Paper-Scissors-Stone - By Stella Lohaus / 2014

Using a rope, a mathematician, a physicist and an architect have to span as wide a surface area as possible. The architect makes a square. The physicist claims that the circle yields the greatest possible surface area. The mathematician makes a small triangle with the rope, goes to stand in it, and defines the whole outside world as surface area.


When I ask which artists of the past he finds important, Leon Vranken mentions only two names.


He also investigates how the radicalism of minimal art can be combined with something that is deeply rooted within him because it goes back to his cultural background: diligence. Hard work must be reflected in the final outcome.


Are these works a tribute to building materials? In any case, their use stands for something very constructive: erecting, or simply "building", as a primal instinct. Application of force. As an expression of progress?


My first intervention is to remove everything that is false.


The ground floor has to be brought back to its original state. Clean up! He turns this first room visitors will encounter into an empty space. After removing 28 metres of plasterboard divider walls and window coverings, thereby letting daylight in again, the exhibition starts here: the source of the fountain.


In the game "paper-scissors-stone", probability calculus and estimation of what the other will do are key elements. Gambling and anticipating create an enjoyable tension, with alternating winning and losing streaks. A participant makes scissors and the other paper, the scissors win. Will the participant stick to his choice of instrument/material and hope to win again? It is almost a psychological exercise to predict the behaviour of your opponent. First and foremost, you focus on the other.


How much is the artist concerned with what the audience expects of their visit to his exhibition?


Vranken upsets our expectations. In the past he already turned the whole experience of the exhibition visit upside down: the spectator had to first step into the work, and then step out of it again to actually see it. Here, this principle is expanded further in another manner: what do we expect to see in a showcase, why does it appear empty? Is it empty?Displaying glass behind glass creates a reflection of that which is not in the display, but which can be perceived within it. The outside world. Like the mathematician, Leon Vranken determines what he wants to show us. It is reflected in his display, we see it, without it being in it.


How can an artist surprise the audience time and again, and prevent, in this way, the exhibition from becoming predictable?


Einstein, Newton and Pascal play hide and seek. Einstein counts to 10, Newton and Pascal go hide. While Pascal is looking for a place to hide, Newton sneaks up behind Einstein. He draws a square of 1 x 1 metre on the ground and goes to stand in it. Einstein turns around and sees Newton."Newton found!" he shouts."Not true," says Newton, "You've found Pascal, because Newton per m2 is Pascal."


Geometric shapes bring calm. Mathematical axioms are not questioned. When fixed points of reference are missing, Leon Vranken installs them himself. For within an imposed structure he finds his freedom.

Without frame of reference there is chaos.


The powerful water jet can be seen way up high. What pressure causes this jet to be pushed up so high? The liquid is presented as solid matter. The brick walls are shored up, supported, at a height of 2 metres. What does weight look like from underneath? Small objects rest on pedestals of thousands of sheets of paper. Its weight is very heavy, the pressure on the floor almost too great.


Using a very varied visual language, the artist, as a sculptor, reveals what makes his discipline so heavy: the permanent consideration of gravity, in this case by means of unexpected images. He enjoys the confrontation with forces that transcend him.


In the opposite room there are everyday objects. A rack: building, organizing, stacking, cleaning. A ladder: climbing, upwards. Up, up, up! Endlessly ...


After a moment of doubt about what one has just seen, there is relief and joy. The oeuvre of Vranken creates a good mood. A feeling he likes to encourage with his art.


Sometimes refined, sometimes abstracted ...
Utensils are made vulnerable.
They are now art (objects).


Aside from the weight of the stone, the strength of paper, and finally, the mechanics of scissors, there is something else.


Seriousness and humour.


Constantin Brancusi and Marcel Duchamp.