In 1986, Séroux, alongside Wim Delvoye, Angel Vergara and others, was one of the finalists for the prestigious "Prix de la Jeune Peinture Belge" and exhibited at the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles - BOZAR.
The press wanted to meet him. He is nowhere to be found.
His life was elsewhere, somewhere in the Indian Ocean, on an island between Australia and Mauritius, off the beaten tourist track: Rodrigues.
He stayed there with a book in his hand: "Voyage à Rodrigues" by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
With a book
Rodrigues Island, Le Clézio described it as "emerging from the sea, carrying with it the history of the first eras: blocks of lava thrown, broken, flows of black sand, powder where the roots of vacoas cling like tentacles".
The writer went there to write the story of his grandfather's quest in situ:
"Isn't it like the Wells character, trying to go back in time?
He wondered how this man had been able to endure such living conditions for so many years, such solitude, how he could define his obsession, define in words "this gold-diggers fever", "language is a secret, a mystery"...
This obsession, this exhausting search for a hypothetical treasure, is above all a quest for lost happiness.
Le Clézio is struck by the contrast between his grandfather's solitary obsession and the total war of 14/18 raging in Europe.
The contrast, too, between one man's unattainable dream and the destruction of an ancient world.
But even on this tiny island, war is going to impose itself through the shadow of its disturbing presence.
How can we forget the world," he writes, "can we seek happiness when everything speaks of destruction?"
And so it is: "The world is jealous... it comes to find you where you are, at the bottom of a ravine, it makes its rumour of fear and hatred heard...".
J.M.G Le Clézio, the grandson, also feels cheated by this journey:
"Now I know. We don't share our dreams".
The life of an artist is so special that most of the time it is lived alone.
In 1983, Séroux spent several months in this state of mind on the island of HIVA OA in the Marquesas - French Polynesia. He returned there later (see his notebooks). He then lived mainly in Paris until 1986.
In 1990, he moved to Tokyo, where he took part in a group exhibition of Belgian-Japanese in situ contemporary art, for which France Borel wrote a book. Their shared interest in India, humour and distancing themselves from Western rails made them very close friends until France's death in Mauritius in 2021.
France Borel too would one day decide to resign from social life and the management of the Ecole Supérieure d'Art de La Cambre to travel the world and find herself there.
She and he shared this sense of withdrawal.
In 1991, he took part in a group exhibition at the Musée Art & Histoire in Brussels. He had two solo exhibitions in Tokyo, but did not go there.
In 1996, he was a finalist in the Europe Prize for Painting awarded by the city of Ostend, alongside Michaël Borremans.
From 1997, the Fred Lanzenberg gallery showed his work for ten years, with four exhibitions, including a one-man show at the Art Brussels fair. A painting was acquired by the Musée d'Ixelles.
In 2008, an exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la ville de Tournai: Séroux - Manet / De la coupe aux lèvres.
In 2011, his last exhibition at Fred Lanzenberg was about the gallerist's refusal to open up beyond the expectations of his clientele.
In 2019, Éditions Odile Jacob will publish an essay he co-wrote with Elisa Brune under the heteronym Paul Qwest, about what art and science transform in us: "Nos vies comme événement" ("Our lives as events").
His artistic temperament implies that something has to be lived in reverse: it's the opposite of a quest - it just so happens that... - and a gap, as if, to grasp the dimensions of the earth, you also had to be able to look at it from the moon.
Painting is a desire not for lack, but for more. Like the raw artists, he has no social or material ambitions.
Things first happen in life, then are translated in the studio, with no other intention than to attempt various transpositions, shown to amateurs, and present in a few museums and collections.
"A patient surveyor of exhibition venues such as museums and galleries. Seroux's technical mastery gives his paintings an impression of photographic reality. Today, the painter has given up anecdotes (identifiable spectators and famous works), and favours empty, almost anonymous places. A subtle tension is established in the work: do we see an identifiable, cold image, or a construction of abstract forms?
At the end of the day, we look inside ourselves and are finally able to distinguish from all that had seemed real until then, the only possible reality: that which we invent".
X, Les images inquiétantes de Seroux, in: Le Vif l'Express, February 1998.
Séroux's appearance on the walls is relatively recent. This young Brussels painter won a competition organised by the commune of Woluwé. Amid the hodgepodge of entries that are the law of the genre, oscillating between well-worn abstraction, straightforward daubings and post-conceptual impulses, his approach to painting won the unanimous approval of the jury.
At least Séroux stands out from the crowd with his accomplished craftsmanship, painting meticulously-crafted museum interiors, highly constructed and hyper-figurative canvases where the picture rails are the pretext for strict plans whose absolute legibility obviously conceals hidden agendas. The figures who inhabit these spaces, simple visitors bent over masterpieces, are less anecdotal than they are the foils for places and cultural practices that are, all in all, rather strange.
