text by Anne-Marie Poels
correctly placing a circle in a rectangle
At the invitation of the Frans Masereel Centre, Hans Demeulenaere (°1974, Oostende) produced a new publication during a research residency. He was inspired in this by the very specific round architecture of the central building in the centre, which was designed in 1967 by architect Lou Jansen. Demeulenaere, who made spatial experience a subject of his artistic practice and given it a significant role within it, takes the circular form as a starting point in ‘correctly placing a circle in a rectangle’. That is not solely to do with the shape of the graphic centre where he created the artist’s book, but refers equally to his own oeuvre in which circles and globes regularly appear: when he uses objects in installations such as stacked rolls of tape, a ping pong ball, round mirrors or other round forms, creates a sculpture with circles made of circles cut from glass, mirror glass and metal (‘three circles reflecting the room’, 2012), projects a circle on to a wall with light (Around, Twice, Over Again’ 2013), or captures the circle in photos (‘Double White Circle’, 2009).
Perhaps the publication ‘correctly placing a circle in a rectangle’ (really more of a work of art than a book) corresponds most directly to the latter work. Starting his research with Lou Jansen and the late modernist ‘Turnhout school’ that he belonged to, Demeulenaere researched numerous references to circles in art and architecture in books and online. At the same time, it is references to artists, art works, architects and architectural interventions that influence his work. A historic circular pavilion, a kiosk by Jean Prouvé, a round toy in a playground by Aldo van Eyck, the Rietveld Schröder house, the ‘Body Press’ work by Dan Graham, in which a naked man and woman film themselves in a circle within a circular auditorium designed by Joan Brehms for the Czech Český Krumlov ... Demeulenaere cites them as footnotes to his own work but also adds work by artists with whom he collaborated on projects, such as Marc Nagtzaam and Nikolaas Demoen.
He transferred all the images to A3 paper and made nine quires by folding five front- and reverse-side photocopied pages together and stapling them in the middle. In search of similarities of shape, atmosphere, texture, design, etc., he thus rhymes images in page after page of seemingly unrelated references with each other, thereby creating new cross-links. A round aperture in architecture by Eileen Grey coincides with one in an installation by Olafur Eliasson, but the hand movement required to change the size of Grey’s aperture is also a bridge to the hand movement in the work of Nikolaas Demoen. An architectural intervention around a tree by vylder vinck taillieu is placed beside the house Kerstens of Paul Neefs; a sculpture by Dirk Zoete on a page on the left has its counterpart by Constantin Brancusi on the page on the right, and a piece of Japanese text appears to be a translation of a piece of Dutch text beside it. The fact that the artist uses paper that is slightly translucent intensifies this play on references.
Demeulenaere has stuck the quires to the ends and so has created space to add his own images – reproduced on black-and-white copies – in which circles again appear. Thus the book can be opened like a kind of harmonica and leafed through: one side with Demeulenaere’s own black-and-white images, and one in which his intellectual world unfolds for you in a concatenation of references. A pink cover is wrapped around the publication in such a way that it can be read from two sides – a circular form in relief print introduces the theme from the start. A bookmark in the same colour again forms a kind of counterpart in word: it is filled with a series of textual references from the publication, generating a new cohesion.