16 Sep 2023 - 28 Oct 2023

Soul Mapping

Zeno X Gallery


The group exhibition Soul Mapping centers around Soul Map (2015), a major painting by Jack Whitten. “As an abstract painter, I work with things that I cannot see,” said Jack Whitten. “Google has mapped the whole earth. We have maps of Mars. We don’t have a map of the soul, and that intrigues me. I want the viewer to think of the Soul Map as a psychic GPS system.”

The exhibition reflects upon the significance of painting in the history of Zeno X Gallery and presents work by represented and invited artists: Mounira Al Solh, Strauss Bourque-LaFrance, Miriam Cahn, Raoul De Keyser, Marlene Dumas, Mary Heilmann, Sanya Kantarovsky, Leah Ke Yi Zheng, Moshekwa Langa, Rosalind Nashashibi, Marina Rheingantz, Salman Toor, Anh Trần, Luc Tuymans, Jack Whitten and Dan Zhu.

Mounira Al Solh

The canvas Passion Teapots and the Birth of Al Hamza, On Fire (2019) by Mounira Al Solh (b. 1978, Beirut, Lebanon) shows a curved woman holding a teapot to her head. The work was previously shown in the Risquons-Tout exhibition at WIELS in Brussels in 2020. As is often the case with Al Solh, the scene can be read as a patchwork of stories and accounts she collected over the years. In this painting, for instance, she incorporates stories about resistance and female authors as well as references to the Arabic language. ‘Al Hamza’ in the title of the work refers to an Arabic letter which can be found on the breast of the woman.

The painting She Woke Up the Radio (2022) is a portrait of the Moroccan feminist writer Fatema Mernissi. Her books L’amour dans les pays musulmans and Beyond the Veil: Male- Female Dynamics in a Muslim Society are influential works about gender and sexuality in muslim countries. The title of the painting also refers to Al Solh’s childhood memory of waking up during the Lebanese Civil War to Fairuz’ rousing music and lyrics on the radio. The songs of this Lebanese singer were often about a free and festive Beirut that no longer existed and seemed far away because of the war then raging. The artist writes: “The saddest moment is when your city is bombed and someone plays Fairuz in the background.”

Mounira Al Solh lives and works in Zutphen and Beirut. In 2024 she will represent Lebanon at the Venice Biennale. She will soon have solo exhibitions at the ABN AMRO Kunstruimte and at H’ART Museum in Amsterdam as a laureate of the ABN AMRO Art Award, and at National Museum Cardiff as Artes Mundi 10 nominee. She has had solo shows at The Art Institute of Chicago, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück and KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, among others. She has also participated in the São Paulo Biennial (2023), Sharjah Biennial (2023), Venice Biennial (2015) and Documenta 14 (2017).

Strauss Bourque-LaFrance

Strauss Bourque-LaFrance (b. 1983, Maine, US) approaches painting as a physical collage process. He starts from pieces of canvas or parts of previous paintings that he cuts up, arranges, paints and assembles into a new painting— coloured shapes stack and disperse, washes, shadows and suggestions of nature emerge amongst layers of saturated colour, while gestural graphite markings divide the canvas. The optical and material potential of collage engages with mark making, forming energetic and unique constructions that call to mind feminist craft practices, cartoon forms, and hybrid landscapes. Bourque-LaFrance combines references and techniques from the painting canon to create an image that feels familiar yet is difficult to define. His work directly responds to the ever-shifting aspects of the human interior and the evolutionary desire to translate these obscurities into physical forms – he notes, “…here, abstraction is the result of our inability to truly understand and translate our interiority, not just a series of art historical tropes.”

Strauss Bourque-LaFrance lives and works in Los Angeles and New York. He has had solo exhibitions at T293 in Rome and Rachel Uffner Gallery in New York. His work has been included in two-person and group shows in the US and internationally, at venues including SculptureCenter in New York, The Contemporary Austin, Sea View in Los Angeles, Exo Exo in Paris, ICA in Philadelphia, The Kitchen in New York, Derosia in New York, Harkawik in Los Angeles and Galerie Tobias Naehring in Leipzig.

