Chalet is an exhibition by Jef Geys that spans over forty years of his work and – as has frequently been his method in past exhibitions – merges vivid and comprehensive displays of selected works alongside smaller fragments from a multitude of other projects.
The exhibition’s title is taken from his work Chalet, made in 1977, where Geys designed and constructed a Summerhouse, entirely with his own labour and with repurposed materials, close to his long-time home in Flanders. The building itself is modelled upon the wooden-slatted exterior walls and overhanging eaves that are typical of the 18th Century farmsteads across Northern Europe. Chalet’s construction is modest in scale (Geys once mentioned using “the body as a unit”1) and its bucolic style seems belligerently misaligned with utopian and more avant-garde architectural approaches that were celebrated by the art world in the late 1970s. There is something foundational about the methods of Jef Geys in this work: his insistence that vernacular cultural forms that might usually be overlooked because of their ubiquity, or lack of taste, should be interrogated by exactly the same terms as any building, artwork or piece of literature that has been appointed as aesthetically or socially valuable by critical opinion in its specialist field. It is noteworthy that upon a request sent to Geys to submit his entry for the Oosthoek Encyclopaedia 1981, he selected Chalet and it was rejected on the grounds that it could not be recognised as being an artwork. Photographs are all that is left of Chalet, as the land it stood upon was sold (along with the building, which was later demolished) by Geys in later years.)