Six Questions

Six Questions: Peter Dekens

Tique | art paper asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Peter Dekens.

Artist Peter Dekens
Lives in Schilde (near Antwerp, Belgium)
Website http://www.peterdekens.com

How do you describe your own art practice?

As a documentary photographer, I like to go profoundly into a specific theme or area. Of course everything has to fit within the larger body of my work.
I also like very tricky and difficult issues that are people-centered and that receive little or no media attention. I always try to bring this in a sensitive way. Shocking is not in my nature, but I do like a kind of rawness and honesty.

Stijn is a young man of 23 years old. He was born blind and lives in a modest apartment somewhere in the city. This is the only place in the world where he can move so freely. The table, the chairs, the kitchen and the bed aren't obstacles for him. On the contrary, while being part of his territory, they also guide him through it. He knows this space inside out. It may be small and limited, but Stijn is not. In fact it's quite the opposite. During the short winter days, there is a slow transition from twilight into total darkness in Stijn's apartment. The darker it gets, the harder it is for me to find my way around. Stijn has no burden of darkness. He doesn't need light and because of this, I leave the light for what it is.

What was your first experience with art?

When I was very small I drew a portrait of Fernandel at my grandmother. Everyone thought that there was such a great resemblance so that the sketch hanged in her house for many years. That was also my first motivation to do more with drawing and painting.
The real eye-opener came during my secondary education in plastic arts in Kortrijk; there were a few teachers who opened my eyes in terms of art and looking to the world. Both teachers have already deceased in the meantime.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

My world of photography was initially aroused by photographers like Larry Sultan and Alec Soth. They have a very personal way of looking at things, while it fitted well within the documentary photography.
‘Amour’ and other work by Michael Haneke has been very important for me, it contains many elements of what I see in my own projects, also relating to movies by the Dardenne brothers that contain a kind of rawness that I cherish.
Flanders is also a very big inspiration for me, I try therefore to work as close to my home as possible to realize my projects. I’ll never look at exotic places and even in a radius of several kilometers, it would be possible to create my oeuvre so to speak.

(Un)expected is a memorable photo project about the coping process of surviving relatives of suicides in West Flanders.

What do you need in order to create your work?

Time for me is the most important and sometimes the most scarce resource, after the birth of my son 4.5 years ago, my world went upside down. Only after three years it has become really better.
Most of my projects require a lot of time, also for establishing contacts with people. I always try to take small steps to give the project a more mature form, even if it takes a lot of time. Only then it can be brought to the outside world.

What are you working on at the moment?

For a long time already I want to make something about the First World War. The madness of war remains up to date. It seems we don’t learn anything from it.

What work or artist has most recently surprised you?

A recent book I like is ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ by Jack Latham, and although I think it’s a bit overdesigned, I love the subject of crime. My favorites from the recent years are ‘Redheaded Peckerwood’ by Christian Patterson and ‘The Epilogue’ by Laia Abril.

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Tique | art paper #2:
Contemporary Camera