Miriam Cahn

The body occupies a central place in the oeuvre of Miriam Cahn (b. 1949, Basel, Switzerland), which includes paintings, drawings, photography and performance. Working from a feminist perspective, Cahn creates images characterised by emotional intensity and violent expressiveness, works which have a compelling impact on the viewer. Her figures are ghostly characters emerging from a dark, often atmospheric background. Instead of hard, masculine lines, Cahn employs hazy contours that break the classic distinction between foreground and background. With great sensitivity, she applies colour to emphasise certain elements, often eyes, lips and genitalia. These motifs, which refer to intimacy, vulnerability and fertility, are often the object of violence, but can equally be that of desire and connection. With her radical images, Cahn doesn’t strive for beauty or attractiveness but wants instead to address patriarchal systems, abuse of power and oppression. In doing so, she uses the body as an instrument to approach gender equality on an animalistic, instinctive level.

Miriam Cahn lives and works in Stampa. She represented Switzerland at the Venice Biennale in 1984 and a large installation with her work was part of the central exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2022. She has had solo exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Fondazione ICA Milano, The Power Plant in Toronto, Haus der Kunst in Munich, Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Kunsthalle Basel and Kunsthaus Zürich. Her work is in the collections of Tate Modern in London, MoMA in New York, Pinault Collection in Paris and Kunstmuseum Basel, among others.

Raoul De Keyser

Sketch (La Mancha) (2006) and Rests (2007) come from the late period in the oeuvre of Raoul De Keyser (1930–2012, Deinze, Belgium), when the motifs were becoming increasingly abstract and it was often more difficult to identify what they were based on. From 2003 De Keyser started experimenting with remnants of a series of prints of a linocut from the 1990s. The traces of a printing technique thus serve as a blueprint for new work. The referral to older work is typical of his output from that period: “In an endless trial and error process, pictorial solutions from earlier works are brought up and linked to issues explored previously in another series. As a result, De Keyser’s artistic genealogy in no way resembles a linear progression. Any teleological interpretation fails. New works shed new light on older ones while each stage in his oeuvre retains its own identity and validity rather than becoming subordinate to the inevitably subsequent stage. De Keyser’s painting has no final destination, it exists by grace of the detours.” (Steven Jacobs, Retour, Ludion, 2007)

Raoul De Keyser had important solo exhibitions at Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, S.M.A.K. in Ghent, The Renaissance Society in Chicago, Kunsthalle Bern, BOZAR in Brussels, Portikus in Frankfurt, Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin, FRAC Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand, M WOODS in Beijing, Whitechapel Gallery in London and De Pont in Tilburg, among others.

Marlene Dumas

For this exhibition, Marlene Dumas (b. 1953, Cape Town, South Africa) painted a special portrait of the artist Jack Whitten, who was represented by Zeno X Gallery since 2008 and who passed away in 2018. His monumental work Soul Map (2015) is the central work around which the exhibition Soul Mapping was built. Based on a photograph of Jack Whitten in his studio in the 1970s, the portrait is a testament to the respect Marlene Dumas has for the artist’s remarkable oeuvre.

Bermuda Triangle (2000) is part of the Strippinggirls series. For this series of paintings and photographs, Marlene Dumas and Anton Corbijn delved into Amsterdam’s nightlife together and each made portraits of strippers. The exhibition was shown not much later at S.M.A.K. in Ghent and at the Theater Instituut in Amsterdam. “Anton and I are both known for stripping people. We both make portraits. If this is true, then it’s not so much about revealing roles … It’s the exposure of a melancholy sex appeal, where surnames disappear and first names are fictitious.”

Marlene Dumas lives and works in Amsterdam. She has had solo exhibitions at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Fondation Beyeler in Basel, MoMA in New York, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, The Art Institute of Chicago, Centre Pompidou in Paris, MOCA in Los Angeles and Tate Modern in London, among others.

Mary Heilmann

Mary Heilmann (b. 1940, San Francisco, United States) is considered one of the founders of contemporary abstract painting. She has been working since the 1960s on a unique body of work that finds its inspiration in everyday reality. Her oeuvre is characterised by an instinctive approach to colour and form, in response to the universality and timelessness of geometric modernist abstraction. She often starts out from basic shapes – circles, squares, grids and lines – to which she playfully adds elements that produce an eclectic result. Contours are blurred, shapes melt into each other or splashes of colour are applied. Behind her seemingly casual technique lies a complex structure that gradually becomes palpable.

