Al-Tiba9 Art Magazine

1. Let’s start with your background and formative years. Could you tell our readers how you started experimenting with images?

I grew up in the countryside in a working-class family. Not exactly the ideal environment to come into contact with art, but music inspired my interest in art, and especially visual art. As a child I listened a lot to the Velvet Underground… so Andy Warhol was close by. When I moved to the city at 18 years old, a whole cultural world opened up. I’m an autodidact, and started as a photo-realistic painter and my works were social documents from travel reports. Later I evolved into abstract collages on paper and canvas. I always felt that the realistic image limited my creativity. At a certain moment I needed to take distance from figurative art to free myself from the realistic image.

2.What do you wish you knew about contemporary art before you got started?

As little as possible … the unknown is part of the creativity

3. You have had many different experiences in your life and career. What is your favorite so far as an artist?

There are two important experiences that formed me as the artist I am today; when I was traveling in Uzbekistan I met a local NGO. The purpose of their operation was to preserve the local art. They invited me to teach in a local school for a while: ‘An introduction to contemporary art’. Moniaq is a fishing village that was once on the shore of the Aral sea, but now, as a result of irrigation the sea has dried up and retreated more than 100 km. The boats that were once used there have been left behind, scattered in a desert-like landscape. The locals make patchwork blankets as daily utensils on which they eat, lie and sleep, so I took Christo as a reference and together with the children we packed one of the abandoned boats with patchwork.

In 2013 I received a grant from the Flemish committee to support the development and growth within their oeuvre. I have stayed in China for 5 months as preparation for an exhibition. It was a very important turning point in my oeuvre.

4. Can you tell us about the process of creating your work? What aspect of your work do you pay particular attention to?

I used to work with an exact plan. However the more abstract my work became, the more the plan disappeared. There is therefore now no preconceived plan, no scenario. Every installation is created by starting to work, and continuing to work. I follow the logic of each specific material that contributes to the way in which the work is designed. In doing so, I unravel the structures of the discarded materials by dismantling them, and in doing and making, in building or connecting the different layers, each element manifests itself consciously: recycled remnants are converted into aesthetic compositions.

5. Your works are vibrant and tridimensional; how did you come up with this way of creating your works?

A lot depends on the source materials or objects themselves, and the process of working with them to distruct them. To separate the layers, I research the origin of the materials, and afterwards put them through an artistic transformation process, where a new energy field is created that reaches beyond the reuse of materials.
Both the natural wear and ‘destructive process’ of my source materials have permanently put an end to the feeling of kitsch, and I introduce a discursive function. The transformed materials become an object of reflection, representing certain values and inviting us to position ourselves vis-à-vis these values. Materials and memories are given a new purpose and destination in the human experience. All its basic functions, whether they were sentimental, decorative or functional, are also integrated in the new work.
The transformation from a worn utensil into a piece of art represents both a break and continuity.

6. What is the most challenging part of your work? And where do you find inspiration?

The most challenging part is the learning process; how to make the work in the studio. How am I going to present it, and how am I going to combine it. It’s an ongoing investigation like a scientist in his laboratory. I’m inspired by the daily things around me. Sometimes I find them on the street or people offer them to me, or I buy certain materials. What attracts me is the story or the history behind these materials. They are fragments of a momento, an anonymous presence of those stories. Sometimes they are personal, with universal dimensions, or they are stories from unknown lives – like ‘a visual memory’.
They look like archaeological layers that are sometimes palpable but inaccessible, or just open and exposed. A re-evaluation takes place through the recovery of materials, through the reconstruction of possible unknown story-lines.

7. Recently we have been relying more and more on digital presentations, like fairs and exhibitions. What are your thoughts on these types of presentations? Do you think these are good opportunities for artists?

This aspect is very new for me. Certainly with my kind of art it’s important that you see it in real space and time. A picture misses a lot of dimension and character. For example I have no problem if people touch my work. For digital presentation I have my own website and Instagram page and I’m working together with Alfa Gallery in Miami – an artist-run contemporary art space. I like their presentation of artists. We will see if it helps my artistic career move forward!

8. What are you working on now, and what are your plans for the future? Anything exciting you can tell us about?

I have a group exhibition coming up in Brussels with Sophie Van den Bussche, and I’m presenting at Stephane Simoens Gallery (Knokke).
In October 2021 I did a project in Evoramonte, Portugal in collaboration with Foundation Obras.
The purpose of the project was how to develop a way to present my work in nature, and how this natural environment would interact with the work. Mostly I present my work in a white cube, a very safe environment, but lately while working in my studio, I felt that the work was ready for a new challenge and new context. I would like to continue this research.

9. What do you hope to accomplish this year, both in terms of career goals and personal life?
Finally, what is one piece of advice you would like to give to an emerging artist?

I’m very sloppy when it comes to my career. But being an artist is educating, and a challenge that I would like to continue. It makes me happy and a better person.

One piece of advice: just follow your instinct.