Maaike Schoorel’s work is informed by her research into the human mind’s ability to perceive and understand the visual world. The subjects of her paintings seem at once recognizable and elusive. Using photographic source material of people, places and objects, her compositions simultaneously appear on and dissolve into the canvas.
For her show at Gallery Sofie Van de Velde, Schoorel has made a series based on flowers and plants. She treats flowers and other specimens as subtly as the human beings present in her other paintings. Not unlike flowers, her works bloom gradually: “... if we give Schoorel’s paintings all the time they need, then things slowly start to reveal themselves in a different way. Her images - only seemingly “residual” - no longer come across as what is left after an almost- finished erasure, but as the outcome of a performance that persists despite everything.”
‘Leeway’ can be defined as ‘the amount of freedom that is available to move or act.’ It is also the translation of the Dutch word ‘speling', which means both the small space where unintentional movement is possible, and the time in between events. By interacting with other artists, Schoorel connects the space in between artworks and artists. In addition, she reflects on a specific era of Belgian art, by entering into a dialogue with two Belgian artists of the previous generation.
Both Guy Mees and Schoorel place an equal emphasis on what is visible and vital as well as that which remains untouched. Mees combines pure visual pleasures with connections of space, light and movement, and with the creative process and the role of the artist, in a striking parallel to Schoorel’s own approach. Both artists explore alternative possibilities of perceiving by broadening the spectrum of the senses beyond just ‘looking’. Reflecting on the lace works by Mees, Schoorel started to adopt lace patterns in her own paintings. She painted various exotic plants and gardens, assimilating lace patterns in the surface of the ground. Several subtle gestures of color, paint and texture create the shape of a garden.
Schoorel’s idea of gesture is partly inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s New York years. The Japanese artist did a number of performances in the 60s, discovering the endless variations of her signature dot style when played out across her own and other bodies. The body was thus increasingly used as both the object and subject of art. The archive of Belgian artist Raoul Van den Boom contains a picture of one of these performances. The photo by Van den Boom, added to this exhibition, reproduces just such a moment: Kusama putting her signature on a model’s and her own body. In dialogue with Schoorel’s work, another ‘leeway’ is created: the repetitive and spontaneous gesture of the photograph, providing both a counterweight and a key to the slow revelation of Schoorel’s detailed and delicate paintings.