Mary Heilmann lives and works in New York. A major solo exhibition will open at Dia:Beacon in New York in September 2023. She has also had solo exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Kunstmuseum Bonn, New Museum in New York, Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, and many other venues. Her work was part of the Whitney Biennial in 1972, 1989 and 2008.

Sanya Kantarovsky

Sanya Kantarovsky (b. 1982, Moscow, Russia) works with various art forms, such as sculpture, text and animation, but painting is at the basis of his artistic practice. His fictional portraits are often constructed from various art historical references and visual elements from cinema, design or illustration. The dark humour that emanates from his figurative paintings evokes feelings of unease, alienation and confusion. Kantarovsky explores the relationship between image and viewer, playing with the way he makes the figures appear on canvas. For instance, the viewer’s gaze is sometimes sought out very directly, as if begging for connection, and at other times, on the contrary, completely averted.

Sanya Kantarovsky lives and works in New York. He has had institutional solo exhibitions at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, Kunsthalle Basel, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin and LAXart in Los Angeles. His work is included in the museum collections of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, LACMA in Los Angeles, ICA in Boston, MCA Chicago, Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Tate in London and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, among others.

Leah Ke Yi Zheng

Leah Ke Yi Zheng (b. 1988) grew up in Wuyishan (China), where she was apprenticed in traditional Chinese painting techniques from an early age. She then went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she developed a style that reflects ancient Chinese techniques with elements of post-war avant-garde European painting. Zheng controls the legibility of her images through distances of viewing, subject matter, and by varying the transparency of paint embedded in silk canvas. The viewing process is therefore an important part of the experience of her work and is also emphasized by the uneven shapes of her canvases. Zheng begins her work process by making her own wooden stretcher frame, which always takes on a unique shape and deviates from the rectangular norm. The light, translucent nature of silk provides a curious contrast to the heaviness, but also sometimes warmth, of the wood. By destabilizing the painting’s infrastructure – sometimes almost invisibly – she emphasizes the object-like nature of the painting. Two works feature the motif of the fusee: the spring mechanism inside a watch or machine. The precision of the altered mechanical form and the command of time create a tension in relation to the fluidity of the paint and the amorphous appearances that sometimes emerge through the back of the canvas. Untitled (Helmut Kolle) (2023) is a portrait of German painter of the same name, who was the partner of art critic and collector Wilhelm Uhde. Zheng first drew the portrait in pencil on silk, but then decided to overpaint it with ink and remove the pencil lines, creating a special interplay between the two different media.

Leah Ke Yi Zheng lives and works in Chicago. She has had solo shows at David Lewis Gallery in New York, 4th Ward Project Space in Chicago and The Arts Club of Chicago. She currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Moshekwa Langa

Moshekwa Langa (b. 1975, Bakenberg, South Africa) collects materials from his immediate surroundings to document his personal history. The artist still returns regularly to his native village of Bakenberg, which wasn’t included on maps during apartheid and therefore didn’t officially exist. This prompted the artist to map events, people and places from his life. Both through his collages on paper and in his large-scale installations, he reflects on broader social themes such as identity, migration and displacement. His works are composed of different layers of paper, paint and other materials which he superimposes and blends together. Traces of actions, planned or not, are also visibly present. Together they form poetic and tangible images in which both physical and psychological boundaries are questioned.

Moshekwa Langa lives and works in Amsterdam. Langa has had solo exhibitions at KM21 in The Hague, La Chapelle des Cordeliers in Toulouse, Krannert Art Museum in Champaign, Illinois, Kunsthalle Bern, Modern Art Oxford, MAXXI in Rome, Kunstverein Düsseldorf, Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, The Renaissance Society in Chicago, Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève and Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. He has participated in several major biennials, including Berlin (2018), Dakar (2018), Lyon (2011), São Paulo (2010 and 1998), Venice (2009 and 2003), Gwangju (2000), Johannesburg (1997), Istanbul (1997) and Havana (1997). He did a residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam in 1997–98.

