Contemporary Visual Arts in Flanders - Part II01/01/2008
In Flanders there are moreover a great many artists and collectives working in relation to and with the 'newer' media and recent scientific developments. Since the late 1990s artists, researchers and curators have been laying the basis for an active field. One need only think of artists such as Peter Beyls, Godfried-Willem Raes and Guy Van Belle. Partly owing to the qualities of recently developed media, they quickly became linked with international networks. Some of the striking artists today include Angelo Vermeulen, who works in connection with art, biology, technology and games. Johan Grimonprez explores the conventions of mass and online media. Lawrence Malstaf creates interactive spatial scenarios. The theatre group Crew produces immersive narrative environments in close collaboration with the University of Hasselt. Particularly striking is the fact that so many collectives have taken shape in the relatively small scene of 'media arts' in Flanders and Brussels. Cargo, Constant, foAM, LAb[au], OKNO and Workspace Unlimited are among the artist-run organisations that thoroughly explore the strengths of collaboration and interaction with the audience.
Meanwhile, a new generation is pushing at the door. New painters have announced themselves: Virginie Bailly, Stephan Balleux, Ellen De Meuter, Kati Heck, Helmut Stallaerts, Cindy Wright. Pieter Vermeersch combines painting with installations in order to redefine the spaces in which he works. With the new photography, Els Vanden Meersch stands out with her 'psychological portraits' of demolished architectural spaces. Nick Ervinck employs digital media in order to construct a futuristic world.
And above all: this youngest generation takes a very critical stance toward its own artistic media and toward current discussions on that subject. Vaast Colson brings the entire art world into question with actions, performances, installations and paintings. In their installations and drawings Simona Denicolai & Ivo Provoost stab at, transform and deform that which is generally accepted. Louis De Cordier produces functional, minimalist objects that have no apparent purpose. Thomas Lerooy creates stratified images in which meanings are shifted. Wesley Meuris makes architectural constructions, in which the social codes of humans and animals are manipulated. Dennis Tyfus and Philip Metten utilise the youth culture in order to give shape to their artistic, subversive experience.
Many of these young artists have already been exhibiting abroad, particularly in German and American galleries. It shows that the level of contemporary visual art in Belgium continues to be high. Other countries (France, the Netherlands) wonder just where all that talent keeps on coming from. An explanation could be that the artist's drive to develop artistically and internationally has remained present, because the local situation is too limited. The supportive efforts of the government do not result in an overly protective environment. It would be best to keep on nurturing this paradox.
Translated from Dutch by Beth 0'Brien
Ruyters, M., Wittocx, E., ARTS FLANDERS 08 VISUAL ARTS, Brussels, Flemish Ministry of Culture, Youth, Sport and Media in collaboration with BAM, 2008.