FREDERIK LIZEN (En plein public)
°1986, Mortsel, Belgium
Photo credits: We Document Art, 2020
Using the city as his studio, Frederik Lizen (°1986, Mortsel) creates art that embraces a democratic ideal. Since 2010, the artist has been working with the pseudonym En plein public, appropriating non-spaces or grey areas in the public space of Antwerp as his canvas.
Lizen’s colourful work, preferably painted on wooden fences securing construction sites, stimulate a dialogue and converge the private act of looking with public habits of a broad audience. This process works both ways. In addition to the vision, expression and background of the artist, the works are also determined by the city itself. Along with the fact that he does not start on a blank canvas, Lizen intentionally leaves his paintings untouched for longer periods of time, subjecting the piece to external factors. As a result, it can be repainted, contain graffiti, be replaced or even destroyed. It provides the artist with a certain kind of freedom, making his best artistic decisions outside by ‘quickly looking left, right, straightforward’.
One of the most alluring examples is Çois suffit, which can be seen as ‘a painting no longer present’. In the wake of the George Floyd incident, Lizen created a painting containing details like a caged bird, a police car and the sentence ‘I can’t breathe’. The police chose to sandblast the work; unwillingly creating a conceptual abstraction that became substantially stronger than the original. Another artist added black edges with a written reference to the disappeared piece, which got removed again. This unintended collaboration between various actors resulted in a conceptual Gesamtkunstwerk, illustrating how many narratives determined the final work.
By removing his work from the street, the artist changes the initial short-term function of the wooden panels into something with a more permanent nature. Because sustainability and the reusing of materials, but also time and space, cause-effect and the influence of his audience determine the final work, documenting the artistic process is a significant part of Lizen’s practice.
Jean ai assez will be the first solo exhibition of the artist at gallery Geukens & De Vil. The tittle refers to the eponymous painting, placed in dialogue with Çois suffit. When entering the gallery, the exchange between these two pieces is impressive. Both works form part of his on-going series (2018-now) in the Pelikaanstraat in Antwerp and reveal the artist’s social motivations but also a fascination for language(s) and wordplay (cfr. Jean/François, J’en ai assez/ça suffit). Throughout his oeuvre, the artist uses language, slang, typography and puns as an essential part of his compositions to provide his work with multiple levels of interpretations and to talk about current issues with humour and irony. Additionally, animals form a recurrent motif. La vache qui ROFL/LOL – an ironical presentation of laughing cows before maybe entering the slaughterhouse, 1 2 3 piano – an elephant playing a children’s game, looking front and back at the same time, or outstanding – a horse opening a fence with a key in his mouth, are a few examples illustrating how Lizen uses an interweave of language and animals – proverbially or by enhancing their characteristics and expressions – to talk about mankind and human behaviour.
Frederik Lizen’s paintings are seemingly effortless. But rather than functioning as colourful street art, the artist draws from the public domain, construction sites, the interaction with an audience, but also art history, scenography and speech, to create smart paintings that contain multiple narratives and deal with present-day concerns.
Photo credits: We Document Art, 2020