© Stephen Wilks

untitled (1/10) - 2002
C-print, 50 x 75 cm

Stephen Wilks

The work of Stephen Wilks is closely linked to life in the metropolis. Wilks operates like an explorer, discovering and revealing the hidden undercurrents of city life; he selects specific moments and formal details out of a continuous flow of semi-conscious images and occurrences that crisscross the urban routine and capture his imagination. The chain of free associations that result are, following Wilks, of a poetic nature, frequently resembling a fairy tale; contemporary fairy tales with the big city always in the background.

The central sculpture in the exhibition is a ten-metre long stream of plaster water bottles that glide at table height through the rooms. Each bottle in the stream is individually modelled from a standard form and given a personality; these characters move together in an impressive procession of human-like figures, but at the same time they all have instantly recognisable red or blue bottle tops as heads. The bottles float in a rhythmic movement, a surge of people that imitate the typical characteristics of a stream: its fluid waves, eddies and cross currents.

"Insomnia" is the title of an installation standing apart in a darkened room. From the half-open door of an ordinary fridge filled with insulation material, the soft voice of a Siberian girl can be heard telling a fairy tale from the High North, where the months are white and day falls into night. The king of this land is a great lake by the name of Baikal. He has hundreds of sons but only one daughter: Angara. Baikal is such a terrifying and authoritative father, that one day Angara decides to flee to the prince of her dreams, Yangtze, a river in another land. This Siberian legend explains why hundreds of rivers and lakes flow into the Baikal Lake and but only one river flows out: the Angara.

The atmosphere of a lonely, sleepless night is reinforced in a photograph of a rainbow-coloured oil stain on asphalt, lit by a spotlight over which revolves a coloured wheel. The gradual changing of colours in the oil stain has a hallucinatory effect on the viewer, giving the work an immense astral dimension.

The large black and white photographs in the exhibition have as their shared starting point a television set. One photo depicts a night scene in which a swarm of moths are attracted by the artificial light from a television screen. Because of the strange location of the television, in a forgotten spot in the woods, this image works as a fable, one that will undoubtedly end with the moths scorching themselves on the hot screen. The other three photos form a triptych and continue in the same perspective though in a different manner. Wilks takes as his starting point a typical city scene of two men carrying a television down a street. The same street scene is projected on the screen of the television, thus creating the illusion that the men carrying away the television are also carrying away the street.

And lastly, a colour photograph brings a resting point in an exhibition that constantly alludes to movement. In this photo, a glossy sky-blue placard is placed against the background of a dirty car park with industrial buildings, cars, graffiti and an iron fence. Its bold colour and strong shape holds the gaze of the onlooker, transporting him above the chaos of the city.

Exhibition: 20 November 2003 - 17 January 2004
Gallery hours: Tue-Sat 12 - 6 pm

Xavier Hufkens Gallery
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