Artwork’s Title: The Folder of my Heart (an idea needs time to establish, it grows roots and then links to all the other ideas already established, you shall not rush it), 2019
Materials Used: Acrylic on canvas
Studio Based: Brussels, Belgium
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I generally work with groups of paintings – I prefer to work on a complete exhibition concept than single pieces, as the dialogue between them is very important and symbolic to me. I begin by picking some visual or text notes from a big mind-mapping I have in the studio. I try to find a general subject, something I feel like talking about. Normally, these themes are close connected with the present moment in my personal life. I often use the computer to make a primary sketch and do some colour tests, especially regarding text-paintings, where the composition is very strict.
In my recent paintings I always begin with a pure black background and the last layers are pure white. The colour is a transition or graduation between the absence and the peak of light. I try to make these black backgrounds as matte as I can so they reflect as little light as possible. I use a mattifying product for that. I don’t like when the paint surface is shiny, it breaks the illusion of depth.
The light and the colour are applied in several layers. I use very hard and dry brushes, and by softly scratching I obtain a mesh texture that resembles a silkscreen print – the colours never actually mix on the canvas, they mix in your brain when you look at them from a distance. Taking a closer look at my paintings you see a lot of grain, like the grain of an analog photography. I generally prefer this to solid-colour surfaces.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Allegorical, cerebral, unreal.
Would you use another three different words to describe the (title) painting?
Inaccessible, unspeakable, subconscious.
How did you come up with this painting idea? Is there any story behind this painting?
This image came to me during a period where I was working a lot of hours on the computer, trying to organise my visual-sources archive. I collect images into folders by subject, like “trees”, “greek mythology”, “sky”. So, at some point I created this folder for the “heart-symbol”, which was not the same thing as the “heart-organ”. This one grouped images with the symbol of the heart as an abstract, the idea of the heart in the popular culture as a love-organ, meant to deal with the emotions. I’m fascinated by this because this organ doesn’t exist, we don’t feel with the heart but with the brain. I would so much like to have this organ that would exclusively function to manage my complex emotions. I feel it’s missing in my body.
So one day I was contemplating all my archives, somehow a vision of the entire universe sorted by little folders, each one with a preview-pic associated with. And I really liked the image of this heart-symbol-folder. I felt a deep, subconscious meaning associated with it – a folder that contains something completely abstract, incomprehensible and inaccessible about myself. This heart is not so much an allegory for love in general but a visual allegory of all my emotions. And then this title appeared in my mind ‘The folder of my heart”.
What colour is used the most in this painting?
When you look at it you may think it’s black, but actually it is white that I used the most.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
The straight wall is essential for me. I cannot image my paintings being exhibited in a non classical way (even if it did happen already). I’m very attached to this renaissance idea of a painting as a window, in my case a window to an introspective world. I like when the surface of the canvas becomes invisible and you have the illusion of an object floating in the naught.
I’m not obsessed with the white pure clean wall, though. Once I showed my work in a bare brick space and it actually worked pretty well, it made the whites look even more brighter than on a white wall.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
I appreciate artists with a very allegorical type of work like Alberto Savinio, Fritz Kahn and William Blake.
Belgian painter Walter Swennen is one of my main references among living artists. When it comes to younger artists, I’ve been checking a lot the work of Justin Fitzpatrick and Adrien Lucca, who has this impressive scientific research on light and colour.
How do you know when this painting was finished?
It’s important to me to achieve a state where you no longer detect an human gesture. Moreover, I do like when people look at my paintings and they are unable to say how it was made. Also, there is always this feeling of independence – when a painting is finished I suddenly feel like I’m not the author of it anymore, it becomes something with its own existence and I can’t touch it no more.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
I’m very organized in my studio. I try to keep it as clear as possible, otherwise I’m unable to see clearly in my thoughts. I have a 35m2 square shaped studio with 3 big white walls – one for painting (I mostly work with the canvases hanging on the wall), one for my mind-mapping (text and visual notes – a map of my brain) and a third one with all the canvases.
There are three desks, one for drawing and writing, another one for administrative and computer work, and the last one for three-dimensional objects I began to work on this year. In one corner there is a buddhist illustration of the “21 Taras” that I like a lot. Each Tara has a different colour and a different face. I see in it as 21 variations of human emotions and a kind of emotional spectrum of myself.
Is there any particular message that you wish your viewers can take from this painting?
I think I’m trying to say that there is always something about us that we don’t understand, like an inaccessible folder, and that it is ok, it is part of life. I accept it and I’m ready to contemplate it, as a picture, without asking questions. In the right time, what was abstract and blurred will eventually become conscious, clear and bright.
What does your mum think about your art?
I think she appreciates the bright, more aesthetically side of it. But I never really asked her that directly.
Which exhibition did you visit last?
Altered Beast by Pierre Clement at COHERENT, Brussels. There was this installation with a kind of syringe branches bed that stimulated very strange reflexes on my body.
Which are your plans for the near future?
Just keep working ! I have so many ideas for new paintings and I feel pretty excited about what is coming next. I’m currently preparing two exhibitions with Francois Patoue, a Brussels based artist and curator I’ve been working with quite often lately. The first in Brussels and the other in Paris, both for 2020.
©All images are courtesy of the artist