ART IS FOR EVERYONE
Since 2020, the global pandemic has left the world in a constant state of emergency. It is no secret: the cultural sector was and is under pressure. Emerging talent has less room to create. M, the City of Leuven and Cera joined forces to provide oxygen.
THE CONSTANT GLITCH
The City of Leuven and Cera each made €50,000 available and the crowdfunding campaign 'Art is for everyone' by M-LIFE, the museum fund of M Leuven, added more than €15,000. Thanks to this collaboration and the gifts from the 271 donors, 19 artists are supported with the purchase of 37 works. All purchases will be exhibited in 'The Constant Glitch', named after one of the selected works.
The selection was made by an expert committee consisting of Eva Wittocx and Valerie Verhack from M Leuven, Hicham Khalidi (director Jan Van Eyck Academie Maastricht) and Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte (independent curator). They selected based on, among other things, quality, the place of the artist within the Belgian art scene, a certain continuity in the work and the need for support. It has become a diverse selection, from film to screen print and sound installations to paintings. Get to know the 19 artists below.
The oeuvre of Younes Baba-Ali (b. 1986) consists of different media such as film, photography and installation. His work reflects a sharp observation and a critical voice on social welfare, politics or ecology.
The series 'Coffret de Survie' consists of horizontal display cases in which nine precious gemstones or raw minerals are shown next to a handmade catapult. The stones originate from the former Congolese province of Katanga and show both the wealth of raw materials and the downside of the mining industry that dominates the region: exploitation, malpractice and unfair trade. The catapults are sold by local street vendors. The display cases are reminiscent of those of a museum cabinet or a collector, but instead of a polished stone, they show raw rock. In a catapult, a rough stone suddenly becomes a possible weapon of resistance.
With her performances and sculptures, Béatrice Balcou (b. 1976) strives for a stilled attention to art. She questions the position of the work of art in the contemporary context and takes inspiration from the specific care that surrounds it, such as presentation, conservation and restoration.
For Balcou, a work of art is not a fleeting and consumable image, but something that requires time. 'Bain de Lumière Placebo' is a replica of 'Bain de Lumière' by Ann Veronica Janssens from the Cera collection. It is a wooden copy that was designed by Balcou as a practice object for her performance 'Untitled Ceremony #04', in which she carefully takes Janssens' original work out of its packaging, exhibits it for a short time and then repackages it. Through the replica, which she also describes as an 'oeuvre fantôme', Balcou makes us question the relationship between original and copy. As a result, the replica has gradually acquired a form of autonomy and is no longer exhibited as an accessory, but as a work in its own right.
In her assemblages, textile works and free-standing sculptures, Christiane Blattmann (b. 1983) explores the construction of a space. Her understanding of this is not merely formal – how can a sculpture occupy a space? – but also from a social approach to what space can be.
How do inhabitants of natural and artificial environments relate to an inside and outside? The ideas of the 19th century German architectural theorist Gottfried Semper on architecture and textile are of great influence here. In her work, Blattmann brings together materials such as (liquid) silicone, pigment, silk, jute, stone and metal in works that display an enormous tactility. In 'The Constant Glitch', a stove forms the torso and a pair of stainless pipes the limbs of an abstracted human figure covered in red pleated burlap. In this way, Blattmann reduces anatomy to a certain infrastructure, a system with an autonomous logic.
Reality and fiction are never far apart in the extremely detailed pencil and pastel drawings of Aleksandra Chaushova (b. 1985). Her most recent series of pastel drawings is entitled 'Burotica': a general term for desk and computer equipment. The drawings show ballpoint pens on their holders, a stapler, a card reader, a USB cable, a hole punch... Symptoms of administration.
Chaushova draws each object as a portrait, isolated from its context, which magnifies its plastic qualities. She also plays with different perspectives, or with light and shadows, heightening the drama. This makes the objects come to life as the protagonists of a well-defined bureaucratic system. They question a social climate in which political or administrative decisions are objectified or can be made purely anonymously.
A recurring motif in Dieter Durinck's work (b. 1983) is the transformation between different media and their inherent properties. His paintings are inspired, among other things, by logos and symbols from the street scene, but also by the aesthetics of (early) computer programmes. His frequent use of bright green, for example, is reminiscent of the colour scheme of old Atari games. His titles, too, are often limited to the generic names of computer files, such as 'JPEG 2000_02, 2017'.
Sometimes paintings such as 'Hope Marketing' are created from an image that originally was digital, which he first transforms in Paint or another programme. In addition, Durinck situates his own painting practice within an art-historical tradition. Examples are 'Gentse School' or (from the series 'Bootleg Paintings') 'Narrative Management, Le Corbusier, Nature morte au siphon, 1928'. In that series Durinck paints, in the same bright green, works by 20th century masters, such as Francis Picabia, Victor Servranckx, René Magritte, Le Corbusier or Sigmar Polke. Durinck's 'Bootleg Paintings' are strange images that question the thin line between original and copy.
