In his interdisciplinary practice, Stef Rijs (1985) is continuously exploring the boundaries of reality within the artistic identity. Moving freely in the twilight zone of different oeuvres, he investigates the elements that make up an artistic ‘brand’, ambivalently unraveling the stereotype of the artistic genius in the process. Many works emerge from spontaneous, ad hoc decisions or makeshift solutions; sampling, copying, recycling. Through a variety of styles and mediums, the central theme is always ‘worth’. For example, a poppy is painted over and over again in car paint, expressing Stef Rijs’ fascination for this much-sampled symbol of modern art that blooms out of sight, in the no man’s land between highways. The poppy stands out as a subtle reminder of the complexities and uncertainties of our time.
While questioning the concept of authenticity, he freely uses all kinds of cultural ‘leftovers’, following in the footsteps of a circular art history much in line with postmodernism. In this way, the outline of a ‘masterpiece’ becomes the framework of a new work. While mixing different elements from cultural memory, he builds his own artistic identity, bundling a collection of artistic voices from the past and present in the corpse of a bold, visual language.
Most apparent in this visual language is the use of layers. Although the compositions are ultimately judged by the sharp eye of the painter, the blending of layers reveals Stef’s interest in digital technology and indistinct copyright laws. Much more, his visual work reflects underground culture and his own electronic music, in which every sound can be heard in the rhythm of the final arrangement. Many works are open-ended, flowing into infinite series. This might be conceptual through the repetition of a symbol in different mediums, or physical through the incorporation of the frame of a painting in the artistic work. In the end, the layers combine to form a rhythmic atmosphere, recontextualizing elements of historical works of art in playful new compositions.