Darling, it could have been anywhere. : a Solo exhibition by Max Kesteloot
Max Kesteloot (1990, Belgium) delves up images from an extensive and chaotic archive of photographs and short films, looking for what he calls “things he could have painted”. Following the classical idea of what a painting is, the resulting works in this exhibition are acrylic and ink pigment on Belgian linen. Often when trying to photograph his finished works, the camera, not unlike the human eye finds it hard to find focus between crystal sharp edges and the blow-ups. The works of Kesteloot seem to frame the almost unnoticed background, the square centimeters next to a moviestar’s head, or a vague memory, halted. As the title, taken from an overheard conversation, says: Darling, it could have been anywhere.
Having “a five finger discount on everything he sees”, Max Kesteloot pickpockets images. A twig put on a windshield or a streetcorner view, they are stills from short films, often frozen mid-zoom. Working on canvas now with digital images rather than on wood with analogue print as he used to, allows him agility in size while letting him reframe the painting until the last minute, playing with its negative space. By working from short 10 second filmic captures, he has 10 times 24 frames, from which to make a concise curation. His choice of scenes suggest a presence of a “before” and an “after”, as the grain of the filmic early digital camera grants movement to his still lives.
A life between stillness and motion, he either spends stretches of time on each one of these paintings hibernating in the Ostend studio, or driving around the South with a mattress in the trunk, snapping images in a trail of continuity, like bugs on the rear window. Kesteloot, moved by a will to paint, looks for “good lost corners, places that appeal to him”. It’s a bodily thing too; standing in front of the large red car zoom painting, Max shows with a sway of the arm, how his movement ratio corresponds to the curve in the image. The way the painting is executed though, can be left mysterious, as “his private Coca Cola recipe”. Growing up in Benidorm, Max Kesteloot’s aesthetics have a strong air of that, and a salty sunny gush of America. A single yellow rose, a blurry palmtree outline, it’s the type of images you could imagine living in the corner of Lana del Ray’s batting lashes.
Text by Céline Mathieu