Guy Van den Bulcke was born in Antwerp in 1931, but has been living and working in Schoten, a suburb of Antwerp, for decades. The art of Guy Van den Bulcke harks back to a time when sheer craft was an important element in creating art. While his paintings may be easy to look at, there is something strange about them. Guy is a realist. Things in his paintings look real, but look closely and you will find that he is, in fact, a surrealist. His paintings are dreamscapes more than landscapes. They are pure fiction.
The meaning of our existence
For Guy Van den Bulcke (°Antwerp 1931) the importance of the art of painting is connected to the meaning of our existence, but also to our insignificance vis-à-vis nature and the cosmos. Fascinated by oil colours and canvas, he has for decades researched the creation of images with a view to penetrating more deeply into the reality around us. The tradition of painting offers him an adequate answer to the complexity with which the global world is confronted today. This artist synthesizes styles. He has developed a grammar of painting with some elements from surrealism, pop art and hyperrealism, but this does not imply easy categorizing. Moreover, he can be subsumed both under the abstract painters and under the realists. Parts of his paintings are represented meticulously, with a unique virtuosity and painstaking scrupulosity in detail, while other parts are painted in a more abstract way. The artist provides the images which he borrows from reality with an imprint of his own. He shapes his realism through a distinctive choice of image, composition, framing, form and colour. His figurative tableaus are based both on photos that he took himself during his intercontinental voyages and on existing pictures, which he deforms and interprets.
In order to faithfully paint reality the enabling condition is a certain way of seeing, a “thinking” eye as it were. That thinking eye has been developed by Guy Van den Bulcke during his long career which started in the period 1946-1954 at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and at the National Higher Institute of Fine Arts, both located in Antwerp. He was awarded many art prizes and has been highlighted by individual exhibitions, a.o. Bozar in Brussels, the most important player in the field of the arts in Belgium, the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan and the International Cultural Center (ICC) in Antwerp, two top locations for contemporary art and the Gallery La Colombe d’Or in Houston, which introduced him in the USA.
The sublime in nature
In his long career as a painter, but foremost in the past four decades, Guy Van den Bulcke has been searching not only for the essence of humankind, represented in many paintings, but also for the sublime in nature. The Irish philosopher and politician Edmund Burke (1729-1797) defined the “sublime” as an experience of intense emotions which can be aroused by ultimate beauty, but also by threat and danger (A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful-1756). Guy Van den Bulcke was eager to experience sublime sensations by exploring nature and meeting people through world-wide journeys. In his paintings he intensively studies the elements earth, air and water in confrontation with humankind. Women and the elementary forces of nature dominate a considerable part of his paintings, underpinning his efforts to turn them into a personally felt, sublime experience. He is a painter with a personal style, subjecting nature to his own laws and rules. To look for a greater truth than the one which offers itself at first sight, to provide a broader and freer interpretation of humankind and nature, and to appreciate not only the eye but also the imagination, that is his creed.
Ernest Van Buynder, pro-president of the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (MuHKA).