2007, November 30, Chicago Tribune, By Alan Artner, Tribune art critic
Pieter Ombregt was a student from Belgium who came to Chicago four years ago to study photography at Columbia College. He died in September from a bicycle racing accident, so the exhibition of his works at the City Gallery at the Historic Water Tower is in the nature of a memorial, and a poignant one it is, as his color pictures grope toward an existential issue that was heightened, if not first felt, on his stay in our city.
Ombregt came from a small rural town, so perhaps it should not have been surprising that he saw the large city as a place of loneliness. However, the only significant figure in any of his photographs on view is generally a barefooted one dressed in a prison jumpsuit observing and contemplating the landscape. Ombregt said the figure, who sometimes resembles the male escapee in George Lucas "THX1138," was "a metaphor for a distress signal," calling him an "orange flare in a disconnected world crying out for help."
Is such language only the overstatement of the young? Or was it meant to link with such artist-outcasts as Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh? It's hard to say, as the expressivity of the words is not matched by expressionism in the art. The figure often is overwhelmed by architecture or empty space in Ombregt's images, but the atmosphere is calm and coolly formal. So anguish is in correlation with vacancy, which softens the threat the artist apparently felt.