With a group show including her work having opened in Welle this past weekend, we talk to Gent-based photographer Griet Van de Velde about her artistic practice, capturing moments once they’ve already occurred and the two men instrumental to her visual narrative.
What were your original ideas and intentions at the start of working on this new series?
I’m not really working on series. It only happened twice that a series developed spontaneously. One is ‘Look’ that started and ended in 1996. It is a series of a feeling, created in the studio. I was still very young and afraid in a way. I felt the need to provoke and capture that feeling in other girls of my generation. People call them portraits, but they’re not. It was rather a portrait of a feeling. The other series is ‘The Color of Sand’, made in 2012, and that emanated from a period that I spent on the Canary Island Fuerteventura. I had to recover from an asthmatic chronic cough and was there on my own, in complete silence. I made long walks and captured the isolated feeling the island has. Silent, frozen moments, in general, attract my attention and it seems that my focus is there. Before or after a situation. Where you see traces of the human being. You could call it an endless series, which will always develop. I now start to see that I also catch and allow animals in my work. I love to watch them. They give me peace in this crazy human world.
What would you say was its starting point?
I think the starting point was long before I started my photography studies. I have always had a very visual memory and interest. I’m not a reader. It is hard for me to concentrate. I am a melancholic dreamer, although people who do not really know me would be surprised by that. So I guess that my unconscious focus has always been on those lost moments and corners. In my daily life I have to deal with quite a lot of communication and I like it. But I need those moments of silence and being alone, staring at the trees, sky and birds. Walking and passing by ordinary installations, made by human kind. The border between nature and city is a fascination of mine. Where either nature or the human kind takes it over. My first black and white film, when I started my photography studies at the art academy of Gent, also played a part. My first photography task was ‘light’. I took a photo of our dog, in the dark, in the snow. I still like that image. It’s so naive and therefore beautiful I think.
Is there something very specific you’re hoping your work will express/communicate?
I hear that people find my work poetic and/or melancholic. I don’t want to communicate something. Rather, I want to share those (non-)moments I see and capture. But yes… I hope they can appreciate the silence in the photographs.
Can you talk to us about your approach in general?
For myself, I believe in capturing the ‘moment’ on my way, instead of hunting for it. I prefer not to hunt for a date, but rather to meet him/her on my way. I learnt that I personally get limited when working in a series. It has blocked me for years and doesn’t work for me. So I went back to those early days of my naive eye, but trained by time and the many interesting visual dialogues I’ve had.
Can you talk to us about how you see your own work? How would you describe it?
It is hard for me to write about my own work. I could give that task to a writer. But what would he/she write? What he/she feels. That is why I like interviews more than subjective texts. It is more direct. So… I see my work as a capture of the beauty of the ordinary, without complications.
What is your preferred medium for exhibiting your work? Book? Solo show? Group exhibition?
I would like to make a small book, one day, but not now. It’s too early I feel. Of course I like to show my work in exhibitions. I had waited almost twenty years to come out. Until the day my friend and artist Wilfredo Prieto invited me and created a solo show with my work. After that, I started to feel more secure to show my works. To be able to show your works and make an installation is a gift. It is not always easy to get invited by curators or art space owners. They first want to see you moving, they want to ‘follow’ you, as they all like to say so nicely. Until now, I have been lucky with that. I have met people that have the guts to ‘choose’. Personally, I also like to invite artists that I like and with whom I feel good. I invited three young visual artists to show with, this summer, in two different projects; Alexandra Colmenares Cossio, Margarita Maximova and Nadia Guerroui. This weekend I will be at the opening of the group show at the art space El (Welle), where I will show seven photographs next to the work of four other artists, that of my partner Carlos Caballero included. It is the second time that we will show our work together in a group show. Let’s see what that brings!
Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your work?
Lots of people were, I guess… but consciously, I would mention two persons. My friend and artist Wilfredo Prieto that made his selection out of my wider work and Carlos Caballero, with whom I live. Last year I was archiving and selecting work from the last 15 years. It was not an easy thing to do. The selection of Wilfredo helped me draw a line in the chaos. Also the many talks and discussions with Carlos helped. They both have a different view, one is a conceptual minimal artists and the other a painter. I think both focuses come together in my work.grietvandevelde.com