Five Belgian art players and the artists they’re banking on

Want to know which Belgian artist to bank on? Which artist to name-drop in the middle of a high- browed conversation and hope for a few impressed looks? We’ve picked the brains of some of the country’s most established experts – curators, art critics, collectors, professors, museum directors and editors – to find out who are the artists you should be keeping an eye out for.

1. Geert Goiris on Jim Campers

“Jim is a young photographer who continues to make interesting works. His photographs are thoughtful, well researched and precise. His aesthetic is restrained and calm. He explores a wide range of photographic practises and styles, borrowing elements from the visual languages of advertising, avant-garde art, scientific illustrations, travel-logs and vernacular found-footage.”


Jim, how would you best describe your work and your approach?
My work is founded on a complex web, a game of references and significations in which diverse subjects are integrated into a larger narrative.
By connecting the images to each other, a larger narrative appears. By bringing together various visual languages and subjects, I conjure up different storylines, different connections, that appear, disappear and reappear through the project. For the last five years, recurrent themes in my work are the self-imposed exile from society, struggles with society and alienating forms of perception through drug-induced trance. These subjects occur to me out of personal interest.
I stumble upon them. Much of my time is also spent on research but it derives from a kind of obsession, I can get pulled to a specific subject in which I can really dig in. New projects often come out of doing research that I’m doing for my current projects. That’s how the ball keeps rolling.

As an artist working in Belgium today, what do you think is your main purpose?
As a young artist, my main goal is obviously to be as productive as possible and to get my work shown and known by a broad public.

What key moment/person would you attribute to you becoming an artist?
There is no key moment or person I can point out to me becoming an artist, it just came naturally. Being an artist gives me a feeling of freedom, doing what I like to do, a fulfillment.

To date, what are you proudest of?
My dog walking on his back legs.

GEERT (1971) is an artist who also teaches in the photography department at the Royal Academy for Fine Arts in Antwerp (KASKA).
JIM (1990) is an artist who graduated in 2012 from Sint Lukas, Brussels. He received his Masters in 2013 from the Royal Academy of Antwerp.

2. Yoko Uhoda on SPYK

“At 42 years old, SPYK is, in my opinion, a promising artist who has honed his technique – painting using a spray can – to perfection.
He never touches the canvas and the result is astounding. Whether he paints a Brooklyn street, the inside of a New York subway or even a vandalised sculpture of a renowned artist, SPYK, by playing with the superimpositions of different spray paint colours, manages to make light appear in an astonishing manner.”

spyk copy

How would you best describe your work and your approach?
Using the techniques that I learned whilst doing graffiti, my painting is inspired by the subjects of my graffiti (urban landscapes, trains, the night, solitude). I focalise a lot on the effects of light, be it artificial or natural so that there is an atmosphere in the work like the grand masters of the Renaissance period.

As an artist working in Belgium today, what do you think is your main purpose?
To make my work known worldwide to new and old generations so that they are conscious that you can do more than graffiti with a can of spray paint!

What key moment/person would you attribute to you becoming an artist?
I was on holiday in New York in 1989, there was graffiti everywhere, energetic, graphic, anarchic and magnetic and above all I said to myself “that looks like fun!”

To date, what are you proudest of?
I’m proud of every piece of work that I paint, even if my technique evolves from day to day. But what makes me happiest of all is that art collectors get as much pleasure from looking at my work as
I get from painting it.

YOKO (1985) is the owner and founder of her eponymous gallery, which she opened after completing History of Art studies at Université de Liège.
SPYK (1972) is an artist born and based in Rocourt.

3. Stefan Pollak on Louis Samain

“I’m very intrigued by young people expressing themselves through painting today. For most of them, I see it as a desperate (and often annoying) way to hold on to a “masters technique.” But in some rare cases, I really feel the urge of that choice, and when I see a glimpse of talent that might bring painting to a new level, then I bow down and respect the artist behind that work. And Louis Samain is one of them. His work is characterised by a stylistic promiscuity, and by a strong experimentation of various supports and materials. His paintings are objects, his objects are paintings. Louis once said “I’m more interested in the idea of painting than the process.” This statement might sound ‘unripe’, but I find it very ambitious and insolent. And that’s what painting needs. Insolence.”


How woud you best describe your work and approach?
I like to think of my practice as a critical exploration of painting as well as daily practice. I refer to classic painterly themes such as landscapes, still lives and reduced abstraction. Painting is a flexible and elastic medium. I want to maximise the potential of painting, therefore my work is very eclectic. I make interpretations of many different styles of late modernist painting, often with irony. I’m interested in the conventions and conditions of this medium and its existing clichés. I want to understand its language.

