The work of Patrick Guns cannot be placed in a single category. He plays with many layers of meaning, with form and content, and leaves it to the spectator to make numerous associations. He starts with a particular idea or intention, and the form or the medium in which it is then executed is of secondary importance. He creates sculptures, photos, drawings and films, both quite intimate work and site-specific installations. He has previously exhibited at several places in Europe, including ‘Ici et maintenant’ (2001) at Tour & Taxis in Brussels, ‘Schwartz-Weiss’ at MARTA in Herford and Kunsthalle Budapest, as well as in ‘Trahison des Images’ at the last Venice Biennale. The presentation of his work in the SMAK, under the title ‘The fading of colours’, consists in part of a series of large drawings and of a white figurative sculpture. The basis for both of them was the icon of the Bic ballpoint: a small figure that consists primarily of a big, abstract, spherical head. In the drawings, Guns comments on the presence and absence of colour in illustrations. In the course of time, affected by UV radiation and light, the dye in ballpoint ink fades. The blue becomes paler, is transient, temporary or relative – which also raises questions about the conservation of contemporary art. The Bic icon is brought to life anecdotally in the various scenes in the drawings. The future death of the little man and thus also of a medium (Bic ballpoints) is illustrated in parallel with this. The notion of the vanishing blue in the ink is linked to the death of a real person. At the same time, the combination of sculpture and drawings can be seen as poetic, narrative and conceptual. The fact that Guns himself uses the blue ballpoint means that medium and concept coincide. The theme of ‘vanishing’ is illustrated in a highly theatrical manner in the drawings. This is expressed most powerfully in the work where the Bic icon tries to commit suicide: ‘The Left-Handed Suicide Attempt’ and ‘The Right-Handed Suicide Attempt’.
The presence of the ‘hanged’ sculpture in the actual exhibition space enhances this pregnancy. Other drawings, as well as the titles of the works, are also clearly linked to a religious, art historical iconography. The composition of the drawing entitled ‘Deposition’ refers to the painting ‘The Removal of Peter-Christ from the Cross’ by a 15th-century Flemish Primitive. This drawing can be seen as a good example of the reflection Patrick Guns’ work offers us on such themes as ‘traditional’, ‘topical’ and ‘originality’, as well as the contrast between form and content. There is something theatrical, though also humorous, about Guns’ installation. In a certain way the drawing in blue ballpoint is a reference to Jan Fabre’s drawings. Nevertheless, this vague correspondence is only a matter of form, since the content of the two artists’ work is completely different. Guns’ work is much more about the loss of something elusive, of the naive. The simple icon refers to the logos, gadgets and marketing in our society, and to the ‘personification’ of products and objects. The spherical icon is immediately recognisable and accessible, but at the same time is unreal and surreal. The series can also be interpreted as the loss or death of childlike things. At the same time the subject makes sure the spectator can do nothing but smile.More about Patrick Guns