The Young Belgian Art Prize 2013: Jean-Baptiste Bernadet

Yesterday we profiled Félicia Atkinson, finalist for the 2013 Young Belgian Art Prize, and today we’re passing the baton to Paris-born Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, also on the finalist list. His submission for the award forms part of an artist book made in collaboration with American writer John d’Agata, and which will be published by New York publisher Karma


How did you end up taking part in this year’s edition of the Young Belgian Art Prize?

Actually, I send in dossiers all of the time. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.

Which themes do you touch upon most in your work? And what defines your approach?

I don’t take interest in subjects. I paint and that’s it. Painting as an action (so I’m not referring to canvas on a stretcher) is the subject. Going to my studio every day: that’s the subject. I most definitely don’t want to define anything.

Do you have any expectations about the influence this nomination as a finalist will have on your life or career? 

I don’t really know what to expect. I’ve been sending in applications for years now, starting in 2000 when I moved to Brussels. At the time, the Prix de la Jeune Peinture was really prestigious. I guess it still is, when I see how everybody is still very much looking forward to it. But on the other hand, I think it’s very sad that since the last two editions, we are no longer able to benefit from the larger and more beautiful exhibition rooms that are on the opposite side of the Bozar building next to the park. To me, the prize was way more interesting and helpful to young artists when the Bozar institution was still strongly committed and it was giving these artists museum-scale spaces to showcase in.

That’s the only way you can help artists: by giving them space to develop their work and to let them show that they’re able to do big things. Now it’s a little bit like, “You can still use our name and the prestige of the Bozar, but please don’t disturb too much and be happy with the reception rooms and small spaces.” For example, I really like the space I’ve chosen, but still: it’s a gallery designed by Horta to host photography presentations, which makes it really difficult for me to show contemporary art. It’s the main reason I decided not to show what I usually do, large scale paintings on canvas. I decided to go for a specific formation; a group of smaller and framed paintings that I have been working on for the last couple of months and that are part of a project for a book I’m doing with American writer John d’Agatha.

Which other artists do you feel should have been nominated?

I don’t know who else applied. Either way, I don’t think the nominees are better artists because of the fact that they were chosen, nor do I think that the remaining appliers suck for not being chosen. Awards, success, money, the market … They’ve got nothing to do with quality and that’s something everybody is aware of. In a few cases it’s related, but most of the time it’s not. I also tend to think that the best artists are the ones who don’t waste their time applying for such prizes and just spend hours and hours in their studio, working and improving themselves.

How do you feel about the idea of art being judged and promoted through competitions?

I haven’t got any problem with it. As an artist, you’re constantly being judged by everybody, every step of the way, regardless of prizes.

The Young Belgian Art Prize 2013
Closes 15 September
Bozar Centre of Fine Arts, Rue Ravensteinstraat 23 – 1000 Brussels