As One Door Closes, Another Opens is the title of Chaim van Luit’s (b.1985) third solo exhibition at the gallery. The title is taken from a work composed of keys found and assembled by the artist, which is displayed in the exhibition room on the left. Some of the keys are ancient (from the Gallo-Roman period and the Middle Ages), while others are recent. Some bear the marks of time and use, others are almost new (one is the key to the artist’s own home). With this emblematic work that takes us on a journey through time (a set of keys spanning 2000 years) and space (the key opens a door and allows us to perceive a new space), the artist immediately sets out the foundations of his present research. Part archaeologist and part storyteller, Chaim van Luit speaks of memory and oblivion, of history and of fiction.
For many years, the artist has had a passion for unearthing objects with the help of a metal detector. Living in a region with a rich and varied "archaeological substratum", he finds artefacts going back to the Gallo-Roman period, traces from the Middle Ages, the Second World War and a more recent past. For Chaim, the earth is a repository of buried knowledge, inaccessible because it is invisible, but with a story to tell. He constantly scours the countryside in a quest to find. Find what? He doesn’t know himself. But a find always brings him immense joy. As in the work One plus One equals Three: the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.
Whatever he finds, there are always traces of a human presence. A human presence that was once there but is no longer. Traces of a transitory presence. The Last Supper is a cyanotype (a 19th century photographic technique) created from unearthed cutlery, set out as before the apostles in paintings representing the Last Supper. The idea of memory is present in everything van Luit does. With Inno/Cense, a heavy work that rests on the ground, he speaks of the industrial past, made lighter by a more spiritual connection. This industrial structure was used to consolidate mining tunnels and withstand pressure underground. In a delicate gesture, between welcome and commemoration, incense sticks are burned every morning.
Contrasts and antagonisms are often used by van Luit. As in the case of these mysterious canvases painted with light strokes or with an aerosol. In the exhibition room on the right, Toutes Directions, a large cyanotype composed of Neolithic arrowheads arranged on a photosensitive fabric, gives multiple orientations. The importance of seeing an object in order to understand it is also questioned in Truth is Hard to Digest, made up of dozens of musket balls from Napoleonic times. We are thus in the presence of a revelatory work, in the literal sense of the term. We are faced with the present representation of an absent object.
In Waste of Time, a large work that rests on the ground, he exhibits objects found over the past decade: forgotten objects that have lost their identity and left the circuit of society. With a nod to Richard Long or Carl Andre, van Luit rejects the verticality of statuary in favour of horizontality. These objects bear the stigmata of time and encourage fiction by virtue of this new context. Other works make greater play with materials and colours, such as Lost and Found in Green Velvet and the metal plates tagged with graffiti.
Finally, in the back room, Sum of Parts, a masterful installation of neon lights, extends across a large wall. Made up of dozens of neon fragments arranged by colour, this work evokes a childish enchantment, while highlighting an idea of melancholy and the ruin of a certain consumer society. As a counterpoint, With a Heavy Heart prolongs the melancholy that emanates from Sum of Parts. The artist’s shoes, worn out through his walking and assiduous searching, are filled to the brim with molten lead. A wonderful way to counterbalance the frivolity and attraction of an exhausted society.