Seven Belgian-based artists to keep on your radar (Part 2)

In the last few years, Belgium – and Brussels more specifically – has grown into a global artistic hub. Galleries, collectors, museums, non-profits, private collections and artist-run spaces have all, it seems, converged to create one of the most exiting and dynamic contemporary art eco-systems in a while. As a result, there’s never been a better time to be an artist in the country. Here are seven that have spiked our interest (part 1 here and part 3 here).

The full feature is part of the April-May edition of the magazine.

Sarah-Louise Barbett (1989)

Born in Boulogne Billancourt, France, Sarah lives and works between Meudon, France and Brussels.

Ne pleure pas, 10×15 cm, pen and felt pen on paper.

How would you describe your practice, and your approach? 

I use my drawings to take a look at the world in which I live. I try and stop a period, a place, a moment, an action, an object, a landscape. Drawing allows me to select a detail or a precise atmosphere, which I treat in an aesthetic manner to accentuate the detail. Drawing transforms the perception of reality and I try to adapt my style and my technique depending on want I want to express. An oeuvre’s title is also very important for me as it can give a completely different sense to a work. 

What inspires you?

My house, my office, my living room, my kitchen, my breakfast, my lunch and my dinner, my dishes, my flatmates and their mess, my friends, my parents and their friends, my friends’ friends, openings, concerts, street performances, group trips, solo trips, postcards, souvenirs, bars, what you see through windows, my neighbours, the street, sidewalks, doors, number plates, the look of dogs and other animals, insects, parks, trees and flowers, public spaces, logos, street signs, posters, advertisements. Basically, anything that can be captured with a smartphone.

What recent work of yours best exemplifies what you do? 

My profile picture: a guy looking worried in his bed.

If you had one message for art students, what would it be? 

As the famous McDonald’s add says, “Come as you are.”

Birde Vanheerswynghels (1986)

Belgian artist Birde lives and works in Brussels.

Birde Van. untitled, 2014 charcoal and pastel on paper 230x150cm
Untitled, 2014, Charcoal and pastel on paper, 218×150 cm.

How would you describe your practice, and your approach?

I draw. I am not quite sure why I draw but it’s a fascination I’ve had since childhood. When I draw, my body is physically and mentally under pressure. It is this body tension that’s become an addiction. I need to draw the things I see in my mind – or is it my heart? Some of these drawings are representations of the real world. Then I draw from pictures I took. Other drawings derive from elsewhere and I’ve got no control over them. It’s the search for this one true image that captures everything. So it is about experience that is coming from inside, from a certain ‘being in the world’. A personal response to truth.

What inspires you?

What’s important is the unconscious influence on the developing landscape of the mind. The experiences or images on which my drawings are based are not always clear to me. Sometimes I cannot find the origin of these experiences, these images.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a large scale charcoal, pastel drawing of a purple flamingo. My grandfather had this flamingo in his garden, a plastic one. It was a birthday gift he got. He liked the flamingo but he did not like the pink. So he painted it blue with black dots.

If you had one message for art students, what would it be?

To form an identity is one of your most important assignments as an artist. I believe this identity cannot be made only by working on yourself, but also by meeting people and changing ideas with them. When you meet interesting people, you will learn more. They help in a certain way with your artistic development. So travel, meet people. An artist should be outdoors, as much as possible.