Can you describe what you do?
I’m a visual artist living and working in Antwerp. I studied sculpture, but afterwards started to mainly focus on drawing. For me, drawing means imposing order onto a stubborn reality. The point of departure for my work is the staged world of photographic representation. My drawings, in fact, hearken back to a personal archive of photographs derived from vulgarizing scientific magazines, from biographies of artists and scientists… By adding text captions to my images, I lay aside the original facts in order to create space for a new and personal story, which I can only describe as a fictitious autobiography.
I’m also a studio artist: my daily routine consists of being in my studio as much as possible. In one part, I make decors as a starting point for my drawings. In the other, I actually carry out the drawings. I work with two assistants who help me construct said decors; and with one very close friend from Leuven, Maarten Verminck, who helps me with the set lighting and photography. My everyday reality is very much made up of all the friends who visit my studio to hang out.
How do you perceive Leuven?
Leuven is the town where I lived until the age of eighteen – an unchangeable fact. I’m a pretty nostalgic guy, so whenever I visit the city I bathe myself in old memories. It’s a great feeling. I think it’s largely due to my work – which I described earlier as autobiographical – that I take pleasure in this so much. I feel a very strong attraction, and find myself often driving in my car late at night to clear my mind, heading to Leuven. Upon arrival, I’ll knock on a friend’s door, drink a coke, and drive back. It’s not really about exploring the cultural landscape of the city, since I hardly go to Leuven’s public spots anymore. Instead, I find myself sitting in kitchens, living rooms and gardens of old friends.
What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?
I would describe Leuven as the city of normalcy; a city where things go on and on in a rather predictable way. In steady second place behind Antwerp. You could almost say a city without an edge. Which isn’t negative at all, I think. In fact, I would argue it’s a huge quality.
Growing up in this non-artistic environment gave me the chance and space to be totally enticed by the romantic notion of art; where I could dream about being an artist and pretend to already be one.
How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
Growing up in this non-artistic environment gave me the chance and space to be totally enticed by the romantic notion of art; where I could dream about being an artist and pretend to already be one. It’s precisely within this very safe place that I had my first shows. I was able to slowly test out what it’s all about, what it takes to be an artist in the first place, and come to accept this idea.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?
It would be great if Leuven could become the hometown for many more artists then it is today.
If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?
Without a doubt, M-Museum is the first place to visit in Leuven – it’s quite simply a great museum. Besides here, the only other places I would take visitors are STUK, Cinema ZED and friends’ livings rooms.rinusvandevelde.com