Museums, their users, their educational facilities, painting, its power, its limits imposed by the setting but also by life, in short art in conversation, the subject, after all, is worth another. Without going so far as to say that a philosophical reflection fleshes out these spaces, it is clear that the images are seductive and that they are totally different from the hyperrealism to which we might be tempted to reduce them. Similarly, it is clear that Séroux is a true painter. In fact, nothing could be less photographic or more offbeat than these compositions, which frame frames and break down our relationship with art into neat, straight sections.
Observed through the small end of a spyglass, they do not fall into the trap of derision, but neither are they without irony, particularly with regard to constructed art, the confusion maintained between container and content, the mirror effect, they give rise to a slight vertigo that increases as the artist progresses and measures the dangers of painting that is too systematic. The nested spaces, the interlocking spaces served up by a rich palette and a real pleasure in painting, the abstract planes all contribute more and more to pushing the first degree back into the margins of a broader purpose that turns the consumers of picture rails into unrepentant dream runners.
Le Soir | February 1998
INTRIGUING PAINTINGS, STRANGE LOOKS? ART IN QUESTION...
This exhibition confirms not the pictorial quality of an artist for whom the very act of painting would be a poor substitute (which is totally untrue), but rather the playful, obsessive, intellectual aspect of a work that challenges the viewer to grasp its facets. And, above all, the hidden, ongoing intention of a painter who makes it his duty to involve us in paintings that are constantly being redefined from one viewer to the next. Does this painter first think about what he is painting and wants to show, before knowing how to paint it?
The question that burns in the mind of the viewer of a painting by Séroux, in which not everyone seems to be looking at the same thing or in the same direction, is this: why does he paint scenes in this way that, while not realistic, reflect a zeitgeist that fires our brains? Does he want us to position ourselves in relation to the scene described or, rather, in consideration of the visual, sensual, psychological or phenomenological surpluses that the story placed on the canvas with its unspoken words provokes? The spring air, the ambient light, the lightness of the weather, here we are in a climate conducive to scrutinising. But what is there to scrutinise?
There are thirty-six stories to be found beneath the pictorial layer, mostly in oils, of Seroux's paintings. They revisit the very history of art - the transposition of Manet, Jef Lambeaux, Ingres and Bunuel suddenly associated by close-ups and interposed female bodies, Rodney Graham, Roberto Longo, Luc Tymans. They trap random reproduction by adding tendentious, misleading, scrupulous exergues, and additions in the form of small associated paintings. And what's more, don't they amount to an indefinable, learned 'voyeurism'?
You have to go and see it, read Séroux's texts to explain what lies behind the revisited paintings, the museum scenes frozen in the moment, from one or more divergent viewpoints. You have to get involved in these images that question the human being, his desires, fantasies and loves, the art lover, his concupiscences.
Roger Pierre Turine
There's no doubt that Séroux's new way of painting 'shatters' the previous one, at least formally. In the past, it was so rigorous, with its rectangular interlocking, its figures imprisoned within the frame, that it instilled a sense of confusion and plastic fascination that depended on an infinite chain of viewers/viewed, captured off camera in their voyeuristic endeavour.
Today, we have lost this notion of abyssal perspective in favour of the fragment, the detail, the focus and the dissolution of the face. It is the real space of the gallery that frames, juxtaposing them in tight rows, these tableaus of screaming mouths, where the scream bounces off in a cascade, like a war cry. The morphology of the female faces disintegrates and twists in a diluted crimson ink, with tones of blood and living flesh.
It's always a question of surprising oneself in the face of the mystery of the coveted object, whether it's the revealed, oracular truth of the painting, or, as here, the borderline erotic experience.
But all this revolting plasticity, reminiscent of Messerschmidt's 'physiognomonic' heads, paradoxically leaves little room for confusion. We are surprised by so much pictorial overflow, and more interested in Sophie Calle's hushed, watercoloured wanderings in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, also in search of revealed truth!
Roger Pierre Turine
The Design Museum Brussels and the Musée d'Ixelles are embarking on a rhythmic and spontaneous pas de deux with the Crush exhibition, which brings together pieces from their respective collections.
In response to an invitation from Design Museum Brussels, the Musée d'Ixelles (currently closed for renovation and extension work) is bringing out a selection of paintings, sculptures, photographs and other drawings from its storerooms to create happy connections and special accointances with the Plastic Design Collection.
This unexpected dialogue between design objects and works of art underlines the singularity and variety of the two collections, which are revealed in a whole new light.
Could this title be a reference to the 'nothings' that make up our daily lives, our solitary intimacy: a sip of coffee, a ray of sunshine on the face, a gentle breeze like a caress, a sigh, a look. Or a cigarette in an art-filled living room.
A moment of contemplation? Melancholy? Or simply quietude? The artist skilfully plays on a probable moment of isolation to fill his work with a hushed, enveloping silence.
Combined with this special moment, the colourful range of ashtrays by Hiroko Takeda and Andries Van Onck punctuate this crush with a burst of joy.
1999 Acrylic on canvas
Collection of the Musée d'Ixelles / Brussels