What they wrote on Bob De Groof...

His work is overwhelming, ruthlessly direct, violently expressive.

A promising artist is at work here, driven by an inner fear and tormented by the violence around us, a young man who has found a safe space in canvas and paint, trying to cope with all these emotions and to solidify them testimonies of hope and reflection.

Erik Vertongen, De Nieuwe Gids, May 1987

His spaces are populated by opium smokers and drinkers.

A remarkable, bright strength of colour and an authentic painter’s drive grab one by the throat here. Without any mercy, robes and masks are ripped away in this confrontation. No form of aesthetics is anywhere to be found here. No hermetic symbolism is to decipher here. No erotic poses and sterile academic body of work is to be seen here.

Bob De Groof is by character, talent and instinctive inspiration a raw transgressor who visualizes his earthly phantasms by his very recognizable and almost touchable paint. Thickly applied color layers on his extremely explosive canvases are clearly the hectic and exalted labor of a pictural terrorist.

The night’s beauty becomes pretty gruesome when a grey morning irrevocably dawns. No more words exist for places such as these. And those who remember Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ should be able to approach the nature and atmosphere of this plastic work in a more satisfactory way. All the latter does not disqualify this ‘pictural terrorist’ from knowing a deep tenderness. And this paradox too, illustrates the passion of an artist ‘on the wild side’…

Hendrik Carette, from “Bob De Groof or the Fierceness of a Pictural Terrorist”, February 1988

Bob De Groof is a painter of these times.

Meaning that he doesn’t deny the insane folly of this century. Meaning that he is a painter of violence and destruction.

And still, at the same time he gives voice to an ultimate and hopeless defense, a subcutaneous tenderness. Because, Beauty may, after Luceberts words, have burned her face but even mutilated she lives on. In raw blues lyrics, in the tormented (but triumphant) music of Charlie “Bird” Parker and Coltrane, in rebellious rhythms of rock and reggae she lives on. And this beauty which has gone through hell, doesn’t only comfort larvae, reptiles, rats, but- who knows- even human beings…

It is a bitter and desperate spontaneity with which younger artists react against the more cerebral art forms of their predecessors. It is being fed and poisoned by the remembrance of countless defeats of social and artistic revolts. It is symptomatic that the murder of Garcia Lorca is kept alive in De Groof’s work:

The wounds that were made then, have yet refused to close.

But there is more. After all, Bob De Groof brings us no small talk about pictures, no illustrations, no report that unavoidably must stay underneath the harsh reality it is trying to tell us. While the artist’s personality may be an exponent of societal and (art)-historical circumstances, it never is just reducible to this. Therefore Bob’s work does not only witness, but is firstly a quest, a search for an own identity.

We have seen his trauma’s solidify into painted stigmata, and these, compacting in their turn into hieroglyphs, signs that are readable for the onlooker, but who at the same time disguise more than they give away.

We crash into a paradox, inherent to all forms of artistic expression: the artist does not coincide with his work, and his most authentic creations reveal themselves to be mysteries to him. And it is this lasting alienation which gives his creativity new incentives, and whips it up again. The studio becomes a base instead of a bunker; while fighting the artist pushes his way through to the outside, reaching out to the unknown painting, to the unknown self…

Jan Mestdagh, from an introduction to an exhibition, May 1989

His interpretation is shocking and personal.

It is very enriching and gratifying, that 30-year old Bob De Groof took Louis Paul Boon’s “The Beggars Book” as the starting point for his pictorial vision. And let me say right away that his interpretation is shocking and personal.

A drawing, on the other hand, stands or does not stand- at all. Drawing is the most honest and direct form of expression in the visual arts. With a drawing the artist affirms himself or fails abjectly.

And it must be said: Bob De Groof does not fail, on the contrary. His drawings have been set down with brutal candor and vigorous accuracy. His connection with the great tradition of Bruegel, Goya, Ensor and Grosz is an asset. Only the foolish shun influences in the delusion that they necessarily will be original.

De Groof’s black and white pastel drawings do not look pleasant, cozy, flattering or decorative. Here is no artist’s concession to the lust for color and a certain wallpaper taste of the average art lover. Neither does his work represent cheerful scenes, but exhibits the human virus in its true shape in a shocking, expressive manner.

