Six questions for
Johan Gelper

Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: 
Johan Gelper.

Artist Johan Gelper
Lives in Ghent, Belgium

How do you describe your own art practice? 

In my practice, where sculptures can be assembled and disassembled, each new work grows from previous works, often over a long period of time. I spend a lot of time in my studio or at my drawing table, experimenting and exploring different mediums and techniques. For instance, by contrasting geometric elements with organic forms or industrial objects with natural materials. 

I was initially trained as a painter but today I mainly create drawings, sculptures, installations, and interventions. I like to switch from sculpture and site-specific installation, to drawing or painting and the other way around. 

Sometimes I describe my art practice as ‘demountable spatial drawing’. This is the title of several in situ installations, but it might also be a metaphor for an inquiring and process-oriented method. I often work with found materials, both natural and manufactured elements, which can be very various and frequently In Situ. 

Which question or theme is central in your work?

There’s no linear central theme. Everything comes from an organic and cyclic process where the new can cyclically destroy the old. Nevertheless, one might find several elements that are constant such as: drawing, space, gravity, humor, color, and visual poetry. 

I often look for forms that are open, for works that are present but not intrusive and for compositions that create a balance between abstract and figurative. But this particularly has to do with the practice of seeing and the connection between the viewer and the perception of the work.

Above all I work from a certain wonderment for the materials themselves. At the same time, I look for substantive combinations, image associations and references to art history that I find interesting.

What was your first experience with art?

When I was 12, I first went to art school, since then I developed a passion for art. 

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

Nature, art history, and books. There are many artists that I admire. I’m interested in different styles and artists from dadaism to constructivism, arte povera to land art. I admire the works of Naum Gabo and his belief that there should be an interaction between sculptures and the space around them. He rejected the idea that they should be just static objects but just as well I like very old art such as the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch or Pieter Breugel the Elder.

What do you need in order to create your work?

The ability to perceive, daylight, space, time, and discipline. Also important are reliable, trustworthy people to work with and the possibility to work towards an exhibition.

What work or artist has most recently surprised you? 

I recently found a book about the works of Fausto Melotti (1901 – 1986). 

This is an important modern master, but I did not know his oeuvre very well. I was very surprised by the content, the quality, and the variety of his works.

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