that unfolds through several stylistic periods. In this way, his early paintings from the sixties can be seen as exponents of the ‘Nieuwe Visie’ (New Vision), in which impressions of everyday surroundings are translated through a simplified figuration. Objects like a garden hose, soccer stocking or door handle appear repeatedly in the work and are used by De Keyser to conduct research on line, surface and color. In contrast to Pop Art, which will often thematize the American consumer culture, De Keyser consciously chose the more quiet and intimate imagery of the Flemish village – with or without the new signs of modernity. Raoul De Keyser, however, was not only influenced by figurative painting, but also by the American post-war abstraction such as Post-painterly abstraction, Color Field and Hard-edge painting. In this way, he quite literally refers to the American artist Al Held in the iconic work Baron in Al Held-Veld (Baron in Al Held Field) (1964-1966).
In the sixties, Raoul De Keyser already consciously engaged with the spatial implications of the painterly medium. There is a clear relationship to be noted between the disappearance and the flattening of space in the image plane and De Keyser’s growing interest in literally placing the work in the exhibition space. Between 1966 and 1971, he creates a variety of wooden frames onto which a canvas is stretched which is then painted on, called Linnen Dozen (Linen Boxes). The work Linnen Doos II (Linen Box II) (1966-1967), shown in this exhibition, has not been exhibited since 1970. The Linnen Dozen themselves are also regularly depicted in his works, as is the case in Untitled from 1971. The three-dimensional painting is also given form in the Slices: paintings that are set on the floor and lean against the wall, which can be seen as side-sections of the Linen Boxes.
In his works of the 1970s, he continues his research into the subjects and techniques of the previous decade, yet now in a more subtle and seemingly more systematic manner. He often works in series, such as for instance in works as Zeilen Heuvels (Sails Hills) or the quadriptych Tegendraads (Against-the-grain) (1978). Increasingly, he takes the process of painting in itself as the subject in his oeuvre; the scratching in the paint, but also the space left for hesitations and ‘errors’ are common practices explored by De Keyser. The guiding principle here is a multi-usable motif: the research into both the pictorial space and the material and process-related conditions of painting.
The Keyser’s work of the 1980s is characterized by new subjetcs, greater spatial and painterly/ technical complexity and a more exuberant use of color. Tornado (1981), Knauw (Bite) (1983-1984) and Hellepoort 8 (Hell Gate 8) (1985) are clear examples of this development. The roughly brushed surface, however, has little to do with the ubiquitous (neo) Expressionism, but rather with his decade-long struggle with the paint and the canvas.
Zeno-X Gallery (press release)