Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys
Boy with Small Birds in His Hair, 2015
Pencil and watercolour on off-white cardboard in
Courtesy the artists and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin
Jos de Gruyter (b. 1965, Geel, Belgium) and Harald Thys (b. 1966, Wilrijk, Belgium) have been working together since the 1980s. They first became video-makers and performers of playful, dystopian narratives. Now they work in various media, including sculpture and drawing, to describe a feebly sensitised world where contemporary ideas of freedom and subjectivity are chimera, and objects often have as much life as humans.
For their exhibition at Raven Row the artists have become watercolourists, assuming the muddled and suspect obsessions of imaginary weekend painters to make a vast series of pictures. Numerous depictions of history culled from the internet stare blankly into a past which might now be useless. Deadpan images of the banal and fanciful hang evenly alongside the grievous and tragic without expression, critique or apparent irony. In some, nostalgia or innocence are dimly stirred and questioned. Cartoonish sculptural figures, weighty but thin like cardboard, stand alongside the watercolours as mute witnesses.
In an old flat above Raven Row's galleries, the artists present a selection of their video work: from early comic films animating objects in Belgian suburbs, to more recent works that elaborate absurdist narratives within theatrical and sculptural sets, often featuring characters stunned into immobility.
De Gruyter and Thys have had solo exhibitions at MoMA PS1, New York (2015), The Power Station, Dallas (2015), CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2015), Kunsthalle Wien (2014), M HKA, Antwerp (2013), Mu.ZEE, Ostend (2012), Kunsthalle Basel (2010) and Culturgest, Lisbon (2009). They live and work in Brussels.