Rosalind Nashashibi

The oeuvre of Rosalind Nashashibi (b. 1973, Croydon, United Kingdom) consists of paintings and films, two practices that are in direct dialogue with each other. Her works are the result of observations from her immediate environment, which she combines with elements from an imaginary world. She is fascinated by how this combination speaks to the collective imagination. She uses recurring motifs to evoke a strange sense of recognition where something feels familiar but whose origins we cannot trace. For instance, the moth in Heavy Moth (2022) has already surfaced in previous works as a bowtie, cat ears or bat. The red pillars in the work are also a recurring motif that acts as a framework for action. This experiment confirms her conviction about the influence of the history of painting on her own visual language. In the work Punch in Love (She’s Getting Stronger) (2023), part of a series based on a work by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, she reflects on themes such as love, power and the position of women in painting.

Rosalind Nashashibi lives and works in London. She has had solo exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary, the Musée Carré d’Art in Nîmes, National Gallery in London, S.M.A.K. in Ghent, Secession in Vienna, The Art Institute of Chicago, Witte de With in Rotterdam and Tate Britain in London. Nashashibi represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale (2007) and also participated in Documenta 14 (2017), Manifesta 7 (2008) and the Sharjah Biennial (2011). Her work is held in numerous public collections such as MoMA in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Kunsthaus Zürich, Tate in Londen and S.M.A.K. in Ghent.

Marina Rheingantz

Marina Rheingantz (b. 1983, Araraquara, Brazil) created two paintings especially for this exhibition in which the landscape once again plays the main role. The title Braquiaria (2022) refers to a grass-like plant species common in the Brazilian countryside. It is a plant that grows rapidly, overgrowing other vegetation in the process. Rheingantz doesn’t aim for a literal, truthful representation of nature, but rather wants to evoke the sensory experience of perception. She paints landscapes from memory in highly varied and evocative imagery that lies between figuration and abstraction. Maria Ruth (2023) bears the name of Rheingantz’ grandmother, with whom she has a special connection. She gave the title to the canvas only afterwards, when she realised that the delicate look of the work reminded her of her grandmother.

Marina Rheingantz lives and works in São Paulo. She has had solo exhibitions at FRAC Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand and Carpinteria in Rio de Janeiro. Her work has also been included in exhibitions at Estação Pinacoteca in São Paulo, Kunsthal KAdE in Amersfoort, Hakodate Museum of Art in Hokkaido, Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro and Cité des Arts in Paris, among others. Her work is part of the collections of Centre Pompidou in Paris, Centro Cultural São Paulo, Dallas Museum of Art, Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Museu Serralves in Porto, Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar, Pinault Collection in Paris and the Taguchi Art Collection in Tokyo.

Salman Toor

The paintings of Salman Toor (b. 1983, Lahore, Pakistan) depict intimate everyday scenes of the lives of young, queer Brown men. The tall, narrow figures, often depicted in emerald green hues, evoke an atmosphere of celebration, love and desire. The narrative scenes and portraits, in which Toor juxtaposes his own experiences with those of others, are reflections on the fragile search for identity. The images highlight the duality of joy and unrest that comes from living between different cultures: a conservative, traditional culture and a free, contemporary queer culture. Toor combines academic techniques and art-historical references with a loose, sketchy style – the delicate linear brushstrokes emphasise the thin line between fiction and autobiography in his work.

Salman Toor lives and works in New York. He has had solo museum exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Honolulu Museum of Art, Tampa Museum of Art, Baltimore Museum of Art and M WOODS in Beijing. His work is part of the public collections of MCA Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum in New York, Tate London, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and many others.

Anh Trần

The paintings of Anh Trần (b. 1989, Bến Tre, Vietnam) engage in a dialogue with the history of Western abstract painting. Instead of focusing on style, technique or materials used, the artist turns her attention to the emotional power of a work. Energy and sensibility are central in her large-scale paintings. The symbols or words present in her work often rest lightly between fictional and personal experiences. Trần questions the formal and academic straitjacket of painting and addresses the false dichotomy between original and

replica. Her work is also a commentary on Western modernism’s appropriation of aesthetic elements from other cultures.

Anh Trần lives and works in Berlin and Amsterdam. She took part in the Carnegie International (2022) in Pittsburgh and the Biennial of Painting (2022) at Museum Dhondt- Dhaenens in Deurle. She currently has a solo exhibition at Fitzpatrick Gallery in Paris. Her work has been shown in group exhibitions at Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle, Galerie Fons Welters in Amsterdam, Bortolami Gallery in New York and Artspace Aotearoa in Auckland. She was also a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam (2021–22).

