I don't know who or what I am yet, but I'm having a great time

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We took the young-yet-wise graphic designer Victor Verhelst with us on a trip through the impressive exhibition of Roger Raveel at BOZAR to talk about art and beliefs. Wandering through a retrospective of the notorious Belgian painter known for his exceptional visual language and individualistic style, it becomes very clear that Raveel was often inspired by his immediate surroundings and has always stayed true to his roots. This sets him radically apart from his contemporaries but brings him closer to Victor Verhelst than you’d ever expect. ‘I really respect the man too much to compare myself to him,’ a down-to-earth Victor states.

How would you describe yourself and your work?

First of all, I ain’t no artist. This vague term, set by society, frankly makes me curl my toes. There’s no such thing as an overall term to describe people in my opinion. My belief is rather that every human being is uniquely shaped by his or her immediate surroundings and all the precious people populating those surroundings. I wouldn’t have been the Victor I am today if it wasn’t for my friends and family, and there’s nothing I’m more grateful for.

My work is unfiltered and unpolished

Concerning my work, I would describe it as a continuous interaction between the practice as a designer and my immediate surroundings. In my work I’m always honest towards myself: it’s unfiltered and unpolished. That being said, I guess that’s why I like Brussels so much as well. It’s unpolished, there’s no need to cover up anything. It’s about embracing the roughness and turning it into something precious. But honestly, when push comes to shove, I don’t exactly know how to describe myself and my work thoroughly. What I do know is that I’m having a great time! (Laughs)

How did you experience the exhibition?

To be fair, I can barely find my way into a museum. I’m more of a movie kind of guy but I really did like the exhibition. What fascinates me is the way Raveel sticks to his roots, which I mentioned earlier. It means so much to me to always stay true to your roots, no matter how far you get. The real beauty of this exhibition is hidden in the fact that this truly represents Roger Raveel, which equates Machelen aan de Leie with his wife Zulma.

Down to earth with both feet on the ground, that's the way he is and that's the way to go

Is there a certain work that moved you?

I can’t pick out a specific work - it’s the whole package and his sincere humbleness which moves me. The individualistic style proves he has always been honest towards himself and everyone surrounding him all the way through, never hiding his true identity. In my opinion, he takes his work seriously, but not himself, and I can truly respect that. Down to earth with both feet on the ground, that’s the way he is and that’s the way to go. Don’t you ever hide in any way?

The idea that only museums possess the power of deciding what's an art and what's not, is wrong

What’s the role of museums nowadays?

If a museum is considered the cradle of culture, it has to untie emotions. Just like a concert with a favourite band does for me. Although the idea that only museums possess the power of deciding what’s an art and what’s not is wrong. Not all art is stationed inside a museum. For me, art can be anything that unties emotions. The water slide in the swimming pool of Bruges, for example - sliding through the many flashing lights - brings you a certain state of ecstasy. It’s actually a pity that there has never been a slide inside BOZAR. (Laughs)

Are there any similarities when you compare yourself to Raveel and his work?

There are unconditional honesty and the therapeutic use of vivid colours and corresponding patterns. That’s a quest we share, I guess, but I really don’t dare to compare myself - a 23-year-old - to the notorious hero he is. But yeah, the imagery I use is an unpolished hodgepodge of my surroundings, which stays true to my roots. This can be seen in his works as well. 

People must dare to experimentally express themselves

What’s your main source of inspiration?

Personally, I have a huge interest in unconventional graphic design. It excites me to watch someone create something from scratch without knowing the basics of graphic design. The result can be surprisingly exciting when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. People must dare to experimentally express themselves and according to me, there has to be more tolerant towards such projects. 

Maybe the commercial picture needs to adapt to us - there's something to think about

What’s your message to the world?

Always have a proper opinion and never try to fit in. Stay true to yourself and your roots. There’s no need to hop on the commercial train in order to exploit your activities or secure a certain spot. Do we need to adapt ourselves to the growing commercialization? No. Maybe the commercial picture needs to adapt to us - now there’s something to think about.


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