Boxing gloves and uppercuts: Sam Dillemans shows 230 (!) paintings in Antwerp

Sam Dillemans

A parking lot in Antwerp. Indoors. Jabs and uppercuts everywhere. This is the output of Flemish painter Sam Dillemans: more than 230 paintings; most of them made during the last six years. Portraits, kissing couples and boxers. It’s an impressive display of industriousness. But I’m not sure that I would call myself a fan. 

The same face. Painted over and over again. Raw blobs of colour. Each face being a new step on a path leading towards the abstract. Amidst the strokes of paint, always bits and pieces left without paint too: white gets to play a role as well, in that way. I look at the other walls and see boxers, boxers and boxers. Punching. Crouching. And that same evolution towards the abstract.

Sam Dillemans is known as a fairly reclusive, disciplined painter. He was born in ’65 and studied at several academies. He’s boxer himself, so he doesn’t really need pictures for his paintings. He paints from what he knows. A broader audience got to know him through an intriguing and prizewinning documentary De waanzin van het detail (The madness in the detail, 2007), in which Dillemans explained how in his opinion Rubens, Goya and Van Gogh aren’t painters of the past, but painters of the present, and how their genius inspires and depresses him (for a fragment, click here). Belgian singer Axelle Red used one of his ‘lovers’-paintings for the cover of her recent album Sisters & empathy.

I wasn’t sure what to think, looking at those walls and all those paintings, in Antwerp. Dillemans obviously knows how to paint. And I really liked his older works (and drawings) in black and white. But it’s almost as if the act of painting is more important than the actual painting. There’s something too obsessive about it. I’d compare it to a photographer shooting lots of pictures, not knowing which of those pictures to keep and which to delete.

In interviews Dillemans has already stated that he considers his boxing-period to be over. So even if you’re not that fond of his work: that’s one reason to do go and check this exhibition out. From now on he will be concentrating on portraits of famous people. A couple of them are already hanging in that Antwerp car park.

Sam Dillemans, paintings 2003-2009, Napelsstraat 32, Antwerpen (till December 6). For opening hours, click here.

(credit: Sam Dillemans ‘Nigel Benn – Vincenzo Nardiello 1995 / Paintings (Boxers) 2003-2006’)


One Response to “Boxing gloves and uppercuts: Sam Dillemans shows 230 (!) paintings in Antwerp”

  1. G. Spreeuwenberg Says:

    I was at the exhibition on October 22nd. I thought to have recognised a small portrait (oilpainting) of Marylin Monroe. The boxers are not my cup of tea so I was very happy that the black and white etchings and drawings were also there.
    Afterwards in a bar in Antwerp I saw a man who could have been Sam Dillemans. I asked for his autograph but he said: “Je ne comprends pas”, then he apologized and answered his cell phone…….

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