Luc Tuymans

The painting Happy Birthday (2023) is based on the animated film of the same title created by Luc Tuymans (b. 1958, Mortsel, Belgium) during the pandemic and screened at Zeno X Gallery during his latest solo exhibition in 2021. The work is based on a photograph Tuymans took of an inflatable duck bobbing on the water of a swimming pool rented for him on the occasion of his birthday. The beams of light from the laser projection on the pool create a surprising but festive atmosphere. The absurd, rather light-hearted scene contrasts with the physical scale of the painting.

Luc Tuymans lives and works in Antwerp. An exhibition recently opened at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin in which his work engages in dialogue with that of German actress and director Edith Clever, known for her portrayals of strong female characters. He has had solo exhibitions at De Pont in Tilburg, Palazzo Grassi in Venice, National Portrait Gallery in London, The Menil Collection in Houston, MCA Chicago and Haus der Kunst in Munich, among others.

Jack Whitten

The painting Soul Map (2015) by Jack Whitten (1939, Bessemer, Alabama – 2018, New York) is the central work in the exhibition that also lent its name to the title of the exhibition. “As an abstract painter, I work with things that I cannot see”, Whitten said. “Google has mapped the whole earth. We have maps of Mars. We don’t have a map of the soul, and that intrigues me. I want the viewer to think of the Soul Map as a psychic GPS system.” The painting consists of two different panels: Whitten obtained the smoothness of the left panel by moving over the surface with his ‘developer’ – a kind of rake he created in the 1970s – while the right panel consists of a collage of ‘tesserae’ or pieces of acrylic paint that he meticulously applied to the canvas. Although the expansive undulation of the left surface contrasts sharply with the compressed particles on the right, both consist entirely of acrylic paint, although in different states of being. “Point and wave are both sound and light as well as matter and mind. Inspired by quantum physics – a theory of matter, energy and light – Whitten regarded the point and the wave as interchangeable just as matter and energy were.” (Richard Shiff in Jack Whitten: Cosmic Soul, 2022).

Seven Loops for Elizabeth Murray (2011) is a seven-part work that Jack Whitten created as a tribute to American painter Elizabeth Murray (1940–2007), who was also a dear friend of the artist. A pioneer of abstract painting, Murray was known for her colourful and large-

scale ‘shaped canvasses’. Her modest presence belied the bombastic, expansive energy of her colourful works. In focusing his thoughts about Elizabeth Murray, Whitten chose an unusual format in presenting the seven small paintings he dedicated to her. They seem to dynamically gesture one to the other. The energy of the loops are contained in each separate image by a framing device and kept from uncoiling and bursting into space.

The work of Jack Whitten will be the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at MoMA in New York in 2026. He had solo exhibitions at Dia:Beacon in New York, Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The Met Breuer in New York, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and The Studio Museum in Harlem, among others.

Dan Zhu

In her drawings and paintings, Dan Zhu (b. 1985, Jiangxi, China) creates her own world. Starting from her fascination with the dialogue between fiction and reality, she juxtaposes natural elements – leaves, flowers, flying creatures – with depictions from the human subconscious to create unusual scenes. Her images often come into existence spontaneously and in turn carry the seeds for new works. As sequences or rhythms, her motifs seem to refer to mathematical patterns frequently found in nature. For Take Off and Run (2022-2023), her largest work to date, she placed large sheets of paper on the floor and painted in a kneeling position, as in the tradition of Chinese calligraphy, with the full reach of her arms. Only at a later stage did the large flower reveal itself, spreading in various emanations across the picture surface and ending in a small snail. On the wooden panel Mountains (2023), two hands knit a scarf that is simultaneously unravelled, like a never-ending task.

Dan Zhu lives and works in The Hague and Shenyang. She was a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (2018–19). Zhu recently had solo exhibitions at Kunstinstituut Melly in Rotterdam and Tabula Rasa Gallery in Beijing and London. Her work is in the public collections of Teylers Museum in Haarlem, Stedelijk Museum in Schiedam and Schunck Museum in Heerlen, among others.

Press release from Zeno X Gallery

Antwerp, Belgium