Benny De Grove’s gripping photographs are at once whimsical and thought provoking as they straddle the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Working in predominantly photographic prints on Hahnemühle paper, the artist’s photographs exude drama and high contrasts in light and shadow reminiscent of Renaissance masters Rembrandt, Jan van Eyck, and Caravaggio. Equally so, De Grove’s spirited, often symbolic subject matter recalls that of Surrealist artist Rene Magritte and Neo-Impressionist and Expressionist James Ensor.
De Grove’s subjects are often recognizable, whether human, animal, or vegetable. Nonetheless, the artist places his subjects amidst cryptic backgrounds composed of monochrome textures and superimposed images that invite the viewer to ponder the meaning and symbolism within his works. In Where is the Public (2017), a circus ringleader clad in a vibrant blue coat peers through a black and gray marbled curtain that comprises the whole of the exhibition. His expression is at once perplexed and nearly reprehensive, thus forcing the viewer to question the context of his countenance. The artist explains: “Reality gives me basics and my dream world fills in the feeling I want to express… most of my recent work can only exist by a mixture of different pictures brought together into a new reality: the reality of my feelings.”