In the two years since Johan de Fre’s last solo exhibition with us he has been preoccupied with a number of artistic themes, chief amongst them the concept of a Storm and its aftermath. Particularly the aftermath of two particular senses of ‘storm’: the financial maelstrom still fresh in our memories and the changes in global climate manifesting increasingly extreme weather phenomena. The latter specifically in a freak hail storm of biblical proportions that struck Antwerp, Johan’s hometown, in June of this year.

In these paintings, Johan explores change, whether emotional, physical or financial wrought in commonplace objects by a storm’s devastating power. They are not depictions of cities laid waste or ships broken on a shoreline but rather studies in silence, often depicting familiar domestic mishaps emblematic of a greater loss. Once again Johan pushes the boundaries of contemporary Flemish still life painting, carefully balancing the technical demands of a style passed down from master to master over four centuries with the contemporary artist’s constant pursuit of the new.

Through these exquisite works he seeks a natural beauty in the unexpected, revealing it to his audience through clever composition and positioning of his subjects, creating a visual conversation between inanimate objects that borders on the anthropomorphic.