Was the exhibition Salon des Jeunes as you expected it to be?
Yes, mainly regarding the mélange of works. The name ‘Salon’ refers to this idea, so I was able to prepare myself for this just by hearing the name. I expected the show to be very eclectic and colourful. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see new artists. It’s nice to have first encounters piled on top of each other, but also to invite people to walk through the rest of the collection and explore the other works. This allows people to think about what a young artist can pick up from an older work.
I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see new artists. It’s nice to have first encounters piled on top of each other
If you had to choose 3 words to describe the exhibition, what would they be?
Eclectic, attentive and quiet. There were very loud works as well but I was pulled in more by the quiet ones.
Is there a work that stood out to you?
Yes, the trio of Lieze de Middeleir’s White Bodies, Hannah Hoebeke’s Absence 'Pyjama' and Francis Vanhee’s Jaavdfvhomsksoj. I think that’s why I mentioned the quiet. The folded shirt that was fixated there evoked a sense of absence. At first, I thought Lieze de Middeleir’s casted form was an ear, but it was actually the outline of a reclining woman. The negative space between those two works was very interesting. Pairing them close to each other seemed well thought out. Vanhee’s work was a sort of picture on the floor with a rug underneath. I had many questions about this: When did what happen? How many times was this picture taken? Was the rug involved in the picture? This layering of time is very interesting to me. The miniatures in Ossements et Chinoiserie by Romane Clause were also intriguing. It’s already charming and interesting to see people collecting things and making these kinds of cabinets. The choice of the small scale and to put this in the exhibition space was a curious step to me. The scenery becomes the work in itself. It’s like a parody of the idea of the artist as an archaeologist.
The scenery becomes the work in itself
For this exhibition, young artists were inspired by works from the MSK collection. Are you also inspired by artists from the past? Maybe by works from the MSK collection?
Yes, for sure! MSK has wonderful paintings by Jean Brusselmans, who has really shaped my thinking on pictorial space and depth in painting. To me, he serves as a pre-step to abstraction, which he never fully went into. I’m also fond of the huge Permeke drawing Liggende boer. I think there is a big advantage to having a museum like this so close to the art school. The proximity enables students to come back and reflect again on the same works. That’s important to shape their thinking around certain kinds of media.
The proximity enables students to come back and reflect again on the same works. That’s important to shape their thinking around certain kinds of media
You’re also an artist working across various media. What medium inspires you most?
I think I’m destined to always think through the lens of painting. I was trained with the idea that painting was an island, separately from the other arts. This shaped my perception of art early on. I feel like a couple of us painting students had the common frustration that there was no space for us to develop work in other mediums. I went to a great lecture by Girls Like Us Magazine and they said 'if there’s no space for you, create your own space!' We decided to do this by starting the collective Vodka Candy. It’s a publication first, but it’s very fluid regarding the medium. Besides that architecture also had an impact on me. I was making bigger paintings and at a certain time, it felt logical to make the step outside of painting. I started painting on walls, which became a kind of architectural gesture.
What does the collaboration in Vodka Candy mean to you?
A lot! The realization that you can work as a collective was a big step because most art schools are still implying a certain mindset in which you work alone and are trained to develop an individual artistic practice. I had to unlearn that. In the collective, we really learn from each other. We had very different styles but as I look back throughout the years we’ve developed a solid aesthetic or trademark. We can look at a product or film still and say 'That’s really Vodka Candy'. We can tell, we feel it. It’s this thing that we share, and it blows my mind that that was possible.
It’s good to learn from the masters
Aside from being an artist, you’re a writer. How important is writing for you?
I’m especially happy to have this connection to both visual art and writing. Usually, I write in a very bodily and sensory way, which later evolved to a rather associative way of thinking. I have this habit where I automatically imitating someone as I’m reading them. But I allow it for now because it’s good to learn from the masters. With painting, I had these imitation stages as well and that’s healthy. Eventually, it will all end up in your own mix.