Jos de Gruyter (b. 1965, Geel, Belgium) and Harald Thys (b. 1966, Wilrijk, Belgium) have been working together since the 1980s. They first became known as video-makers and performers of playful, dystopian narratives. Now they work in various media, including sculpture and drawing, to describe a feebly sensitised world where contemporary ideas of freedom and subjectivity are chimera, and objects often have as much life as humans.
For their exhibition at Raven Row the artists have become watercolourists, assuming the muddled and suspect obsessions of imaginary weekend painters to make a vast series of pictures. Numerous depictions of history culled from the internet stare blankly into a past which might now be useless. Deadpan images of the banal and fanciful hang evenly alongside the grievous and tragic without expression, critique or apparent irony. In some, nostalgia or innocence are dimly stirred and questioned. Cartoonish sculptural figures, weighty but thin like cardboard, will stand alongside the watercolours like mute witnesses.
In an old flat above Raven Row's galleries, the artists will present a selection of their work in video: from early comic films animating objects in Belgian suburbs, to later works that elaborate absurdist narratives in theatrical and sculptural sets, often featuring characters stunned into immobility.
De Gruyter and Thys have had solo exhibitions at MoMA PS1, New York (2015), CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2015), Kunsthalle Wien (2014), M HKA, Antwerp (2013), Mu.ZEE, Ostend (2012), Kunsthalle Basel (2010) and Culturgest, Lisbon (2009). They live and work in Brussels.