Hamza Halloubi (b. 1982) presents stories that combine documentary, fiction and poetry. His work is centered around artistic, literary or political figures, renowned or unknown. The artist envisages them as narrative tools to develop the storytelling in his films, which touch upon subjects such as globalization vs. a local approach, exile and forms of resistance.
Like many of his video works, ‘Studio Visit’ consists of a long shot accompanied by a monotonous voice-over. We enter into a seemingly abandoned studio of a famous Moroccan artist, alongside the camera. ‘Studio Visit’ indirectly prompts questions about the mechanisms underpinning the contemporary art world, how we perceive value and define what deserves to be known, criticized or exhibited. By pointing the camera at decontextualized objects scattered around the artist’s studio, ‘Studio Visit’ interrogates our way of seeing and preferring certain works over others within an art world in which identity, nationality, social class and environment often shape our choices.
Olivia Hernaïz (b. 1985) reflects on broad social themes and for this, uses various media and strategies. In 'The Tales', she combines handmade dioramas with stories about humanity's ambitions and our search for the unattainable. With her installations, she wants to formulate alternatives and future perspectives.
Her work is both humorous and critical, referring to myths, art history, the link between man and nature, and the (im)possibility of communication. Each of the three works consists of a miniature landscape, a print with a slogan and an intriguing, compelling audio story that invites the listener to observe the scene closely.
In his painting and performance practice, Vedran Kopljar (b. 1991) is driven by his interest in language and perception. He founded his 'Plank Communication Center', which has recently moved to M Leuven, over a year ago. Through this centre, he not only explores the boundaries of conventions within the art world, but also the possibilities of communication with the plank works of the American minimalist artist John McCracken (1934).
These narrow, lacquered or resin-coated boards, of which McCracken made about one hundred, are impeccably finished and predominantly monochrome. Kopljar communicates with McCracken's planks through drawings. He draws expressive shapes with coloured pencil on stationery, which he then sends by post to the owners of the planks. The 'Plank Communication Center' contains the archive folders with the black and white carbon copies of these drawings. In addition, Kopljar reproduces McCracken's planks as paintings on canvas. Like 'Spiffy Move' and 'Untitled', all these reproductions bear McCracken's original titles.
Katja Mater (b. 1979) investigates the possibilities and limits of optical media such as film and photography. In her art, she works with the photographic and cinematic registration of processes. For example, Mater paints the walls of a room and photographs this process. The end point is the sum of several shots (multiple exposure), which shows what we cannot see with our naked eye and thus points to the limits of our sensory perception.
The series 'Time is Arrow, Error' starts from a clock-like image in which different time indications slide into each other, fall onto each other. The clocks always consist of two sides, two pictures that register the process of making one drawing. This drawing is of half a clock, but by mirroring one of the two photos the two sides come together. The series was created between March and May 2020, and reflects, particularly in the context of the pandemic, our handling of time standing still or slowing down. The three 'clocks' show an alternative version of the progress of time and time symbols.
Hana Miletić (b. 1982) takes street photography as the starting point for her textile works. With her camera, she photographs repairs and transformations in the public space of large cities. She then translates the fleetingness of a photograph into the time-consuming process of interweaving threads. The translation from photograph to fabric gives her time to understand diverse social and metropolitan themes.
Miletić learned the emancipatory power of handicraft from the different generations of women in her family and kinship. Besides passing on knowledge and technique, these moments of transmission inspired Miletić's thinking about the social fabric of our society. Her handmade weavings 'Materials' are direct reproductions of temporary patchwork – here, orange tape on a broken car window. The form, colour and pattern found result in an abstract composition in textile.
Meggy Rustamova (b. 1985) presents videos, performances and photographic works in which both language and image are the subject. Rustamova's work is situated in the relationship between individual and collective memory where contemporary social issues are told from a personal or historical perspective. Characteristic elements are humour, various languages and human behaviour.
'M.A.M. (My Assyrian Mother)' is a double portrait with her mother. Initially, the silent image shows similarities and differences between generations, after which a dialogue develops about the filming of this image, about what normally happens behind the scenes of the creation process. In 2019 in 'Babel', ten years after 'M.A.M.', Rustamova invited her mother to list all the words she remembers in her mother tongue, Assyrian. Both works deal with identity, language and the individual versus the universal heritage.
Mostafa Saifi Rahmouni
Mostafa Saifi Rahmouni (b. 1991) works with various media such as photography, video and installations. In his series of bronze sculptures 'A Piece of Bread', he plays with the idea of the value of bread, which is seen as a social binding agent in Moroccan culture.
In the case of 'A Piece of Bread', it is a quarter of a so-called Moroccan bread, which sometimes ends up in the rubbish in the Moroccan street scene. Yet bread has a special status among all the other rubbish. When a Moroccan finds a piece of bread on the street, he will kiss it, keep it in a separate bag and carry it with him to a safe place. Bread is said to be a gift from Allah. By turning the bread into bronze, it acquires the appearance of something extremely precious and valuable. The bread acquires an almost sacred status.
Kato Six (b. 1986) works on various themes in which architecture, design and domesticity are important references. Her work translates into various media and series and moves between abstraction and the figurative, disruption and recognition.
