COPERS, Leo

Nationality: Belgium
Website: Website
Belgian artist
Born in Gent 1947
Lives and works in Wetteren

An apparently blind man gropes his way through an exhibition in the Pompidou Centre, a sword is thrust through a roughly hewn stone, and delicate glass carafes are filled with poisonous wine. These are three of the diverse works by Belgian artist Leo Copers.

Born in 1947, he lives and works in New York and Wetteren, Belgium, and since 1990 he has held solo exhibitions in Münich, Milan, New York and Berlin.

Copers presents everyday objects in ways they have never been contemplated before. His tables, for example, surrender all similarities to reality: they are too high to be sat at, no two legs are the same, and a golden glow removes them from the material world. His swords appear stolen from another era – perhaps some Arthurian legend – and when such implements are plunged through stone or into a wall, they become double-edged metaphors for beauty and violence.

These works have origins in the Surrealist tradition, as in the unexpected juxtapositions of fellow Belgian René Magritte. Copers’ own assemblages have been described as “an inextricable tangle of aggressive, ironic and magic delusions”. He demonstrates the narrative power of the image by using such elemental subjects as water, fire and light to conjure up sensations.

Leo Copers’ Remake Swastika (1969-1985) is a startling perspective on one of the most culturally laden symbols of all. He shed his own blood for his 1979 Blood Banner, and as an urban art commando has undertaken a number of “Guerrilla exhibitions”. Perhaps most significant was his 1985 red carpet staircase, leading upwards to nowhere. Gallery visitors were required to sign a register before they ascended, to assume full responsibility for what lay beyond.