Jacques Louis Nyst

1942 - 1996

Born in Luik (BE).

Jacques Louis Nyst studied at the Liege Academy of Fine Arts, moving on to Madrid after graduating. While he was a painter, multi-media artist, and publicist, he is best known as a Belgian experimental video art pioneer. The body of work he produced was incredibly true to type. Nyst described it as ‘rational art’: an encounter between objects and their various representations. For over 30 years, he and his wife Danièle Nyst (1942-1998) created video works with an undertone ranging from contemplative to poetic to theoretical, but always semiotically probing into psychological codes, symbols, and characters.

From the start, Nyst felt the urge to blend diverse disciplines. From painting and writing to photography and drawing, he ultimately coalesced them all, leading to his predominant means of expression: video poetry. In an interview, Nyst explains how surrealism was the catalyst for his own visual language: ‘Magritte’s work made a significant impression on me, which enabled the translation of a whole mental world through images’.

At the heart of Nyst’s oeuvre is an emotional and intellectual reflection on the ‘function’ of art. He uses sound, image, and language to explore how semiotics manifest in and around the visual arts. Nyst’s premise is that it is all about structure and conflict: a confrontation between objects and their representations. A'multilingual' installation is created by situating a painting next to a monitor playing a video piece, open to myriad interpretations, like a key that unlocks a whole new universe of meaning and possibility. Nyst emphatically embeds himself in the Belgian surrealist tradition through his video installations.

His 1975 film La farde aux canards combines ducks with an array of functional items (a footbath, electric cables, etc.), the literal significance of which are entirely unrelated. However, Nyst’s combinations always generate new and different meanings. A lover of nonconformist philosophy, Nyst isolated his objects from their customary context to force observers to reframe what they read, see, or feel. Throughout his life, Nyst used a range of objects that travel from one video to the next and which also pop up in the rest of his artistic media. These objects – a shovel, a hat, a coffee maker, an egg, a ladder, etc. –are signposts intended to point the way to linguistic innovation and broader understanding.

Jacques Louis and Danièle Nyst also appear in their videos as Professor Codca and Thérèsa Plane. Together, they conduct witty conversations and intellectual discourse on a quest for the origins and functions of images and words.


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