On a recent Sunday afternoon, children gathered in the entrance hall of z33 in Hasselt’s main exhibition space for a guided tour. Outside, the rain fell in irregular patches, and a dog waited for its owners patiently. Inside, artist Leon Vranken’s first solo exhibition Paper-Scissors-Stone extended through the two floors of the gallery spaces, the sound of water resonating through the halls.
Indeed, the first thing that strikes the visitor to the exhibition is 2014’s Flowing Line, a powerful water jet that dominates one of the first rooms of the exhibition. Vranken carved a hole in the gallery’s floor, installing a jet that furiously propels water all the way through the ceiling in a straight line – and then on to the second floor, where the loudness gives way to silence, and the gentle blurb of a small fountain is tucked away in a corner. z33’s main summer exhibition is an exercise in both restraint and humour, with the Belgian artist distributing drawings, photographs, and installations small and large in rooms flooded with natural light. Since the inception of the project, it was clear that this exhibition would react to the surroundings – Vranken describes himself as an in-situ artist inspired by Fontana, Brancusi and Duchamp, and his first action was to clear the gallery spaces, returning walls and floors to their original state.
In the ground floor, 28m of plasterboard divider walls and window coverings were removed, allowing visitors to experience the space as it was originally conceived, free from later additions. After Flowing Line, the visitor proceeds to find mounds of paper printed with stone textures, with a corresponding stone used as a paperweight on top of each.
Elsewhere, superimposed glass panes distort their surroundings, stacked chairs seem to defy gravity, and in Pitfall, a teaspoon holds wooden elements and rounded stones in precarious balance. Elsewhere, Horizon brings grittiness to a pristine white room, materialising in a sturdy brick wall which, suspended by steel rods, begins at eye level.
Form is king in Paper-Scissors-Stone, where the objects are starting points for the experience of space, geometry, and of the visitor’s own presence. In this constant play between humour and seriousness, solid and void, physical and immaterial, visitors are constantly challenged, tricked, seduced. The exhibition is enticing and puzzling in equal terms, alluring also because of its fragility and uniqueness – the same show in any other location would materialise in a completely different way. Inside, the children marvel at the heaps of paper, comparing the printed textures with the stones on top. Outside, the dog is finally reunited with its owners.