Bob’s drawings are distinctive in their symbolism and double bottoms. He has not merely pinned himself down onto the 16th century, but draws a firm line from past to present. In one of his drawings Mad Meg and the Duke of Alba play cards with Hitler and Stalin. In another one, Garcia Lorca is executed by the same kind of Spanish fascists as those of the archdukes Albrecht and Isabella. And in still another, a burning of the books by contemporary authors is depicted. All these drawings are referencing at the same time to the 16th and the 20th century. And thus they transcend time and make their contemplation a fascinating intellectual adventure.

Although Bob De Groof has been inspired by “The Beggars Book”, his drawings are no illustrations but autonomous interpretations who breathe a spirit of revolt, resistance, insurrection and anarchy. If Boon had been alive, he would- i think -have been the first to acknowledge Bob’s wayward talent, his personal vision and artistic possession. He would have known him as one of his own, a man of his calibre. He would not have seen a gratuitous esthetician, or some mass product manufacturer, but a heretic, a taunter and a schismatic.

Herwig Leus, from the exhibition address “Bob De Groof after Boon’s Spirit”, May 1990

His artistic approach is obviously raw and satirizing...

here one can get acquainted with a series of drawings by Bob De Groof, which he made after having repeatedly scrutinized “The Beggars Book” by L.P. Boon. And where, instead of just illustrating these dismal events of the 16th century inquisition, he links this grim period to our own times- on the theme of human malice and cruelty. His artistic approach is obviously raw and satirizing: Bervoets and Grosz could find themselves a brother in arms here. Four paintings complete this exhibition and clarify still more this bitterly biting artist’s view and vision on life.

Wim Toebosch, in “Arts, Antiques, Auctions”, May 1990

It seems that in Bob De Groofs opinion, civilization is only a thin varnish over human malice.

Bob De Groof is known for his heinous narratives. He experiences the world in a torn way and feeds himself with the most painful and outrageous pages of Western civilization. His last series of drawings originated after the reading of Louis Paul Boons “The Beggars Book”. Death beats the drum. Inquisition reigns. The Spanish occupier commits atrocity after atrocity. De Groof characterizes this Great Iconoclasm, brings us up close to people who are broken on the wheel, and lets crows fly over gallow fields. Black monks raise crosses so that heretics condemned to the stake can kiss them. A dark intolerance protrudes above the human flutter of people, peak helmeted soldiers and victims…

Bert Popelier, in “Kunst en Kultuur”, April 1990

Bob De Groof's expressive inquiry focuses on contemporary society and is exponent of an international subculture...

Bob's visionary expressionist paintings show the tragical situation in our chaotic world of revolted human beings, and voice the conflictual situation of an strongly and aggressively charged individual, who is torn between insight and sensitivity in an organised technological society. These are the parameters of Bob De Groof's exalted and swift provocation of the mind.

From a pictural point of view, De Groof is inspired by historical Expressionism, american Abstract Expressionism with action painting and drippings, but with a contemporary content.

It is expressionistic, because De Groof’s art implies a movement from the artist’s inside towards the outside, towards reality. He dives into the real, absorbs, assimilates and subjectivises it in a process of creation. This movement requires the artist’s total commitment to fact, in the broad sense of the word.

Still, Bob De Groof shows an art that does not analyse, and that has no thematic approach. Starting from an exhibitionistic and provoking arrangement he wants his paintings to seduce. For that matter, there are clear and unmistakable links with the anarchist subculture which express themselves in rock, hip hop, rap, pictural graffiti, comics (which, by the way, is a medium where De Groof also plays an active role), and likewise are there ties with the universe of the American author William S. Burroughs. A universe that I would evoke by using words such as fear, violence, drugs, kicks, eros-thanatos, extraordinary states of consciousness, obsessions, narcotic fixations, always brought with graffiti’s exhibitionism.

Chaotic phantoms and frightening faces

In his recent work we see presences looming. These are frivolous, but fatal ghosts, who once called into being, will never again disappear in the space from where they came. Bob less and less visualizes his explosive, apocalyptic, hectic and exalted images, but rather withholds and selects moments of violence and tenderness, destruction and madness, cherished longings and desires in strong, tense but anarchic compositions. He paints “Une réalité terriblement supérieure à toute réalité”, as the prophetic poet Antonin Artaud wrote.

