René Magritte portrait of a man with pipe and chess board

The Giant (Le Géant), 1937. Paul Nougé (poet and founder of surrealism in Belgium) on the Belgian Coast by René Magritte. Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

Whilst René Magritte is best known for his surrealist paintings (such as the haunting image of the floating apple in ‘The Son of Man’), his photography and film are crucial to understanding the Belgian artist’s creative process and perspectives.

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In partnership with the Magritte Foundation Belgium, Swire Properties and Ludion, a European independent art book publisher, the latest exhibition at ArtisTree in Taikoo Place offers visitors a glimpse into Magritte’s private life with a display of intimate photographs from his daily life – including images of family, friends and other important figures in the Belgium surrealist movement – as well a collection of home videos that were only discovered in 1970s, more than ten years after the artist’s death.

A photograph by Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte titled La Clairvoyance

La Clairvoyance, 1936. René Magritte. Courtesy Collection Charly Herscovici, Europe

Most intriguing are the sections which reveal Margritte’s own efforts at recording; as in the above image (‘La Clairvoyance’), Margritte often photographed himself with his paintings, revealing his self-conscious attitude towards his role as an artist and a manipulator of the gaze, whilst also making fun of any pretences at artistic seriousness.

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René Magritte photograph of woman on display at ArtisTree in Hong Kong

The Oblivion Seller (La marchande d’oubli), René Magritte, 1936. Courtesy Collection Charly Herscovici, Europe

Similarly, extracts from Margritte’s films demonstrate his continual thirst for experimentation and search for new forms of expression (at the time, film was a new and relatively unknown medium); in the artist’s own words ‘Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.’ The exhibition might not unmask the hidden, but it certainly adds layers to our understanding of one of the most influential surrealist artists of the 20th century.

Millie Walton

‘René Magritte: The Revealing Image – Photos and Films’, runs until 19 February 2018 at ArtisTree, Taikoo Place, Hong Kong