“Hellhound on my Trail” (Robert Johnson)
A taste of ‘Southern Discomfort’:
Walking amidst urban landscapes, the eye of Thierry Grootaers will fall upon typical elements as houses, letterboxes, dogs, cars, which he will register in his brain but when he paints them down on the canvas, they will become quite atypical. Houses are prominent: the contours of the building are precise, however, the interiors, people as well as animals are blurred, often monochrome and have a disturbing, often ritual emanation. Beekeepers thus become alien visitors, a dog almost a pagan idol from a long lost ritual, a scarecrow becomes almost an executioner or some sort of menacing existential demon. Instead of places of comfort, these houses and scenes become places of discomfort and gain oppressive connotations. One of the main elements in creating this atmosphere is deliberately messing up the proportions of some of his subjects: big becomes small and vice versa. Perspective will be seriously deranged. This results in a discretely psychedelic vision of reality.
This guy is messing with my brain …
Urban landscapes turn into urban wastelands.
Magazine advertisements, consumer objects, dogs etc. get the same treatment. Dogs are depicted with antlers, humans shake hands with unidentified humanoids as if it was the most banal encounter of the seventh kind. Cars, trailers are depicted as completely worn out: they have been the victim of too many human occupation and activity. The overload of cosiness and comfort has turned them into objects of discomfort. They become the opposite of what they were meant to be. Layering is essential as instrument in his ‘battle with composition’. He fills up with vivid colours, overpaints, erases, destroys and re-composes. Instead of presenting one date as day of creation of a painting, he will often write several dates on the back of the canvas: all these are days in which he reworked the painting in order to come to the ‘final’ result. A never ending friction between ‘fini’ and ‘non-fini’.
All this is immersed in a sort of ‘urban voodoo’ kind of atmosphere.
There is a reason why Thierry is a fan of swamp things, Mississippi blues and Robert Johnson.
I would not be amazed if he had not sold his soul to the devil on some misty crossroads in the outskirts of the delapidated 19century industrial city of Liège … in the south of Belgium.