“Accidentally”. Something speaks to us, a sound, a touch, hardness or softness, it catches us and asks us to be formed. This is the poetic premise, taken from lines by Anni Albers, that encapsulates the artistic thought processes behind Soft? Tactile Dialogues. As a collaboration with fashion institution MoMu, the exhibition is being shown at the Maurice Verbaet Center until the museum is ready to unveil its newly renovated space in 2020. Featuring tapestries, paintings, sculptures, clothing and tea towels, the first rooms sees installations of hanging, frayed rope and ethereal kite fabric that catches the light. At the forefront of the show is the artists’ interaction with material, and the blurred distinctions between fine art, textiles, fashion and crafts. It will walk you through 1970s explorations of femininity and domesticity, to fragile and kitsch wall hangings by contemporary artists. For the occasion, we’ve selected four participating artists whose work you cannot miss.
Hailing from Boechout and Bern in Switzerland respectively, Laure Van Brempt (1988) and Vera Roggli (1991) make up the design duo Wiesi Will who have forayed out of their textile label and into the exhibition at Soft?. They talk to us about the art of collaboration and what inspires their luminous and playful fabrics.
At its core, what is your work about?
We are a design and knitwear studio based in Antwerp. Every six months we launch a new product that fits in our universe. Products range from knitwear to interior objects with a focus on textiles. Next to the label we have the WSW laboratorium, where we focus ourselves fully on researching and developing new materials and techniques. The result can be a more artistic piece, like AIRDANCERS, which is part of Soft? Tactile Dialogues.
What are the starting points and statement for your designs?
We like to see ourselves as materialist, always triggered by interesting structures, colours or techniques. We enjoy creation and experimentation, whilst always keeping in mind the fusion of aesthetics and functionality. We care about all things collaborative and interdisciplinary.
Can you talk to us about your approach in general?
We start with analysing the purpose or function our work has to fulfil. What does this tells us and how can we take this into account when designing? What are the boundaries and how can we challenge ourselves to cross them? Often a little swatch of something can be the start of a collection or a product. Out of this material we crystallise a mood, colours etc. By experimenting in our studio we try to achieve new ways of using a material and afterwards translate in to something that can to be produced by the industry.
What characterises your work?
Colourful, playful, technical, intuitive and tactile.
How do you actually work on a piece, from start to finish?
Since we work together, we try to inspire each other with ideas. In this way, the other one can react to what exists already. We start by making swatches and a moodboard.
What series and / or project are you currently working on?
In mid-October we’ll launch our first series The hairy sweater collection. It’s a collection made up of four pieces – a hat, scarf, sweater and cardigan – in different colours. Next to it we worked on a padded technique which resulted into a cosy blanket. We’re also working on finalising our webshop and the image we’d like to spread.
Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your artistic practice?
Laure: My tutor Marie Mees thanks to her enthusiasm for beauty, my former boss Christian Wijnants by giving me the chance to learn and Vera by supporting me to work free and rash.
Vera: A friend of my mum and former neighbour, Angelika Wakker, an artist and pedagogue who stimulated me ever since I was a little kid. She passed away some years ago but her spirit is still very present, and continues to push me further in my development.
What are the challenges you face as an artist working in Belgium today?
Combining a business that has to be self-sufficient with all the administration work that comes together with it. Creating without thinking, too.
How do you see yourself fit into the country’s contemporary creative scene?
We see ourselves as designers who sometimes like to leave the borders that are set up around the making of a product.
Talk to us about the people around you, your local scene. To what extent does it inspire and influence you?
We share a building called Haptic House with other designers and studios, such as Clay Club, Nathalie Vandermaesen, Viktoria Von Malottki, Ben Storms, Maddalena Annunziata and C3T. Being surrounded by creative people with different backgrounds and specialities is very inspiring. We all support each other by discussing our work, sharing contacts and organising events together.
What does success look like to you?
Being able to make your own work without having to compromise too much.
To you, what role should contemporary art occupy in the community?
It should stimulate people, trigger their senses and make them think about life.
Which Belgian artists do you follow or look at for inspiration?
Do you remember what your first introductions to visual arts were?
Vera: When I was 11 my parents took me to Paris, and made my dream to see Claude Monet’s garden come true.
Laure: Spending my Saturday mornings at my hometown’s local drawing school.
What do your parents, your family, think of what you do?
They’re both curious and proud.
On a more personal note, how does your everyday inform your work?
Beauty is everywhere!As part of Soft? Tactile Dialogues city takeover, Wiesi Will have work on display at Maurice Verbaet Center until Sunday 24th February 2019. wiesiwill.com