We talked artists showing artists, Belgium’s linguistic divide, what ‘making it’ really means, the undeniable impact of the web, the quality of Belgium’s art scene, frustrations, teaching, the country’s low-key demeanour and how Brussels fared in comparison to Berlin.

The full set of interviews  can be found in the Third Rate Edition of the magazine.

Third Hand

Third Hand is a collective of individual artists with very different work, all connected by music. Through our music, we make connections with other artists. We give the audience a wave of multiple beat. The roles are reversed: the audience become the performers and the performers become the audience. It’s about an instantaneous feedback.

Now I’m the man that shot the boss

I pinned him down and blew his face off

I’m doing time with weirdo kind

Hustlin’ and rustin’ and watchin’ from behind

Happy Mondays – Lazyitis (1989)

Etienne Courtois

Etienne is a visual artist living and working in Brussels.

I used to work in investment banking but I quit in 2010 and got a studio straight away. When I started, I was very fortunate to meet the right people. I got to know the Belgian art scene, which I believe is smart, friendly, slightly individualistic, very creative, and ambitious although it’s not often said. Defining the Belgian art scene is not an easy task given the differences between the works produced by Flemish and French speaking artists. With its obvious cultural background, high density of collectors, and more exhibition spaces and international galleries appearing every year, the scene is growing, and hopefully increasingly focused on local talent. Having worked previously in the investment banking industry, it’s been interesting to see that there are a lot of parallels between the corporate world and the art world. It’s all about networks and relationships and finding your way.

Valentin Souquet

Valentin is originally from Rouen but moved to Brussels in 2008. He studied in Liège and is represented by Anyspace gallery.

I realised when I was studying that I wanted to spend my life in pursuit of art. You either want it or you don’t. It’s either in you or it’s not.  Art is exalting. It’s a way to make your feelings intense. But all this trying, searching, learning – you can be taken for a tourist. Then there’s the doubt that goes along with it. Everything can be very ambivalent. Security is both very necessary and very difficult. I have to deal with reality. It’s part of the process. I have a daughter, so I have to think about more than just my next project. I have a day job hanging paintings for the galleries, collectors and auction houses. It’s very physical, but that’s my way of life. Living is kind of a sport for me. Sometimes my work is very conceptual, but most of the time you have to use your body. Hanging is what I’m good at, and it allows me to be close to art. I understand what is behind a piece. I know art. In my job, you can get closer to an artist’s practice, you talk to them, you get close to the work. You discover their point of view. Sometimes you realise the artist is a bullshitter and you don’t like the work anymore. I think you can have a really great work, but still be an asshole. It’s very human. You can be disgusting and talk about beauty. Rousseau wrote a book about education but his five sons and daughters had no education. It might be a great book, a piece of art, but he was the worst father. I think there is no right way or wrong way of making it as an artist. If you go straight from school to a gallery, it must be nice but a bit oppressive to immediately be part of the market. I don’t think I’ll be hanging paintings forever. I think in ten years I will be in a forest with a big window or in front of the sea, with lots of silence and inspiration. Not so many people. I would like to be kind of far away. Being in the center of the art life sometimes is nice, but being in the nature is better. Brussels is the centre of Europe. All the young artists want to be here and part of the scene because it’s cool. The scene is really humble as well, which is really nice for a young artist. I go to Berlin once a year but there is no market there, not enough money. I would lose myself there. I spend most of my time in the studio these days. I hadn’t been there in several months, because I had a lot of things to take care of. Sometimes I can spend 20 days non-stop in my studio. I just go till the end, till I’m dying. 20 hours a day. It’s a question of intensity. I trust in myself more now, but I sometimes have doubts. It’s a battle against that doubt. Sometimes the audience can be harsh. You get feedback from people who don’t know anything about art and sometimes it’s great – some people just feel your work for real, without any artistic art theory bullshit behind it. I like sharing sensations and emotions with people, but at the same time I like intellectual discussions with people about art.

Pica Pica

Pica Pica is Jerome Degive, Boris Magotteaux, Manuel Falcata. They live and work in Liège and are represented by Alice Gallery

What does success mean for us? “…que les filles soient nues, qu’elles se jettent sur nous.” Emerging is an artist who starts to have importance in certain markets, on certain circuits. So yes, I suppose we are emerging. We like the idea of returning to things that have already been made, re-envisioning things, making objectives, even if the path to get there is often tortuous. It’s a necessary condition in the evolution of your work. We can’t survive on our art at the moment even though what we do in the studio is self-financing. Though we’re not always present together in the atelier, the reflection on our work is constant. Our time is precious and not precious at the same time. For us most of the cultural life is located in Brussels and in the north of the country. There’s so much going on here at the moment. A big energy, it’s rather motivating.

Jonathan Sullam

Jonathan is a multimedia and sculpture artist living and working in Brussels. He studied at the Royal Academy for Fine Arts

Struggling is a reality for most people. My daily reality is of similarity and mimicry with most of my fellow humans, it is of a very old nature – a battle between individual desire, collective will and basic necessities. But what carries me is of a lighter nature and I could not say it better than George Bernard Shaw: “You see things and say, “why?” But I dream things that never were and say, “why not?”