Yves Beaumont. Painter.

Contemplation without abstraction is blind
abstraction without intuition is empty.

Immanuel Kant

‘I’m really an old-fashioned painter,’ he states. ‘I work with landscapes, which are a very traditional artistic theme. You can probably attribute that to my fascination with the Dutch and Flemish landscape painters of the 17th century.” He is very much captivated by the work of Van Ruysdael and his contemporaries, but is equally inspired by the Barbizon School, Théodore Rousseau and Claude Monet, Mondriaan and Spilliaert or great English landscape painters such as Constable and Turner. Even for the 20th century he is mainly interested in painters for whom the landscape has been or still is a major factor – think Per Kirkeby, Bernd Koberling and Chritopher Le Brun. This is how he has come to his current work. He attaches great importance to the texture, the layering of paint, the balance on the canvas, the composition. ‘It’s a form of poetry, in a way.’

When talking about his work, Yves Beaumont (°Ostend, 1970) frequently refers to famous historic painters like Caspar David Friedrich and the artists of the Hudson River School, all people who were possessed by both landscapes and painting. Beaumont shares this obsession and is able to channel and express it. He is an adept at stripping away the superfluous. There is nothing anecdotal in his work, nothing that distracts you from the essence of the landscape. He is fascinated ‘by the power that lies in the absence of things, by emptiness’. Through this fascination he produces intriguing paintings that possess a certain timelessness, paintings that invite you to get lost in them, to endlessly explore them, modest in size though they may be. Yves Beaumont also follows some earlier traditions and often works with a dark base layer. This gives the lighter parts of the painting a different intensity, almost as if they light up in the gloom. Though his paintings may seem simple, they definitely are not. They are the result of a continuous effort to achieve the right colour, the right layering, the right intensity.

‘Noordland’ (Northland) is the title of a series of works for which Beaumont found inspiration in the northern regions of the Netherlands, along the IJsselmeer, in Friesland and near the Wadden Sea. These concrete landscapes gave rise to ethereal paintings that lead the viewer into a hazy infinity. The grey horizon looms from left to right, becomes stronger and more pronounced, sometimes revealing a slight suggestion of an industrial presence. This is the result of a process of painting and repainting until only the skeleton remains –the exact opposite of the anatomists’ work. Distilling, omitting, not showing. The series revolving around ‘De dageraad’ (Dawn) and ‘Woods’ are intriguing because they are enigmatic. The paintings emanate a feeling of impending doom or evoke a sense of mystery. They do not easily give up their secrets. Painting from dark to light also means the artist sometimes has to scrape away layers, making the most of the veiling effect of this technique. Beaumont is both a gifted painter and an excellent craftsman. He sets out to to create diversity between painted sections, building a tension within the seemingly uniform portions of his paintings, which makes his landscapes extraordinarily interesting and attractive. ‘The poetic character of the painting is very important to me,’ he says. It needs to be much more than a given image. He needs to be pulled into it, so to speak. And Beaumont’s paintings do pull one in. They invite one in and encourage one to explore, regardless of their slightly ominous feel.

Recently, Yves Beaumont has done a lot of charcoal drawings. Charcoal drawings have experienced a surprising revival with a small but very diverse group of artists, who all put them to their own use. This can probably be attributed to the very welcome renewed attention for the drawing as an important means of expression. Beaumont’s charcoal drawings are an inseparable part of his complete oeuvre and are typical of his quest to create the right image. ‘After the storm’ conjures up the atmosphere of the symbolists – again these traditions, these artists of yore. After all it was the symbolists who introduced the drawing as an autonomous art form. Nevertheless, Beaumont’s work is very contemporary; the beauty is that he links the contemporaneity, the currency of his work with the old traditions. The Flemish Parliament owns a number of his drawings from the ‘Woods’ series. The artist succeeds in giving this very static concept a great dynamic impulse. It is a series that culminates in a beautiful work of art, a painting showing exactly eleven lines, eleven trees that call up a world of their own.

Yves Beaumont clearly shows that the artist can sometimes create a more accurate image of nature than the scientist. His already extensive body of work shows the enormous diversity and dynamism of nature – no matter how eternal a landscape may seem, it is always changing.

Daan Rau