Can art and business ever meet ?

The jury may still be out on this, but one thing is certain : if these two domains do intersect, then they overlap in multiple ways. Relations between them have evolved as the means of production and economic sys-tems have developed, assuming all kinds of forms. Sometimes art endorses business, other times it questions it. And just occasionally, more discreetly, it sparks something. These kinds of sparks need to keep on being produced, because for the stakeholders in our society, encounters between art and business unlock all kinds of opportunities and potential positive changes. In a real world all too often clouded by pessimism and melancholy about the human condition, we appreciate the importance of re-activating every individual’s creative potential, so that individually and collectively we can envisage a future world that reconciles our economy, society and environment. 


As part of its 125th birthday celebrations, FEB decided to organise an exhibition of photographs by Thierry Dubrunfaut at three locations in Belgium: Brussels, Mons and Ghent. More than 10 years ago, this artist set out to capture a specific type of Belgian landscape by photographing business and industrial settings. He first pointed his lens at industry, then moved on to commerce, services and, finally, construction. Dubrunfaut explores the sheer diversity of businesses in this country, their reputation and their unparalleled capacity as global exporters. His subjects transfix him, like a child, or perhaps more like a painter, whose work is dominated mainly by aspects of composition and colour chromaticism. 


And his lively, evanescent, harsh, cold, blunt, hot, sensual, delicate images im-merse us into a world of substance and light. Built up in multiple layers, depending on how often and how long Dubrunfaut releases the shutter, his pictures of anything from a fragment to a megastructure arrest their viewers, inexorably drawing them in to works composed live in front of his subject matter, without any subsequent digital manipulation. Forms criss-cross, overlap and even occasionally intertwine. Constantly changing, they seem to hover between order and chaos. As we gaze at these enigmatic compositions — images of burning hot machinery, austere architec-ture, iridescent metal, mountains of flowers and coal, rivers of chocolate, rows of containers — we are forced to question it all.


What are they ?  Where are they ?
The borders between the various elements are porous. We find ourselves face to face with a world breaking through appearances, like a snake shedding its skin. The visible becomes ab-stract, technology is showcased alongside craftsmanship, local and global aspects coincide. People are strangely absent from these works, yet they speak volumes about human activity. 


Thierry Dubrunfaut’s photographs are like dream machines designed specifically to create space for imagination. A story emerges, unfolds. He plays with the different layers of a reality we believe to be familiar. Lines and curves, shadows and colours give off a rhythm all their own, enlisting anyone who sees them to join in the dance and hone their alertness. Isn’t that ultimately what we expect from art ? To set thought in motion, thus regenerating its life force ?


Wivine de Traux, curator and author