Water #4, 2022

  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Size: 195 x 195 cm

As always in his practice, Koen remains faithful to photography as a medium to create new works. This particular painting is based on photographs taken by the artist himself in Paris.
The trip to Paris in 2021 was Koen van den Broek‘s first after the months of lockdown. Because of the confusing reverse composition of the subject, an image reflecting in a puddle, “Water#4” relates to the technical history of photography. Images that can be seen on the back wall of a camera obscura are always upside down. And this is what the reflected images on the surface of the water of van den Broek’s painted puddles are too, as if they were images from such a pinhole camera. On the other hand, the images in a camera obscura are snapshots of a very specific moment. Like, again, the images we see reflected in puddles. The very precise location, angle to the puddle, and moment in time, provides us with a very specific image. Only with the preservation of the image can the trace of reality be read. With his paintings van den Broek alludes to this transience of the original, quasi-photographic image, not least in that such depicted objects, that have straight edges (such as a lampposts), are painted wavy, thus integrating the movement of the water surface into the image of reality.


Born in 1973 in the Belgian town of Bree, Van den Broek first studied architecture and subsequently painting, initially at the Royal Academy of Antwerp and then at the Academy of Visual Arts of Breda. In his opinion, despite his painting studies, he has always remained an architect at heart. Ever since his student days, van den Broek has travelled constantly: around Europe, to the USA, Mexico and even to Japan. Always with his camera close to hand. He takes photos, a lot of photos, which all depict the same subject: the architectural interventions of man on the landscape.

Early in his career, Koen van den Broek developed a fascination for desolate landscapes in which man rarely appears, but always makes his presence felt. He depicts the traces left behind on roads, streets and houses that have been abandoned. The artist’s perception of roads and borders in barren lands has provided the painter with impulses that enable him to make his specific statement on landscape painting. Van den Broek operates by turning his face downwards and zooming in on the irregularities of the pavement, on curb stones and shadows. It is this very search for a subject of representation that led the artist on a journey closer to abstraction.

Works by Koen van den Broek are part of major public collections, including the LACMA, Los Angeles; SMAK, Ghent; M HKA, Antwerp; Busan Museum of Art, Busan; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, and Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle. His work has been presented at the Venice Biennial (2015 & 2017); White Cube, London; Kunstmuseum, Bonn; Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp and Brussels; Seoul Arts Centre, Seoul; Kunsthalle, Mannheim; Royal Academy, London; MAS, Antwerp, and Kunsthal, Rotterdam; His work can also be found in numerous public spaces in Belgium, such as the Hofkamer, Antwerp; ‘t Zilte, MAS, Antwerp; AZSM Hospital, Mechelen, and the Provinciehuis, Hasselt.

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