To date, what are you proudest of?
A group show that I participated in, named “Hortus Althea” located in the wonderful CIAP building in Hasselt, Belgium. It was curated by the artist Gert Robijns, my mentor during my masters studies. Working with Gert was a very positive experience. His work speaks with
a strong poetic, visual language. It’s attractive in its playfulness. We challenged each other to show our work in new ways. Instead of a classical group exhibition, the outcome of this project was a Gesamtkunstwerk. We really had to put a lot of trust in each other to make this show and this is precisely why it was a valuable and meaningful cooperation.

What key moment/person would you attribute to you becoming an artist?
It is hard to determine a specific moment or person to attribute the reason of why I decided to become an artist. I didn’t really have to think about it. I’ve always liked to draw. It was something that I had to do, it was instinctive. Painting came later. You have to make a lot of sacrifices, but I don’t know what could be more meaningful to my life than this.

STEFAN (1974) is a half-French half- Austrian art director involved in various projects and events all over Europe. In 2004, together with Rosanna Gangemi, he founded DROME magazine, a bilingual Italian and English cross-culture quarterly. He moved to Brussels in 2012. 
LOUIS (1991) is a Kortijk-born artist who graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts in 2015
from School of Arts Ghent. He also holds a Bachelors in Fine Arts, Painting in 2013 from School of Arts Ghent.

4. Pierre-Oliver Rollin on Xavier Mary

“I’m touched by his strong visual language, the qualities of his forms with high level of finishes. And his conceptual thickness. He also seems to have an incredible facility for renewing his productions in contemporary materials.”


How would you best describe your work and approach?
With Google Earth and so many satellites circling the planet there are no more lost tribes. After experiencing a lot of raves and other techno parties, maybe I felt like re-inventing a “Tribal Art of Industrial Age”. However, if many people describe my work like a bunch of heavy highscale sculptures made of iron and highway materials, personally I consider myself as making applied metaphysics inspired by Conan The Barbarian and other myths from the 90s.

What key moment/person would you attribute to you becoming an artist?
A few weeks after getting out of school I got a phone call whilst I was at an after party. The guy, Charles Gohy, asked me to do a solo exhibition at Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Six months later, my first solo exhibition, Highway Ravers, was on stage.

To date, what are you proudest of ?
In 2008, I was part of the exhibition Un-scene in WIELS, Brussels. Christian Nagel was there at the opening. He saw the piece I did with highway lamps and gave me his card. One week after I was in the office of his Cologne gallery. He told me the story, how Kippenberger was one of his closest friend and how he told him that if he ever was invited for a solo show in a Belgian museum he would make a piece made of a highway lamp. I did the piece and I got into the Nagel Gallery a few months later. I worked with Christian during five years, and we did two solo exhibitions at the Berlin gallery which I still consider some of the most important in my work.

PIERRE (1970) is head director and chief curator of BPS22 Musée de la Province de Hainaut (Charleroi) in charge of the collection as well as the exhibition program. He is a teacher of curatorial practices at ENSAV- La Cambre (Brussels) and a freelance curator.
XAVIER (1982) was born in Liège. He graduated from l’ERG, Brussels in 2006.

5. Frédéric de Goldschmidt on Delphine Deguislage

“Delphine is not afraid to use her biography as a medium to conceptualise and transport her work into the public realm. Her spoken and unspoken family history as well as her suppressed memory make her special compared to many practices today that refer more to art history than to what makes the artist’s position in society so unique. Her work employs a vocabulary of highly personal mementos, psychosexual motifs and materials that reference childhood memories, loss, ancestry, and psychic injury. Her practice encompasses different techniques, with a common theme: desire and regret – in the various forms they take from childhood to adult life. Individually traumatic and universally understood, these sentiments intimate a collective narrative about our personal attempts for satisfaction.
And their success – or failure.”


How would you best describe your work and approach?
I essentially dig into my childhood memories. Since I started a much more introspective kind of work, I deal with residues of feelings and sensations from the domestic sphere. I try to connect ghosts and desire. My work is multidisciplinary in its form and the act of producing it myself, with patience and care, is very important to me. This results in a work process that is about intuitively finding formal solutions using inexpensive materials usually from a wide range of suppliers, not specifically art-related. This relationship with materials anchors my everyday practice to everyday life. The objects and images that I make through successive associations are autonomous but still assembled responding to the exhibition space and according to a configuration that weaves together the semantic and the aesthetic.

As an artist working in Belgium today,what do you think is your main purpose?
Keep going.

What key person would you attribute to you becoming an artist?
When I started studying at l’École des Beaux-Arts in Namur in 1997, I met Thierry Burnonville, my former painting teacher. He gave certain students a nickname. Mine was Ripley like Sigourney Weaver in Alien. I felt like a warrior and wanted to become an artist.

To date, what are you proudest of?
To be myself.

FRÉDÉRIC (1959) is a French film producer and contemporary art collector based between Brussels and Paris. He supports emerging artists in their production and shares his collection with visitors when he opens his space to the public or by appointment.
DELPHINE (1980) is an artist who was born in Namur. She graduated from ENSAV-La Cambre (Brussels) in 2005.