When I was a young architect, I had a project in one of our national galleries to create a setting for renaissance paintings that would be reminiscent of the rough church plaster of Italian buildings of the time, following a request from the curator. Have you ever tried to persuade a plasterer, painter and decorator that you actually want something that is rough and imperfect? To their credit, it was achieved, along with a floor of large terracotta tiles, but, such is the changing cycle of gallery refurbishment that, the results of this success no longer exist, being hidden under new wall silks.
Born in 1921, Dutch-born Belgian artist Bram Bogart started his working career as a house painter, and his early work took the same approach, with rough thick white paint pouring down and peeling off the white canvas as it would on the exterior of buildings exposed to extremes of weather, a theme to which he returned again and again through his career, with interludes that added colour.
Bogart died in 2012 and his work is on show at the Saatchi Gallery in “Witte de Witte” organised in collaboration with Vigo Gallery, London. In the space which previously held Richard Wilson’s black oil installation “20:50″, the white walls and lighting creates an immersive white environment, so the exhibition could well have been titled “Witte de Witte de Witte”. The exhibition focuses on this theme, from the earliest work on show “Signes sur Blanc/Witte Tekens” (1952) moving a little into whitish-blue and black with “Differentes” (1954) and “Variete” (1960) and “Fete Javel” (1961) , but as late as the 2000′s, Bogart was still returning to his theme with his work “Blanc” (2006) which, like “Witte de Witte” (2002) and “Sunday mornings” (2007) look like pieces of white plaster wall removed and brought into the gallery.