Gilbert Fastenaekens at Botanique

The work of Belgian photographer Gilbert Fastenaekens (1955) draws its strength from his tendency to infuse it with everyday observations taken straight from everyday environments, as if indefinitely tying his many series to the context in which they were made. “Le décor en dit assez” as he says himself. 

Born in Brussels, where he works, Fastenaekens’ oeuvre is characterized by a deep sense of proximity to his surroundings, as evidenced in his career-long interest in urban landscapes and their sculptural richness, mostly at nighttime. Brussels features extensively in his oeuvre, questioning notions of the city’s meaning, its sense of development and the logic, or lack of it, that pervades throughout.

1.Nocturne-(Extrait),-Zeebrugge,-Belgique-1980©-Gilbert-FastenaekensNocturne (Extrait), Zeebrugge 1980
 
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Nocturne (Extrait), Bruxelles 1983
 
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Nocturne (Extrait), Bruxelles 1983

His colour palette – defined by a deft use of the different shades of blacks and greys – coupled with his matter-of-fact compositions, allow for wide, if figurative, interpretations of his work. Tellingly, Fastenaekens says of his own images “They can’t easily be summed up with a caption.” A professor at Brussels’ Ecole de Recherche Graphic, he has since 1993 also been heading up publishing activities at ARP Editions, releasing books which a special penchant for landscape photography.

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Essai pour une archéologie imaginaire (Extrait), Oberhausen, Allemagne 1982
 
4.NOCES-(Extrait),-1988-1995©-Gilbert-Fastenaekens
Noces (Extrait), 1988-1996
 
5.NOCES-(Extrait),-1988-1995©-Gilbert-Fastenaekens

Noces (Extrait), 1988-1996
 

This first major retrospective of his at Botanique presents some of the photographer’s most well-known series – one of which,  Nocturnes, that went on to launch Fastenaekens’ career internationally back in the early 80s – as well as his more recent explorations in the realms of video-making. The exhibition’s standout piece, however, is an installation of eight oversized portfolio-like books, showcased on library stands and meant to be viewed from the gallery’s upper floor, whose pages will be flicked on a daily basis, thus adding a somewhat playful element of uncertainty to the show. A must-see, if only to understand Belgian photography in its general sense through the work of one of its most vocal proponents.

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Noces (Extrait), 1988-1996

 
Gilbert Fastenaekens “In Silence”
Until 29th March 
botanique.be