TENTOONSTELLING  6 tot 28  NOVEMBER 2015 "Tales of Silence"

Opening door Annick Geenen vrijdag 6 november 20 u

Galerie S&H De Buck


Somebody presses a button, a trapdoor opens, light
floods the chamber and fixes itself on the light-sensitive
emulsion: a photographic image is born. What
is recorded in the dark chamber of the camera is the
sumptuously visual splendour of the world.
Yet, how inferior is this image, how little does it tell
us of the photographer’s rich sensory experience
at the moment it was captured? The work of the
Antwerp photographer Karel Fonteyne (1950) aims
to redress this shortcoming. His ambition is to regale
the viewer with the same sensory experience as the
For example in the Body Map Series (2002), the
camera goes in closer and closer. In this series the
camera hogs the body uncomfortably closely and
reduces it to an abstract game of bright planes and
black lines. This is a process of mapping the body; the
sensuality of the warm, tender flesh is converted into
the cool, graphic precision of an – albeit fragmented
– map. This reveals a paradox: the closer the camera
approaches reality, the less readable the end result is.
Reality mutates if you get too close. The photograph
is then no longer a faithful reproduction of the world,
but a place where a different and autonomous reality
looms into view. Fonteyne constantly seeks out the
tipping point, the instant in which the photographic
image loses its natural transparency. The moment
when looking is no longer sufficient and the eye has
to appeal to the imagination to find a way to the
tangible body.
The series named ‘The Hungarian Sequence’ (1988)
appears in the first instance no more than just a
collection of snapshots, picked at random from
the family album perhaps. But they are in fact the
photographic recordings of a cinema performance
in a fringe theatre in Budapest. They are secondary
images, photographs of photographs. We recognise
the scenes but the story they belong to is no longer
clear. They have become wandering fragments, vague
apparitions which evoke deeply hidden reminiscences
in the viewer: these spectres on the wall might as well
be our own memories.
This photographer loves to play with bodies.
He gives beautiful naked women strange attributes,
a bass tuba here, a mandolin there; puts numbers
on their brows and closed eyes (numerology is never
far away), covers their hair with a hairband (making
them a member of one tribe) and hides their faces
in books, etc. He changes them as if by magic into
weird, elusive beings, into bodies without any discernible
features. The individual dissolves into a type.
Yet exactly how we are to interpret this type remains
unresolved: the images remain mysteries, riddles
with their adorned bodies stubbornly ambiguous.
In the series ‘The Painter’ (1991) too, Fonteyne focuses
sharply on the body. In this instance it is the body
of a painter in full swing. The images offer no clear
analysis of the way the painter systematically fills
the empty canvas. Instead they analyse the painterly
act in a series of physically aggressive postures. The
painter appears to be a dancer performing a
choreographic score, a mobile entity who is entangled
in an impossible duet with his own shadow. Before
the painter touches the canvas, there is already that
dark, threatening shadow preceding him to occupy
the canvas. Or in reverse, every time the painter
retreats or prepares for the next ‘attack’, his shadow
lingers on the canvas. The image the painter leaves in
his work is, literally, a shadow of his own physicality.
Could the same apply to these photographic images?
Karel Fonteyne puts a lot of hard work into his
photographs, not just to make them ‘beautiful’ or to
reinforce their imaginary transparency, but to give
them a skin. He is to a great extent a photographer of
the darkroom. This is where the most significant acts
take place, such as the double exposure in the ‘Horses’
series. This is where the image is wrought as though
by an artisan. By applying the light-sensitive emulsion
to the image carrier (canvas or coarse paper), which
sometimes causes ‘painting defects’ where the brush
has not deposited a sufficient amount of emulsion so
‘unexposed’ scratches crisscross the smooth surface,
the mechanical, clinical perfection of the photographic
registration is replaced by the artisan imperfection of
the human hand. We are looking at an image, not a
window on reality. All these photographic manipulations
have only one aim: to give the images a body,
to complement looking with touch.
Steven Humblet

tekst uit " PIECES" a publication of iNGRID-DEUSS

Karel Fonteyne



Artgalerie S&H De Buck
Hermine De Groeve
Zuidstationstraat 25 | 9000 Gent | Belgium
+32 (0)9 225 10 81 |

Opening hours:

from 15h - 18h.
and on appointment
sundays, mondays & tuesdays

Permanent :

Hedendaagse juwelen en zilveren ontwerpen
van de hand van Siegfried De Buck