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'All is Full of Love' by Michiel Ceulers at Pizza Gallery, Antwerp

With his solo exhibi,on All is Full of Love at Pizza Gallery, Michiel Ceulers turns representa,on into a form. Fully covered with white painted canvases, the interior of the gallery becomes an inverted void. Rather than being yet another total installa,on that challenges the authority of the so-called ‘white cube’, Ceulers’ new project operates as a sort of unfolded template of the gallery space. Hardly dis,nc,ve from a distance, a grid of ,ny white squares on the white canvases merges them into a wallpaper-like paJern. Flir,ng with the structural element of modernist pain,ng, and yet depriving the work of its sacred autonomy, Ceulers puts the game of contradic,ons at the core of his project. While bringing the ar,st’s process-orientated abstrac,on to the next level, this ‘total pain,ng’ is first and foremost a reflec,on on the medium's rich history as well as its limits. 

An invisible element of classical pain,ng, the grid used to be a tool that mapped reality onto the surface of a canvas, to then turn it into an iconic visual structure of a modernist work. In her canonical essay Grids (1979), Rosalind Krauss reflects on the bivalent nature of the grid and the main ways of reading the structure: the centrifugal and centripetal ways. According to the former, the grid extends infinitely in all direc,ons. On the one hand, the all-over expansiveness of Ceulers’ project, also reflected in the ,tle, inclines to such reading. On the other, it can equally be interpreted in the opposite, inward-developing way, whereby the grid becomes “a re-presenta,on of everything that separates the work of art from the world, from ambient space and from other objects”. 

In All is Full of Love, the grid s,ll performs its main func,on as a tool for measurement or propor,oning, a sort of framing of space. And yet it does not func,on as the servicing of the pain,ng, not an accessory but rather the work’s substance, its visible skin. Ceulers emphasizes the natural structure of the woven canvas, but only to subvert the restric,veness of its flatness. Instead of producing an integral surface of equal elements, a uniform texture, the ar,st creates a vibra,ng surface that ques,ons the very essence of the grid, its regularity. What seems at first glance to be the monotonous repe,,veness of the stringent paJern, upon closer inspec,on turns out to be an infinite con,nuum of subtle varia,ons, a hymn to imperfec,ons. The ambiguity of the work lies precisely in Ceulers’ technique that combines mechanical reproduc,on with the physicality of bodily touch. Deprived of ar,stry, the process reduces pain,ng (the noun) to pain,ng (the verb). The tac,le quality of the painterly surface, the premoni,on of the touch, operates as a trigger for a spontaneous upwelling of sensuality. Borrowing the ,tle of Bjork’s eponymous song and echoing the rhythm of its mantra-like lyrics, Ceulers turns the interior of the gallery into a space of emo,onal vibra,ons. All is Full of Love is full of playful irony and inter-referential dynamics, and love for painting. 

— Ekaterina Vorontsova 

12.5.23 — 11.6.23

Photo by Anneke d’hollander

Pizza Gallery

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