Tique | art paper asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx.
Lives in Antwerp, Belgium
How do you describe your own art practice?
My work usually revolves around who I am and who I try to be. About who other people are and how we perceive each other. About how you and I relate to each other, what we do in order to keep up appearances and the feelings that are generated as a result. It often ends up in two opposites, either it’s “looking”, the eyes, confrontation(!) or hiding, masking, armouring up.
I try to visualise these things in drawings, sculpture, paintings, and so on, choosing to work with specific types of visual elements, bringing with them specific associations, but in the end I strongly feel that it’s always about dealing with things, the world around you and especially about dealing with yourself.
What was your first experience with art?
This would consider my interpretation of art and when I first experienced it. My idea of art has also shifted as I grew up, but looking back, I’d like to think that my first experience with art would be the first time I felt the need to make something myself, or rather, the first time something else gave me the need to create and then that would be the Sunday anime cartoons running on TV during my childhood. These are sort of engraved in my memory and I remember watching Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X), Dragonball Z, and later Pokémon and Digimon, and wanting to redraw the characters myself. But are these cartoons art? I guess for 7-8 year old me, they were.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
I don’t think I have one greatest source of inspiration. A lot inspires me, from obvious things, to me, like manga and anime, videogames, to the behaviour of people, fashion, nature and life itself. These things surround me, like everyone, they happen and they inspire me when they do.
What do you need in order to create your work?
I especially need the right atmosphere and mind set and preferably also the right surrounding. I kind of need to get in the zone, which I can instigate by relaxing, gaming, looking at the right things, sitting in my cosy desk room in my atelier and plugging the right music into my ears. Once I’m there, I can start working without end, regardless of what material I have at hand.
What are you working on at the moment?
For a while now, I’ve been working on an ongoing series, portraying the artist, myself, as a Black Knight and using this as an icon for the mystification surrounding the artist persona and personalities of people in general.
I just recently finished a cut and paste book called ‘Revelations of a Black Knight’ and if my sculptures of Black Knights are about armouring up and the abstraction of recognisable form, then the book is about taking of the helmet, allowing a peek in, lifting the tip of the veil.
I will continue working on this series during a residency at the Frans Masereel Centre (Belgium) in March-April, expanding on it with printmaking techniques.
What work or artist has most recently surprised you?
One artist was Jim Thorell, who recently posted a detail of one of his pieces on Instagram, which showed an interpretation of Griffith, which is an antagonist character from the manga Berserk. I thought it was funny and nice to see, since my Black Knight series were inspired by the protagonist of the same manga, Guts. It gave me reassurance. But I’m blown away by many great and less great artists’ work, all around the world, almost daily.