This Thursday, November 14th, Xavier Hufkens in Brussels presents a new exhibition by Nicolas Party entitled Grotto. One year since a large-scale presentation at the Magritte Museum and one month after a recent showcase at the FLAG Art Foundation in NYC, the Swiss-born artist reveals a series of sculptures and large-format pastel over trompe l’oeil compositions that refresh historical art themes in surprisingly innovative ways.

In his new body of work, Party references the Belgian painter William Degouve de Nuncques whose depictions of underground caverns are now revived as a trio of contemporary monochromes in shades of red, green and blue. In a similar manner, he borrows elements from Jan van Kessel the Elder's detailed nature studies to create surreal trompe l’oeil compositions of beetles, insects, caterpillars, and butterflies flourishing in a fantastical biomorphic landscape. This concept is further extended to the three figurative pastels where perspective accentuates the relationships of the key pictorial elements – background, figure, and in this case, dragonflies, langoustines, seahorses, and scarabs.

Finally, new sculptures stand as counterpoints to the pastel works with surfaces as sleek and impenetrable as the pastels are soft and vulnerable. Again using bright and luminous colors on the sculptures and plinths, these vibrant three-dimensional creations are informed by Party’s long-standing interest in polychromy. Clearly referring to the world of antique sculpture, these pieces, with slightly deviating from classical norms with missing or fractured features and exceptionally glossy surfaces, serve as reminders that nothing is quite as it seems. Sasha Bogojev

Photo credit: Adam Reich