BPS22, Charleroi

On March 9th, 2017, we leave early by car to the south of Belgium. Right south of Brussels in the Walloon part of the country is the old mining town of Charleroi. We can park near the museum.
The Art Museum of the province Hainaut: BPS22, is an industrial building with a blackened classical facade and many glazed windows.
There is one exhibition on the available 2500 m2: the Belgian Marthe Wéry.

Once inside we see monochromes. Sizes from an A3 to almost a few meters. In the first room there are different shades of blue and black at different heights. Five canvases in brick-red colors hang along a wall on the first floor, it is set up smoothly because the paint drips along the sides. Gray-blue panels hang in a room above the entrance.

Four blue-gray panels hang against each other but such that the right side of each panel is a window thickness in front of the left side of the panel next to it. This gives a very subtle shadow effect. It looks like they are experiments. Also some sheets of beige scooped paper. The small thick leaves have been dipped several times in black paint. Because the paint is somewhat transparent and she has soaked the papers an inch less deep each time, you can see a gradient of about four lines from white to black. And that on ten leaves or more. It has a rhythm. It belongs to a series of relief paintings.

We enter a room on which on the right it is open and there is a large glass roof. If we look over the balustrade we see beneath us a number of panels on a large gray floor which are in different shades of red, white and black are all folded in half and are scattered randomly as low "tents".

In the large hall are the folded sheets, when you stand there you feel small. As if a giant dropped some papers. The folder with map says that in 2001 Marthe Wéry renewed this large three-dimensional installation made in aluminum for a Tour & Taxis exhibition in Brussels. It is a pity that you can see the wooden supports underneath, which makes it a bit amateurish.

We pass the empty canteen and again there is a monochrome painting in relief in light blue-gray. If you look closely you can see that it is folded a little bit in three vertical strips. A hollow angle and a convex one. It scatters light and you immediately realize that this is not just something simple. It's working. Due to the shadow, it not only comes off the wall but it seems to distort because the folded corners are so faint that you don't see them as corners. When you move forward, back, left or right, the contours of the panel move with it; then you see the depth. When we almost stand against it, it is a pity that the convex corner already shows small age cracks.

Opposite, at first glance, surfaces hang in vertical gray and beige strips. Closer you see that they are texts. The calligraphy, neatly between pencil lines, is dark gray and also lighter because the words are first tightly together and then further apart. French and English-language literature concerns art history. The woolly rhythm of the lyrics almost makes it look like a rug.


But if you look further, you see that amateurism does not apply to Marthe. Her architectural photography, of facades, is graphically strong, and her experiments with coulored glass in concrete are well finished. Model drawings, as early as 1952, are sleek, stylistic and professionally. On the walls there is a description of her life and she is mentioned as one of the most important Belgian artists of the second half of the 20th century. She was a professor of painting in Brussels, worked in Paris and specialized herself in etching and aquatint. Her monochromes are internationally known.