In the recent series 'Crochet', she explores through detailed, time-consuming pencil drawings various patterns of knitting and crochet, such as those found in manuals for handicrafts. The compositions become abstract patterns that relate to monochrome painting, in which colours subtly hook into each other. They make us think about crafts, differences between art and craft, the private and the 'elevated' work of art. In 'Background Hum – Outer Hebrides', a commercial wallpaper with an idyllic natural landscape is folded around a diamond shape. The vast landscape implodes on a sculptural object lying on the ground in space.
The potential for transformation is central to the spatial installations by Gintautė Skvernytė (b. 1994), a fact that she literally gives shape to by applying an agile material such as paraffin to wall surfaces. The paraffin layer on the walls bears the marks of the creative process, but is so sensitive that it can be altered at any time by, for example, pressure or carving. Skvernytė's interest in celluloid film is an extension of her experience with paraffin.
'Corolla' is her first 16mm film, a material which, like wax, is a sensitive membrane capable of supporting ephemeral images. The Latin title 'Corolla' refers to the crown of a flower. The film of about three minutes consists of close-ups of eyelids on which a different petal is placed each time. We never get to see the full faces of the successive protagonists. The film was inspired by chance when Skvernytė spontaneously placed the loose petal of a violet on her partner's eyelid. The poetry of the images varies: sometimes the eye blinks so much that the flower seems like a moving butterfly; sometimes the applied leaf is so thin that the gentlest wind seems enough to make it curl up.
With a wide variety of materials, from feathers and synthetic hair to textile, Ken Verhoeven (b. 1991) explores the medium of painting. This is true also for the works 'Cetus BQ 1703' and 'Sanistar Modell-No. 377', whose form is reminiscent of floorplan templates for bathtubs.
The central opening in both 'Cetus BQ 1703' and 'Sanistar Modell-No. 377' betrays Verhoeven's inspiration from Inca ponchos, a cultural and historical reference that simultaneously reduces the painting to a functional and wearable object. Due to their presentation low to the ground on bathtub legs or hung over a shower rod, the works also acquire a sculptural dimension. It is typical of Verhoeven's free and associative working method, which usually starts from found images or objects that he connects and combines with other existing forms with which he sees a resemblance.
The sculptures, installations and assemblages of Leyla Aydoslu (b. 1987) consist largely of simple materials such as glass, wood, plaster, concrete and iron. Aydoslu often incorporates materials she finds on the street that still bear the traces of earlier use.
She constructs forms, manipulates them and makes casts from an urgency and directness, which leads to intuitive solutions. Her starting points are her own body as a scale and the space for which the work is originally intended. Her sculptures and installations contain traces of sculptural or architectural elements such as the plinth in 'Sculpture XVIII', the column, the free-standing wall or the framework: all forms that she dismantles and reduces to their essence.
Oriol Vilanova (b. 1980) bases his poetic installations on found objects, often postcards, which he arranges and groups in various ways. He has a large collection of postcards of sunsets, from museums, monuments or showcases. His work transcends the anecdotal nature of a postcard and reflects on our contemporary visual culture and the urge to collect and consume images.
In the 'Old Masters' series, he groups together reproductions of masters from art history whom he admires, such as Goya, Rousseau or Matisse. The postcards are only partially on display, tucked away in the pockets of a typical blue artist's work coat. In the work for M, Villanova groups about a hundred postcards of work by the Flemish primitive Rogier van der Weyden. The jacket is a small museum for the many reproductions, both old and new.
The work of Anna Zacharoff (b. 1987) expresses a spatial awareness. Her figurative paintings, full of movement and rhythm, usually show undersea compositions populated by sea creatures. The unprepared canvases are open: like the ocean, we do not know where the image will end or what we will actually see. In contrast, her trompe-l'oeil installations such as 'Nationalmuseum' are characterised by what the paintings lack: stillness, architecture, structural limitations and straight lines.
'Nationalmuseum' refers to the museum of the same name in Stockholm, where Zacharoff was born. What first appears to be true to life because of the feeling for detail and the meticulous finish, turns out to be largely fictitious. It is in fact not a purely architectural model, but an open-work model that Zacharoff creates for the exhibition space for which it is made. Moreover, she reduces the structural elements that characterise the building to A4 proportions, so that her 'Nationalmuseum' is proportionally higher and narrower than the real museum, a stately building from the 19th century.
Alexis Gautier (b. 1990) usually creates his work in dialogue with other artists and craftsmen. From an interest in cultural transactions and narration, he focuses on exchange, coincidence and the dynamics of working together. He combines fact and fiction and presents renewed stories that deal with specific customs and cultural identity.
These textile works were made by weavers in India and Nepal who interpreted Gautier's open instructions and translated them into their own practices. In black sheep's wool, we see a schematic representation of a village, which through transposition, through the weavers' interpretation, became an abstract composition. The smaller, hand-embroidered works on silk function as a diary of Gautier's collaborations and show their stories and anecdotes. Here, the embroiderers were invited to appropriate written stories, translating them freely on fabric as a process of collective fiction writing.