Elise Aelvoet and Pieter Mathysen

Curator: Christelle Juan

22.10.2015 - 22.11.2015


A dual exhibition by artists Elise Aelvoet and Pieter Mathysen, curated by Christelle Juan.

Elise Aelvoet, Master in Fine Arts Painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

Pieter Mathysen, Master in Visual Arts Painting at the University College Antwerp.

Elise Aelvoet and Pieter Mathysen are two Belgian painters. They are also husband and wife.

Curator Christelle Juan moved from Belgium to Israel 3 years ago, studied Curatorial Studies at the Kibbutzim College, Tel Aviv, and joined the Alfred artists’ cooperative. This exhibition is part of her final project within the frame of those studies.

The artists will exhibit new works, made in close collaboration during the summer months, especially for this exhibition. They painted on the same canvas or finished each other’s paintings. The works are small, some on paper and some on canvas, and the technique is variable, among other are Tempera, collage and mixed media.

“Leapfrog” is a children’s game in which players vault over each other's stooped backs.

Through a series of paintings and drawings with flowers still lives as starting point, the two artists entered into a dialogue and explored the possible interfaces between formal compositions and mimetic art.

Their aim was to merge intuitive and systematic work, between geometrical patterns and natural imagery.


Elise Aelvoet /
Pieter Mathysen

Curator: Christelle Juan

Opening: 22 October 2015 / Closing: 22 November 2015

“Art is not only imitation but also the use of mathematical ideas and symmetry in the search for the perfect, the timeless, and contrasting being with becoming” 
(Aristotle, ‘Poetics’)

The interaction between formal compositions and mimetic art is what the Belgian artists, Elise Aelvoet and Pieter Mathysen, are exploring in the exhibition “Leapfrog” ((חמור חדש shown in the staircase of the Alfred Gallery. The artists have created 13 new works for this exhibition. The works are small, some on paper and some on canvas. The technique is variable, among others are tempera, collage and mixed media. Some of them explore the strength of patterns, others challenge the representations of floral still lives, and others merge the two. The artists enter into a dialogue and explore the possible interfaces between pure minimalistic, abstract and geometric compositions versus the traditional mimesis of ordinary features of our world.

In several instances, the artists choose one of the most loaded symbols in the history of art–the floral still life- but at the same time, distance themselves from pure mimesis by focusing on the formal language embedded within the figurative elements (vase, flowers, background). These works which appear as recognizable imitations of flowers, stems and fruits are resting on a well-considered formal composition aiming to create a particular order. Through the balancing of tones- warm and light colors and different textures- the artists try to capture the mystery behind seemingly banal recognizable representations.

Complex patterns and structures, as often encountered within the ethnographic art tradition, is a source of fascination for both artists. In the nature, we see constant tensions between what creates shape and what destroys it. The geometrical patterns in the abstract works of this exhibition are subject to the same opposite forces of “order” and “chaos”. It is the invisible interactions between the forces, the moment where the order is being destroyed by a defying natural force, the “leap” that the artists’ are most interested in.

Further, the artists describe their work as “decorative”. On the one hand, patterns are simply aesthetically beautiful. On the other hand, the places where the patterns are shown alert us to another layer of meaning. We are invited to reflect on the importance of their position in a meaningful space which deserves decoration for the person who buys them. 

The whole creative process of this exhibition has been a new enriching experience for both artists who literally worked on and/or finished each other’s paintings. The result is that it is impossible to distinguish the works from the one or the other. The process occurred in a dialogue and close collaboration, sharing concepts and sometimes executing each other’s ideas. The artists learned from each other’s input, at times facing the other’s critical eye, engaging in endless discussions and enjoying the complicity of deciding together when a work had reached its final purpose.

Leapfrog is a children’s game in which players jump over each other's stooped backs. Aelvoet and Mathysen believe that the act of visiting, vaulting over each other’s work enhanced their creative act. In their collaborative approach, the artists combined their styles and thoughts, although very different, melting them into one and creating synergy, a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

The choice of the staircase for the display is not random. The staircase gives the possibility to the artists to show their work isolated instead of in a series, creating tranquility and space for the viewer. Elaborating a route along the stairs is a poetic evidence of how the artists work in their studio: trying to concentrate on what you they are creating but at the same time taking a look at what the other one is doing which is unconsciously what the visitor might do when  walking up and down the staircase.

Both in pursuit of a sense of balance in this hectic world, Aelvoet and Mathysen show art without heaviness, with humor and playfulness. The essence of their work is the idea, as quoted by Matisse, that “Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue” 1 . Their works are relativizing themselves, creating simple compositions slightly wobbly, using non-mystical, simple structures slightly derailing. The works end up gaining a life and meaning of their own, merging abstract and figurative, intuition  and systematism into delicate meditations on the poetics of everyday life.


1 “Notes d'un Peintre" , La Grande Revue (Paris, 25 December 1908); as translated by Jack Flam in Matisse on Art (1995)