Phil Mertens, « Feu et métal », Flits, no 19, Printemps 1973, p.36-38

Translated from Flemish by Marcella Vanden-Abeele

There is relentlessness in his way of life, in the way he defends conceptions and feelings, in his fight with his material. In Leunens’ case, such obstinacy becomes a quality: it refers to the nocturnal depths of his Brabantians years when, as a night factory worker in Halle, he conversed with the darkness of the night where he led his physical and mental combat.

For years his enthusiastic passion and exertion have influenced his solitude and became the weapons to combat the duplicity of his own life, when confronted with that of other people. And yet, this lonely fight never turned into a condemnation of others. It conformed to his inner need to keep his distance, to take all the risks, with only his work and his craftsmanship as certainties. In the hectic Parisian atmosphere Leunens drew a magical circle, protecting his artistic instinct and craftsmanship and permitting him, in the limited space of an apartment in Paris, to realize the wonder of fire and liquid metal.

The hermetic language of Fire and Metal intrigue him; this language manifest itself gradually to the attentive eye of the visitor. The existence of pale and dark relates to an intimacy with the night: these two elements fascinate his sight, which, as the night approaches, has grasped the variation of black and gray subtleties. Leunens experienced the materiality of the night.

His first paintings convey the silence of a moon scenery and the impossibility of « cats in the night ». Later, flames and soot came to be with the paper, while now the inner shifting play of light in the metal with its reflections brings to life a monotype, a relief or a sculpture.

Leunens’ hand became familiar with the instinct of fire and metal. These medias give concrete form to space with an inner light, just as he did before with the oil paintings, the transmutation happens before our eyes. If we touch the metallic sheet, our hand is amazed to find it smoother than a fine cloth and of an untold depth. Traces of the artist’s effort have disappeared; after the physical exertion of planning down, the hammer blows and the rapt attention of the bold adventure, now there is only peace and the stillness of the completed work, like a musical pause. To this silence clings the mark, discreetly, so that the eye can reach further and penetrate into the inner space moving slowly, harmoniously between light and dark. The simple balance does not tell its secrets nor the mystery of the ultimate touch; for the hand guides the liquid metal, just as it guided the oil paint remembering previous exertions. It has stopped the gesture on that outer limit where words can no longer convey a message. The picture evoked by the mark, is dissolved by the material. The risk of intentional figuration has been avoided for the sake of a certain hermetism.

Sensibility controls the technique which on its turn corrects the instinct. An uninterrupted fire unites the man with his work, a bond that becomes even stronger because of the joy of creating and the enthusiasm that are the basis of Guy Leunens’ art: this becomes his characteristic.

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