An introduction to the life and work of Jef Geys, an artist and educator who had, for a large part of his life, produced works and engaged with educational experimentation in the arts that are intimately connected to his locality, yet addresses universal modes of being and living.
Jef Geys (1934–2018, Belgium) was among Europe’s most respected yet under-acknowledged artists. Producing artwork since the 1950s, Geys’ practice probes the construction of social and political engagement, and his work radically embraces art as being intertwined with everyday life. Geys graduated from the Antwerp Arts Academy before settling in Balen in the Kempens region, where from 1960 to 1989, he taught art at a state school, focusing on educational experimentation in the arts. Since the late 1960s, Geys has been the editor and publisher of his local newspaper, the Kempens Informatieblad, and subsequently produced them in line with his exhibitions. He is known for his meticulous archive of his work, which in turn becomes generative of other works. Geys represented Belgium in the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. His work was included in Documenta 11 in 2002, Skulptur Projekte Münster in 1997, and the 21st Bienal de São Paulo in 1991. He has exhibited worldwide including at M HKA, Antwerp (2017, 2011, 2009); IAC Villeurbanne/Rhone-Alpes, France (2017, 2007); S.M.A.K., Ghent (2015); Cubitt, London (2013); CNEAI, Chatou (2016, 2014, 2012); WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2013, 2009); Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, USA (2010); Bawag Foundation, Vienna (2009); Pori Art Museum, Finland (2005); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2004); Kunsthalle Lophem, Belgium (2003); Kunstverein Munchen, Munich (2001), amongst others.
Dirk Snauwaert (Belgium) has been involved with WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels since July 2004 and in January 2005, was appointed Director. Before joining WIELS, Snauwaert was Co-Director of the Institut d’Art Contemporain Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alps, France, where he was in charge of the exhibition programme and of the development of the FRAC Rhône-Alpes collection. He was Director of the Munich Kunstverein from 1996 to 2001. He was also the curator of Jef Geys’s Quadra Medicinale at the Belgian Pavilion, 53rd Venice Art Biennale in 2009. Snauwaert was an NTU CCA Singapore Curator-in-Residence in 2015.
Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore) is the Founding Director of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore; Professor at the School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University (NTU ADM); and an editor of the Afterall journal. Previously she was Professor and Dean of the School of Fine Art at the Royal College of Art, London (2012–13) and Associate Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, where she served as the Founding Director of ACT, the Program in Art, Culture, and Technology (2009–12) and as Director of the MIT Visual Arts Program (2005– 09) at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning.
Image caption: Courtesy Jef Geys Estate.
“Dealing with with that garden occurence was pure sentimentality. If you are working in your garden, you are occupied in your garden! Nothing more but certainly nothing less. But if you are going to ask yourself too many questions then you are missing the point. You must just go to your garden, digging, planting and harvesting there.” –Jef Geys, in Kempens Informatieblad – Venetië, 2009