Antwerp-based artist Kasper de Vos (1988) studied in Sint Lucas, KASK and is currently a postgraduate student at HISK in Ghent. His work takes shape mainly through sculpture, and he also works with collages, drawings and paintings. Here, Kasper talks to us about his oeuvre’s engagement with its physical surroundings, be it a natural landscape, an industry, food, or western art history. Translating colours and textures into a materiality, the artist often comically critiques consumer society with a play on the absurd – like his large take imitation of a snack bar – revealing tensions between an imagined reality and the more immediate day to day.
What was the initial idea behind this recent series of yours?
Every new idea arises from previous work – this is how things happen while I am working on something, or how things fall together, like two roads that cross. There has always been a connection between my work and food, and for about a year now this connection has gotten stronger. Most of the time, it starts with a moment of hunger, and I see a material that reminds me of food. Then I hone in on its appearance and think about its shape, content and context. I like food and for me it’s life, So, food is a rich and substantial element in my practice. But, our daily life is so impregnated by contradictions between real and fake, overproduction and waste. So, for the last two years I’ve worked every Friday morning at a market selling vegetables – when you’re making art you can’t disconnect it any longer from its economic aspect. Hence, my work is about selling food and how to present it. I also like to play with the idea of pop art, not in a glossy or glamorous way, but in a more authentic, romantic way.
How did it evolve?
I was working on a sculpture in the shape of a truck, and there was something missing in its shape. So I was walking around searching for an object or an idea that could complete the sculpture. At the same time, I was thinking about the inside of a sculpture, because we almost never see this inside, but when you’re making sculptures you are always conscious about this. So I was thinking about this, and in the meantime I found a pan. This pan brought on the next step to my sculpture – it opened up a new dimension in my practice, because I could place a gas fire below the sculpture and I could use it for baking. The sculpture then became an open fire and I started baking burgers on it during exhibition openings. This marked a beginning for interacting with food in my work, and the influence of food on its shape and content. Since then, it happens that I recognize food in materials I find and use. Little by little, I completed a full Art Burger menu with fries, milkshakes and ice cream. Then about one-year and a half ago, Nadia Bijl and Sam Sterx, two young curators, asked me to make something in Het Paviljoen in Ghent. So then the Art Burger Palace was born, a fake fast food restaurant where you could order a complete fast-food menu for a democratic price of 25 euro. This is what I would call the starting point of this series.
Is there something very specific you’re hoping the series will express/communicate?
On the one hand, I hope my work is accessible to a large public. Because of the aspect of food imitation and the colour combination, it is easy to grasp or at least I think it’s straight forward. On the other hand, the series has a big absurd character that brings about a tension with reality, provoking the audience’s imagination and giving them the possibility to daydream. Then when you discover and recognize the materials it is made out of, it brings you back to reality – like dreaming with your feet on the ground.
How would you describe the way you approach your work?
I see my work as constantly as ‘on the go.’ By ‘on the go’ I mean that I see things, or I find an object, keep them in my memory, and take it back to my studio. There are some techniques I use and continue to use them for the base of a particular work. Sometimes things (materials, ideas, locations…) fall together, like two roads crossing each other, and this is where magic happens. It’s about sculpture, different volumes and materials interacting with each other. It’s about art in general. About culture and society. It’s about you, me and, of course, the force!
How would you say this series fits in with your wider body of work?
I think at the moment this series represents part of a wider body of my work. It is constantly in motion. Beside sculptures I make collages and drawings as well, they help me make connections and bring about new ideas.
What is your preferred medium for exhibiting your work? Book? Solo show? Group exhibition?
Every new context I face when creating or showing a work opens a new door and shows me which road I have to follow. I like the way that different surroundings have an impact on me as a young artist. I love to work site specifically. Ideas can grow in your head when you are on location and you have the possibility to make a new work. If you believe in luck, this location will fit perfectly with an idea that was already growing somewhere in your head. But for my sculptural work, I prefer to present it in a white space or in modern architecture; it has a stronger impact. I also like to participate in and organize group shows – bringing different works together creates an interesting tension between the works and the different contexts I work in.
Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your work?
Before I went to art school, I was never really in contact with art, although I had a free and artistic-minded education. Each and every teacher I had at art school has been very important to me. I see them as my Jedi masters who taught me to navigate the Arts. The last two teachers I had were Peter Rogiers and Philip Metten, who, in my opinion, are two of the most important Belgian sculptors alive today. I did an internship with Kati Heck, an Antwerp based German painter, she is really fantastic and her work definitely influenced me. I’m strongly inspired by internationally famed artists such as Franz West, Georg Bazelits, Brancusi, Penone, Urs Fischer, Magritte, Bijl and many more. My girlfriend, Liesbeth Hendrickx – she also participated in the show (Balls & Glory) at Rodolphe Janssen’s – is my biggest support and motivation in my work process.All images courtesy of Kasper de Vos.