We talk to artist Bart Lodewijks about his artistic approach, which today mostly revolves around drawing chalk lines in cities the world over, and the work he’s presenting at both Bozar and CC Strombeek in the context of the Summer of Photography.
What were your original ideas and intentions at the start of working on this new series?
After having spent three months in Strombeek, making chalk drawings on walls, facades, houses and roads, I felt submerged in the social dynamic of the town. These drawings bring to light stories otherwise left invisible. It was director Griet Teck who filmed the drawings and the interactions with the town’s inhabitants.
What would you say was its starting point?
The initial idea was to make use of film as a way to immortalise the transiency of chalk lines and the short encounters.
My artistic practice amplifies itself by continuation.
Is there something very specific you’re hoping the series will express/communicate?
The highest goal, for me, is to bring to light the daily dynamic of places and situations as something many can recognise themselves in. My aim is not to improve a neighbourhood or to make connections between people, but in the end these things happen anyway.
Can you talk to us about your approach in general?
Since 2001 I’ve been doing chalk drawing that cross the entire globe, in cities like Rome, Rio de Janeiro, Brussels, Ghent, Sligo, Glasgow, Seoul, Lisbon. The drawing has many stops and interruptions, because not everyone likes chalk lines on their property. Chalk is my medium of choice, but my work is mostly about resistance and trust. I write stories about everything that happens while I’m drawing. These are published in books by Roma Publications.
How would you say this series fits in with your wider body of work?
It’s hard for me to imagine chalk drawings as a lifelong occupation, but simultaneously I see less and less reasons to use a different medium. It’s an artistic practice that amplifies itself by continuation, that allows me to end up in less obvious neighbourhoods, making contact with divergent groups of people. Griet Teck and I collaborated over a long period of time, she followed me while working in situ. The end goal is to make a feature film where the encounters with the inhabitants of the locations are put together in a fictive street, which is then slowly covered in chalk drawings. A sort of “drawn street” that doesn’t exist in real life, only as a projection on a canvas.
Can you talk to us about how you see your own work? How would you describe it?
Drawing as social action.
What is your preferred medium for exhibiting your work? Book? Solo show? Group exhibition?
My work flourishes under seemingly bad conditions. It’s all about conquering resistance. There are no houses created for the sole purpose of having drawings made on them. The jointing is too rough, the bricks are too gritty, the houses are too high or too long, nor are the inhabitants conditioned to receive such drawings. When putting everything together I actually don’t place myself in a welcoming condition. I prefer places that aren’t too obvious, places where the inhabitants are more doubtful, where I have to make an effort to make contact with them. The drawings aren’t seen as art by these people. A place becomes all the more interesting when returning to it often. Slowly I start to become a familiar face around the neighbourhood, and people invite me over in their homes. Sometimes I manage to continue drawing in their living rooms, kitchens and back yards, to then return to the streets. Eventually, entire parts of the street are covered in drawings, with some interruptions when people don’t want me to work on their houses, inhabited by people who’d love to lend me a ladder but who would rather stay out of the picture. I believe the drawings create bonds between people. However, not everyone has a benefit by more social connections in their neighbourhood by default. Neighbourhoods often have a delicate balance, in which I take part over the course of several months. Permanent materials such as paint would cause much more opposition. Chalk is a material that incorporates itself more easily in an area, because eventually, the rain will wash it away. Chalk is innocent, although I have to prove that to the people time and time again.