We are immediately affected by chaotic phantoms, frightening faces, desperate eyes and the gibberish of mutilated members. Antropomorphic, unstable creatures rise out of chaos and metamorphose. Ghosts seem to be fighting and find themselves on the borderline of disintegration. The composition’s full and entire focus lies in movement and rhythm, caused by violent swipes of color, brushstrokes and a powerful and refined pigmentation. De Groof is a colorist in heart and soul. Subtle ranges of colouring determine these tormented phantoms’ almost hypnotic attraction. The flood and invasion of glittering and twinkling colour vibrations, energetic tremblings of powerful colours and an apparently quick and uninhibited realisation give an intense and a compelling image value to his works.

But painting matter too coagulates and creates unsettled forms in these phantomatic spaces. These creations have compositionally been penetrated with forms of a mannerist contrapposto, and twisted figures of 16th century paintings, who find themselves lost in a hallucinatory game of movement and contrast, are now transposed into the end of the millennium’s urban jungle. The diabolical rhythm of the phantoms reverberates again and again in the observer’s mind because the pictural space remains enigmatic in its tensions and disintegration. After all, it is the space of metamorphosis, of look-alikes, pulsations and moods, of idiosyncrasies by which every human being is dominated. Bob De Groof is the clever and talented painter of this chaos of authentic human existence.

Luc R.C.Deleu, in “Bob De Groof or the Seizure of a Visionary Expressionist”, January 1991

De Groof clearly is not an subdued armchair artist, he wants to tell something, he wants to express profound emotions by means of his own pictural language.

…others, like Bob De Groof, really seem to be affected by the victims’ despair, the irrepressible cruelties of oppressors and the excessive hypocrisy of so-called peace-loving politicians and ambassadors. De Groof clearly is not an subdued armchair artist, he wants to tell something, he wants to express profound emotions by means of his own pictural language. He does this in an atmosphere of gesticulation and fiery use of colours, nevertheless giving in to the laws of harmony and power of expression. His works may look as being overly aggressive and painful, allusions may be very direct, but nevertheless he has always taken care of an expressive imagery in them.

Hugo Brutin, in an introduction to an exhibition, May 1987

De Groof’s pictural space is at first sight hard to define and multi-dimensional...

…and a subversive sense of humor always reigns in this pandemonium of violence and disintegration. Similar to the French surrealist André Breton’s “humour noir”. This ironic, mocking, caricatural, burlesk and grotesk farce plays a macabre little music. This black humor operates a liberating relativization: the comical and absurd allow to seize and neutralize a cruel reality.

De Groof’s pictural space is at first sight hard to define and multi-dimensional , without proximity or distance, where everything is surface and depth at the same time, where floating, very mobile beings metamorphose and completely mix up.

Piet De Groof aka Walter Korun, Brussels, 1994

Bob De Groof is a forcefully creative and driven artist who finds the matrix of his art in his revolt against the brutality and violence of our society, where unacceptably painful abuses reign, which are imputable to the human race itself.

Bob De Groof is a forcefully creative and driven artist, who finds the matrix of his art in his revolt against the brutality and violence of our society, where unacceptably painful abuses reign, which all are imputable to the human race itself. Most often, he doesn’t represent these conditions as such, but is able to evoke them indirectly in his expressive oeuvre. These works are mostly paintings, but also include objects and installations. The paintings here, are constructed with old newspapers, photographs, printed paper, pieces of wood, textile, metal remains and other fragments from broken and weathered objects found in trash heaps or along the low-tide sea. Through their origin these transitory items are a source of inspiration and acquire their own meaning. They make one think of 17th century Vanitas still-lifes with their symbols of books, jewels, musical instruments and skulls. Always “possessed” by his creativity, without repetition, Bob evolved from integrating very diverse elements to immense compositions where “non-figurative” forms are entangled in themselves. In his most recent works they splash from and into each other, though without any excess in color. This choice of coloration is after all nuanced and mastered, so that we are reminded of Goethe’s statement: “In der Beschränkung zeigt sich der Meister”.

Lydia Deveen-De Pauw, on the Trügbilder exhibition, November 2012