Born in 1934 in Leopoldsburg, Geys lives and works in Balen, Belgium. Considered in that country as the most important artist of his generation, he remains atypical, and is still not as well known as might have been expected, given his international career: Pori Art Museum, Pori, Finland, 2005; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2004; Documenta 11, Kassel, 2002; Le Collège-Frac Champagne-Ardenne, 1995; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1992; São Paulo biennial, 1991.
At the Institut d’art contemporain, the visitors find themselves, right at the start, in a space containing a plethora of archive material from the paper Kempens Informatieblad. There is in fact a double archiving, on the walls and on the wooden tables, of the basic elements that make up Geys' work. The material then spreads out through the succeeding exhibition spaces, which are themselves "contaminated" by the continuous referential presence of pages from the newspaper.
Kempens Informatieblad IAC Villeurbanne, produced for the occasion, is a condensate of all the existing Kempens covers. In accordance with the artist's wishes, and in a logic of dispersal, his complete stock of back issues will be made available, or handed out to the public, in the course of the exhibition.
The gesture is a strong one, tantamount to the gift of an entire life. Around this nodal focus, this "life-work", Geys' different approaches are integrated into the exhibition with a number of pieces that make up a sort of vast "work surface" – the Documenta film, Questions de femmes, Livre (blanc), etc. – bringing to the fore, not so much his artistic intentions as his creative processes.
This exhibition is not a linear catalogue of Jef Geys' works, but unfolds as an array which, though governed by a rigorous system of internal organisation, both deploys and entwines highly diversified forms of expression (from the most classical to the most contemporary) through artistic, biographical and universal problematics – a complex, coded interplay, a set of ramifications which, like biological growth patterns, evade all interpretational transparence and control over possibilities of emergence.