The works of Steven Baelen and Elena Damiani seem at first utterly remote from each other. Yet Elaine Levy Project offered them a common ground where an intimate dialogue could take place, in a show called La chambre.
The practice of Steven Baelen, a Ghent artist and a Hisk post-graduate school alumnus, is deeply rooted in drawing: it’s a dense, compact and stratified practice. Little by little it evolved into painting, through a self-analytical process.
The body of work of Elena Damiani, a Peruvian artist based in London, is multifaceted and is not restricted to two dimensions, as it may first appear. It is composed of layers of found elements, creating a material as impalpable as it is malleable. Her practice leads the viewer to reconsider the perception of the image as space.
Steven Baelen draws his immediate surroundings, living room or studio. His interwoven strokes draw the viewer’s attention within a subtle visual overload with acute and abstract construction that appears only after a patient gaze. The apparent mess orders itself, step by step, into a figurative representation.
In the beginning, there’s a sketch in a notebook depicting the artist’s environment, whose dense network of lines unfolds later into several other supports and media: from notebook collections to autonomous drawings, from drawings to paintings rearranged and translated after other rules and points of references.
Steven Baelen’s work stands at the intersection of two paradoxical trends: they reveal their own making, showing themselves as delicate palimpsests, as much as they hide for they tend to stay unreadable.
Elena Damiani’s material, vocabulary and collection of shapes are different from Steven’s. But her work shares the same interest in images that are not given at first, but rather appearing to alternatively withstand or let through the viewer’s gaze.
Yet her work doesn’t rely on her intimate surroundings. And if the images bear references to an obvious space at first, the constant ambiguity and altering perception turns them into indecisive heterotopias.
In short, the viewer's thought is carried away in the exact opposite direction than in Steven Baelen’s work.
The encounter between the two bodies of works and aesthetics is unconventional and unexpected but it’s appealing. They’re sharing the same will to activate the viewer perception and sensorial intelligence by leading and misleading it through different stages. These processes are interacting in a complementary and symmetrical way.
Excerpt from the press release written by Emmanuel Lambion.