LOFT22 Art Space is honored to present BITTERSWEET an exhibition of new paintings, lightboxes and photographs by artist Lisse Declercq. This is the first solo exhibition of the artist with the gallery, curated by Maxime Van Melkebeke and Frédérique Lippens.

In the intimacy of the loft gallery, Declercq sets the stage for today’s inner reflection on the abundance of retouched imagery wildly circulating on social media and the role it plays in resetting and reshuffling values, norms, gazes and social acceptability.

For this exhibition, BITTERSWEET, Declercq transforms the minimal surroundings into a luscious feast filled with gorgeous models, fluorescent colors and everyday props that defy every social media account's wildest dreams. The staging of an environment serves as a departing point for Declercq to create the photographs, that in their turn serve a basis for her paintings. The models present themselves in their most daring and fragile self, captured by the watchful eye of Declercq. The catch behind it all? These seemingly helpless women are not caged, instead the viewer is swallowed up into their gaze, ready to be devoured by the onlooking models, they are bittersweet.

In an effort to uphold our online identities and lives as amazing and extraordinary as possible, we stage elaborate pictures in the hope of some recognition or perverse idea that our life is better than that one of our neighbor. Our sheer loneliness and brainless admiration for the screen is rendered with utmost precision in Declercq’s paintings. She is able to dip these paintings in the most unnatural colors and transforms the bodies in her work as almost digital rendered forms.

The artificiality of our online lives, the stereotypes that uphold our understanding of the world takes form in the work of Declercq through the models, her use of color and light emanating from devices that mirror the divine light as was in ancient representations of the divine in old master paintings.

The use of the reclining female (semi) nude as a subject matter, places Declercq as an interesting commentator on art history and the gaze of the viewer. Mostly painted by men for a male audience or collector, these paintings lure the viewer's gaze. Rather than on looking and easing in our role as voyeur, we are engaged and confronted with a power struggle between ourself and the subject of the painting. These models take pleasure in the control of our gaze, and the power that arises from this subjugation. The color palet attracts and nauseates us simultaneously, we are repelled and attracted by these paintings at the same time. Are we being seduced by their bittersweetness?

By recreating the set for the opening of the exhibition the viewer becomes part of the installation. The visitor is immersed in a world that calls the gaze into questioning. Are we part of the audience or part of the spectacle?


Lisse Declercq (BEL, 1993, lives and works in Antwerp) received her Master Visual Arts from PXL in 2016. She works in painting and photography. This is her first exhibition with the gallery. Recent group exhibitions include Unblinking Devotion, curated by Niels Van Tomme at Z33 in Hasselt, INSTANT at Gym, STARMAP, EPIC/ENTER, Academie Galerie, Utrecht.