During the Antwerp Art Weekend, you can visit a solo exhibition by Els Nouwen at BEHIND BARS. The exhibition includes work made with oil on canvas, the artist's preferred form of expression. Some are on her classic formats, but there's also noticeably smaller work. In the run-up to her upcoming solo exhibition in M Leuven in 2026, we get an insight into the recent evolution. New are the optical effects and the play with cartoonish letters and signs that appear everywhere and compete with figurative image fragments.

How do we look? Which patterns of perception underlie the construction of reality in our brain? Each painting is the result of an intense dialogue between image, meaning and paint. As before, disruption and dislocation set the tone of the work. The optical illusions raise new questions and turn the gaze from the image to the senses. The undertone is brutal and grotesque, known from Nouwen's earlier work. The optical derailment in and through the paint gives the new body of work an additional layer.

Since 2020, Nouwen has been numbering her exhibitions. The title is the year in which the presentation takes place. They are a momentum within the flow of work. A stream that constantly changes its riverbed, because the work is in a permanent state of transformation. 'Images have to go beyond their likeability,' says Nouwen. 'To achieve true communication with the spectator, they must sacrifice their eloquence. Dare to derail'.

BEHIND BARS is an art space and artist initiative founded in 2014 by artists Anne-Marie Volders and Ronald De Preter. The gallery aims to show 20th Century & Contemporary Art.