After beginning his career as a Beatnik poet and participating in Happenings in the mid-1960s, Walter Swennen became fascinated by Marcel Broodthaers, who was becoming well-known at the time. In the beginning of the 1980s, Swennen, who had trained to be an engraver, decided to explore the poetic possibilities of painting. He began creating cartoonish works and gestural action paintings, followed by “painted texts” and “written” paintings in which poetry and painting intermingle.
Walter Swennen explores the relationship between painting, picture, and abstraction. He once said, “A painting is always an image of a painting.” In his engagement with specific issues of painting, he focuses on different forms of resistance, deviation, and relativization – like marginality, absurdity, euphemisms, anticlimaxes, and the tragicomic. Under the surface of his seemingly naive execution of his paintings, we find very different sources of inspiration, like comics, literature, bi-lingual dictionaries, children’s drawings, motifs from advertisements, and Pop Art. In a kind of mechanical, impersonal manner, Swennen investigates the logic of products – their anonymity and automatism.
With his associative and improvised working method, Swennen has been searching for what is unforeseeable and contradictory in painting. His works are experiments with and investigations into motifs, language and signs, techniques, picture supports, meaning and expressiveness.
Selected solo exhibitions: Kunst Museum Winterthur (2022); Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague (2021); Kunstmuseum Bonn (2021); Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2015); Wiels Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels (2013); Culturgest, Lisbon (2013); Kunstverein Freiburg (2011); MUHKA, Antwerp (1994); Kunsthal Rotterdam (1994); Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent (1993); and Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (1986).