Road to Nowhere

What do we see when we perceive? From time immemorial philosophers have made a distinction between subject and object; they talk of reciprocity between the self and the world. The world is present in every instance of conscious cognitive activity, and as a rule 90% of the processed information is due to sight. I can turn my gaze contemplatively inwards on myself, just as I can turn it outwards towards the world: I then observe from a specific expectation – closely linked to my behavioural possibilities, since I barely allow, if at all, information that does not fit in potential behaviour – the things that also make up my environment and which I must give meaning and sense to.

What does artist Bruno Truyts see when he perceives? When he turns his camera on human figures that are barely recognizable, deserted streets, isolated buildings, huge hangars, condemned buildings, blind walls, everyday road signs, roadblocks, concrete posts, abandoned petrol stations or the public artefacts of Homo sapiens? What does he see when he digitally records these shadowy pictures?

When the photographs are later printed in the studio, does he still only see dark-blue menacing atmospheres, the gloomy facades of industrial buildings that are the very opposite of convivial homes? Or is he once more amazed to experience the reality he saw and that inspired him: the importance which these chiaroscuro constructions gained when he tried to record them with an eye on painting them? Are the things he saw an externalization of his inner state? Did he specifically choose the scenes that best reflected his state of consciousness? Why have all the other details and textual features that characterize our environment been conspicuously erased? Only a free newspaper gives the viewer something to read that enables him to place the work, even though it refers to a specific civilization and to a socio-economic context in which someone anonymously acquires a free paper without the need for any human interaction. In other words: by eliminating elements that feel secondary, has the artist added things that are not part of reality? Has he coloured his perception – a perception shaped by habits and cultural variables – with a projection, as psychologists say, of a condition in which he finds himself? And what existential situation emerges from his work?

The viewer that senses and recognizes in himself the somewhat unreal and desolate atmosphere of Truyts’s paintings as well as the tension they contain discovers more about both the painter’s inner motives and his own soul by contemplating these works. The viewer sees the buildings and the silenced, remote people in relation to his own expectations, whether these are hopeful or not; he recognizes the meaning they have for him: despite the bright colours, a certain emptiness emerges out of the beauty of the depicted scenes, an emptiness in which nothing happens and which refers to the tragedy and vulnerability of life in which, as the Talking Heads song has it, ‘We’re on a road to nowhere’. This emptiness also alludes to mankind, which is often irrevocably imprisoned in an alienating and draining environment which, stripped of the ordinary everyday pressure of work and movement, both moves and crushes him. The features of the four figures portrayed – Wolfgang, the anonymous victim, the lost soldier and Paul – show hardly any emotion or involvement (only Wolfgang stares at us absently, even though his penetrating and inscrutable gaze only raises questions). They give shape, as it were, to the deficiency, the impossibility of each artist to light up the whole truth of life and reality.

Michel Meynen
Philosopher

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