To be honest, I don’t care much about Art. The one with the capital ‘A’.
I paint people only. As a person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, to me art is a tool to observe, fathom, analyse, dissect and understand human nature. And a means to communicate with a being with whom I don’t identify.
Nevertheless it makes me frown when I see how the art world has gone from offering works of art to offering an experience. Lively interaction with well-dressed people in glistening new buildings — it’s titillating and exciting. The exhibited art is no longer the purpose but a supporting tool: bait art.
Gallery owners and curators follow trend after trend. Not even daring to make a stand and do something entirely different. It only shows that they are not really interested in art, but merely in indulging their own petty cravings for instant money, status, confirmation. It makes me wonder what legacy they want to leave behind, when 90% of all art they promote today will no longer be relevant tomorrow.
Sad really… or is it just me?
This week two women were murdered by their (ex) partners. They had been victims of domestic violence and cried out for help since long. But nobody listened. Victims receive insufficient protection and have little recourse for justice. Not only in Belgium but everywhere.
About a month ago I made a painting to denounce this. I decided to make a series of it. Women who show traces of violence and abuse but who still stand strong and proud. Because they have nothing to be ashamed for but deserve to be seen. And heard.
‘The Godward’, oil on canvas, 1900x2500mm.
Another painting from the series in which all characters are one and the same person. The figure in the man suit is the same as the naked woman, but she adapted a more manlike look.
The painting hints to the sacrifices women have to make to climb the social or corporate ladder. Having to adapt and adjust, submit and offer sexual favors, be ‘one of the guys’ and compete with other women. In short, having to compromise themselves.
A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018), suggest that women take sexy selfies to compete with peers and climb the social ladder. However they are more likely to invest time and effort into posting sexy selfies in environments with greater economic inequality or where economic inequality is rising, and not in places where men hold more societal power and where women might be oppressed because of their gender.
Ready to be hung @ PROPS, Leeuwstraat 62, 9000 Gent
PROPS is an exhibition space that is open to all forms of art but focuses on performance art in particular. When I was asked to participate in a show, I didn’t feel like merely exhibiting a painting on a wall. I wanted my work to enforce a kind of performance.
Some of my large life-sized canvasses were painted in a small cramped space, without the possibility to take distance and take up the entire painting in a glance. So I wanted that the visitors at PROPS would be obliged to stand close to the painting as well. Being able to see the work in parts only. The painting ‘The Predicability’ was hung in a small hallway. With its width of 2m40 it just fitted the 3m long wall. But since the hallway was hardly 1m20 wide, visitors would not be able to take distance and have an overall view of the painting. The painting dominated the space and overawed every passer-by.
The spectator was compelled to compose the overall picture in his mind. The alternation of loose suggestive brushstrokes appearing almost abstract and meticulous detailed naturalism in my work suggests the effect of depth of field and subtly directs the viewer’s eye to various parts of the painting. The distorted proportions and slanted perspectives reinforce the idea of fragmentation. This paves the way to impressionability and suggestion. The themes of my work are inspired by current events, but the presented image is never hermetical or unequivocal. The interpretation depends on the specific conceptualization of the image that every spectator created individually.
Each visitor at PROPS had to pass the painting when entering or leaving the art space. And its dominant and overwhelming presence touched them more than it would have in a ‘normal’ more spaceous set-up.
‘The Panoply’, oil on canvas, 1900x1400mm.
The second painting on which all characters are one and the same person.
All figures are Asian, female, dressed the same, looking miserable, squatting in a undefined setting that looks squalid. The pink undertone gives it a kind of sugar coating, yet toxic.
It hints towards modern day slavery and abuse in the textile and garment industry. All individuality is erased as the workers are subject to slavery, debt bondage and human trafficking. The uniform clothing symbolizes the mass production of apparel for the Western market.
The majority of the current influencers on social media link themselves to fashion. They depict themselves as glamourous, hip and progressive. Yet the fashion supply chain is based on the opposite. To be able to offer clothes at bargain prices and to respond rapidly to changing fashion trends, clothing brands and retailers are continually looking for cheap production locations, i.e. working places with appalling working conditions that are tantamount to forced labour.
I started a new series of paintings that all evolve around one person in variations on a theme and him-/herself. The contingent cloning of the subject within a single tableau, with each duplicate performing more or less the same act, emphasizes the ‘being a nonentity’. Yet the superposition creates an intriguing tension that challenges you to play a “spot the 7 differences”-game. Though not merely in form and content than rather in its subtext and context. Baring examples of the autonomous complex working in the individual and society. It hints to the shadow that follows each and everyone of us. Our unknown dark side , the unconscious aspect in our personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. As such it can be considered as an on-going exercise to fathom man. Analysing him, dissecting him even, reflecting on his actions and envisaging him in the grand scheme of things. But as a whole, the series suggest that they’re meant to be a repeated allaying of a plague.
The painting on the picture is a study that can be considered as a key work in the transition to this new series.
I feel related to Lovis Corinth of whom the art historian Julius Meier-Graefe remarked somewhat romantically that “Lovis Corinth at his easel felt an earthly pleasure like the butcher before his cattle” and comments: “He slaughtered as he painted”.