For its most recent exhibition, Brussels-based contemporary art gallery Rodolphe Janssen showcased nine emerging artists either born or based in Belgium. The group of five curators – Sybille du Roy, Monica Gallab, Eléonore Jacquard, Stéphanie Jezierski & Julie Senden – criss-crossed the country, visiting artist studios in search of what were, in their eyes, the artists that deserved a shine. The result is a diverse and strong selection offering a pertinent and timely window into the contemporary Belgian art scene. Here, we speak to all five curators and talk about intentions, the selection process and the group show’s name.
Can you talk to us about the exhibition? What were its starting points? Did you have any pre-conceived intentions / directions you wanted to give the show? Where did the research initially take you?
Sybille: We started visiting art studios. One day, we brought Rodolphe with us to some of the studios we had liked. During lunch at Balls & Glory in Ghent Rodolphe told us we should organize a show based on our visits. So I’d say the intention of the show is to present a selection of our favourite studio visits with young artists living in Belgium in 2015.
How does the exhibition’s name help to evoke its content?
Julie: Balls & Glory is the name of the restaurant where the idea of the exhibition was born. Other than that, it also underlines the purpose of the show: to shed a light on young artists, for many of whom this is their first gallery show.
How would you describe the majority of the works on show? In a more general sense, how would you describe the artist’s work, his approach and aesthetic?
Stéphanie: The exhibition selection is very eclectic. What stands out are the choices made by the artists and the powerful atmosphere created by each one of them. The techniques are numerous; we note a comeback of figurative art.
Julie: The majority of works in the show are quite figurative and colourful.
As curators, how important is your relationship with the exhibited artists?
Sybille: The relationship with the artists is always important and I think in this situation even more, because for some of the artists this was their first show. They had to trust us, just like we have to trust them.
Julie: Because there were five of us organizing this exhibition, the most important thing was to for everyone to be equally enthusiastic about a particular artist. We all had a click with all artists included in the show, right from the start.
Stéphanie: To an extent, we want the artists to be as free as possible when exhibiting. However, we did not want new experimentations or explorations of new paths, which, for us, would have changed the value of the artist’s work.
What do you feel is the exhibition’s main statement? And how do you feel it fits in with the artists’ oeuvre in a more general sense?
Sybille: To show a selection of what we saw during one year; nothing more, nothing less.
Julie: We tried to select works that were representative of the artists’ practice. The exhibition was not intended as a platform for experiments, but rather as an opportunity to show recent works, similar to the ones we first saw and that attracted our attention.
From research to scenography, can you discuss the various different people involved in the show?
Sybille: We started by meeting some artists we knew, then they introduced us to some of their friends. We visited schools and residencies like HISK, AIR Antwerpen, etc., and talked with teachers from schools like ERG, or La Cambre, who had their own recommendations to make. We also visited artist-run spaces in several cities. Each visit led to new studio visits, and so on.
Monica: Having joined the project at a very late stage, I was not directly involved in the research part. But I feel like everybody in the team did have a say about every aspect preceding the exhibition. Particularly, we wanted to give the artists a great amount of freedom in the selection of their works for the show and how they would present them.
On a more personal level, how has working on this exhibition enriched your understanding of the artist’s work? And of contemporary art in general?
Sybille: Visiting all these studios made me understand better what I was drawn to in an artist’s work. Working with a group of five made the exercise even more interesting, as we had to understand each other’s point of view and stand up for our own opinions.
Julie: Seeing a work in an artist’s studio gives a context and often a better understanding of his ideas in general.
Stephanie: I second Julie’s answer. I enjoyed the fact I could go deeper in the artists work and have a real discussion about it. Art is not only seeing exhibitions, but also the entire context around it.
What do you hope viewers will get from visiting the show?
Monica: Despite there not being any conscious common denominator in the selection of artists or their works, I think the exhibition as a whole works really well, and has a good balance and flow. I hope that viewers visiting the show will leave with at the impression of being refreshed and that it will have sparked more interest and curiosity in young artists at the beginning of their careers. We also hope visitors will be pleased with this original selection, which radiates a very positive energy. The setting up was dynamic and despite various techniques being used and disagreements on the atmosphere, the result was still harmonious. The feedback has been, up to now, very positive and more precisely because of the nature of the project – we went out of our usual art program, which was enjoyed not only by the visitors but also by the staff. This project has brought us a lot of energy.
Sybille: I hope visitors have fun and discover new artists
Would you say any influences/references played a major role in shaping the exhibition?
Sybille: The influences of the five of us curating the exhibition together, and the several people we met and discussed the project with, such as collectors, artists, curators, and friends.
Julie: Of course Rodolphe was always part of our conversation, he gave us his advice, but let his staff take the lead.
As curators, how do you usually select the artists whom you’d like to exhibit? Would you say your shows all have somewhat of a common denominator to them?
Eleonore: Well, for this exhibition I’d say it was a special exercise. We did have meetings every week, where each of us presented the artists she had visited. From then on, we discussed each artist and his or her work. Sometimes one had to convince the other about a particular artist. In the end, we had to vote and everybody had to agree on the final selection.
Stéphanie: This is a subjective selection and it should bring together the tastes, choices and preferences of every one of us. In my regard, it is very intuitive; certain works can speak to me, and the artist’s personality also has a big influence.Balls & Glory Rodolphe Janssen Rue de Livourne 35 Livornostraat | 1050 Brussels Until 2nd of February Images: Courtesy Galerie Rodolphe Janssen Credits : Hugard & Vanoverschelde Photography