The Great Narratives of the Human Condition

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With winter trudging along in full force, a different type of chill awaits at S.M.A.K. Here, the Ghent native, Jan Van Imschoot, has the first dedicated overview of his work titled: 'The End Is Never Near'. Spanning nearly 30 years of work in a chronological timespan, one can truly immerse themselves in his artistic practice as well as societal critiques. Alongside New Master Rik Vonckx, we untangle the thread of the past and weave playful new ways of looking at art in the present.

What emotions or themes did Jan Van Imschoot’s work evoke for you as you moved through the exhibition? 

The main theme for me is a love for art history. I see a lot of references in the work, a lot of references towards art history and cinema. He is also quite humorous and provocative in a way. He’s not afraid of sex or death, it was very theatrical and sometimes even cinematic which I really like. It's good to see the works of other artists, especially the ones that you might normally not look into in the first place.

He’s not afraid of sex or death, it’s theatrical and sometimes even cinematic which I really like

<img class="editorial-image-50-left" src="https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/65c24052b017ec98e120226a_differentclassDC_SMAK_Rik14(favoRick)-min.webp"/>

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What do you strive to evoke in your artistic works, is it similar or different? 

There’s also this art history aspect. I really love art history and I try to reinterpret certain narratives, stories or themes. I mean, I’m still figuring things out but there is a love for making, the joy of it and I think a lot of people see it in my work.

There is a love for making, the joy of it and I think a lot of people see it in my work

<img class="editorial-image" src="https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/65c24050883b5602243acc31_differentclassDC_SMAK_Rik05(favoRik)-min.webp"/>

Could you describe to me your creative process? 

It’s always in flux. It’s always in motion, moving forward. I make artist books and those are the constant driving force behind it all. It starts with collecting imagery, drawing, listening to music and then painting is an extension of all that. When I start to paint I always try to let go, I don’t want things to be a copy of something I did before. For example, I don’t want the painting to become a copy of a drawing or a collage that I make, it has to stand on its own. It starts as playing with ideas or themes and then it in itself becomes something different. I’m still curious about how things in the future might change or evolve.

<img class="editorial-image-50-left" src="https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/65c240525954deaa99286db7_differentclassDC_SMAK_Rik13(favoH%26Rick)-min.webp"/>

<img class="editorial-image-50-right" src="https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/65c24052f6dfa2541d0057a8_differentclassDC_SMAK_Rik11(favoH)-min.webp"/>

How did you get into making these books? 

It first started when I was at school. If I paint then everything has to happen fast and most of the time, a good day in the studio is half an hour or an hour of painting. Then all the other time is spent on cleaning, researching, watching films, and so on. I draw a lot and I experiment with a lot of things on paper and after a while, I had collected many small, little works. So, I started to bind them into a book and then came the idea of making my own books. I started with a few different formats. First, it was a sort of practice before or after painting, and then it took more of a life of its own. But it’s still evolving and it's something I can be playful with.

<img class="editorial-image-50-left" src="https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/65c24054af2c3b1bdd2e36d0_differentclassDC_SMAK_Rik16-min.webp"/>

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Jan Van Imschoot is part of a more contemporary group of Belgian artists, what does the Belgian art scene look like to you today? 

It’s a small world like everybody says. You have people from my generation who just graduated and are searching for a way to make it work and then you have the generation of Van Imschoot, who is at least thirty-five years older than me. There’s a generation gap but he and his peers are still around in the same scene at the same time. As a young artist, you forget that there is this older generation that has things to say too. Van Imschoot has an oeuvre of thirty years of work and that is of importance. 

It's these great narratives of the human condition that most of the artists I like are confronting people with

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The exhibition also illuminated a darker side of the human condition. How do human figures or figurative elements play a role in your artwork and is their significance attached to it?

Before I start to work, I don’t know if I will be painting something that leans more towards the abstract or towards the figurative. It reads mostly as a landscape. I’m fascinated by the darker side of art history and the dark, macabre themes within this exhibition. I think people should not be afraid or look away from these things. It will catch up with you in the end and then suddenly it can feel very violent.

<img class="editorial-image-50-left" src="https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/65c240529ff75ce6f3f66585_differentclassDC_SMAK_Rik15(favoH)-min.webp"/>

<img class="editorial-image-50-right" src="https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/65c240529feb1c88a8029ce5_differentclassDC_SMAK_Rik10(favoH%26Rick)-min.webp"/>

As you mentioned, Jan Van Imschoot’s work is referential, do you find that is the case in your own work as well? 

I started painting because I first fell in love with art history. You start figuring it out, first by going to museums and seeing a lot of works. For me, that started in Firenze when I was 12 years old. There you see it all and you ask yourself, ‘What is this?’ Then you look further into it and you find this whole history of art. That’s how I rolled into it. I always keep on learning and diving deeper into certain themes and have this conversation across time. In a way, it's these great narratives of the human condition that most of the artists I like are confronting people with. 

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @james_fendi </div></div>

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