Posted By Frederic De Meyer - The Art Coach Magazine
I did not immediately associate the city of Ypres with a bustling art city. Nor is it yet. Nevertheless, some interesting initiatives have emerged in recent months, and more are on the way. I went there to visit two galleries, Frock and Reichmanns, but learned that a little further on there is another art space, asbl R121, that around the corner gallery Adrienne D has a permanent showcase, and that down the street the same evening another gallery is opening with some roaring names from modern and recent art history. On top of that, the city is planning a space for artist residencies and exhibitions with Satellite K, you guessed it: on the same street. "There are also a number of properties on the street that could definitely be used for pop-up exhibitions," says Annelies Deltour of Frock Gallery, smiling. Suppose all these initiatives coincide, you would immediately have an arts festival that would reach far beyond the Westhoek. No doubt it will happen, one day... In the meantime, I enjoyed my visit to the two galleries:
The handsome space of Frock Gallery, which once served as a bank branch, offers many possibilities. The couple who bought the property, Annelies Deltour and American artist Matthew J. Frock came up with the idea of opening a gallery more or less by chance, and so ended up more or less accidentally in Ypres -although just a few arcs away from where Annelies was born. Matthew serves as curator, with his eye falling mostly on artists he happened to meet at art fairs, if only because they had a booth right next to his. Coincidentally many German artists, whom I also have an inexplicable soft spot for. Many coincidences, then, indicating that none of this is a coincidence, I ponder as they show me around.
Matthew's studio is in the gallery, in the space that once served as a bank vault. The interventions in the building provide a view into the studio from inside the gallery, creating an intriguing effect. He paints mostly abstract works and dashing landscapes and likes to compare his work to a game of chess, a showdown between him and the canvas. A bit strange when you stand in front of his organic-looking brushstrokes, which show no trace of struggle at all. But nothing is what it seems, as evidenced by the choice of artists he exhibits.
Dirk Groß's work may look restless, especially his older work, though he leaves ample room for a sense of wonder and surprise. This is due to the elaborate process by which he constructs his work, the result of a constant urge to experiment with meterials and thoughts. In his later work, this leads to more subdued images in which different readings are possible. Flagged is a fine example of this, a kind of reverie about moving curtains: you know what is going on behind them, yet at the same time this is only an assumption because you cannot see it. As in his other work, it is perhaps a game rather than a struggle, which is also true of Ulrike Balkau's images, playful and absurd at first glance, until the deeper grounds begin to penetrate.