Lives in Ngunnawal Land, Canberra, Australia
How do you describe your own art practice?
Over the years, I have constructed a little world of images around me. Since moving from Belgium to Australia in 2008 my art practice shifted from being a painter/printmaker to using photography as my medium. I find it hard to pigeonhole my practice or label it; I’m a photographic omnivore. I tackle very disparate subject matters, techniques and processes. I often feel like I am multiple artists in one body. For the past few years, I’ve mainly worked in black and white and made silver prints shot in various formats.
Which question or theme is central in your work?
Living as a Belgian in Australia is the overarching theme of my work. I am still astonished by the natural beauty and how the physicality of this place is so vastly different from the rural Flanders where I grew up. However, there is still so much unresolved trauma here with First Nations people and white people attempting to come to terms with the colonial past of this place. This dynamic creates an undercurrent that is always present when you’re making work. When you point your camera towards a landscape, there are multiple layers to unpick, nothing is what it seems.
Since becoming a father, being part of our small family has been paramount in how my world is shaped. My lens often points inward to this family nucleus. This focus flows into paying close attention to what is happening in my immediate environment. My recent book Death is not here, published by Void, is almost entirely made of images that were made close to home.
My brand of existential spice is added to the mixture as well, I don’t always see life through rose-coloured glasses. Photography helps me navigate my life and forces me to look at what is happening around me and inside my head.
What was your first experience with art?
I remember visiting a large Piet Mondriaan retrospective in The Hague back when I was an early teenager, sometime in the first half of the nineties. Seeing this exhibition was not my first experience with art, but it remains very memorable and influential. Seeing how Mondriaan crafted and evolved his work over his lifespan as an artist is still a massive reference for me. He did not just wake up one day and start painting black lines and filling them in with primary colours. Instead, he distilled his way there from painting figurative work. The evolution of his realistic, figurative work to his famous abstracts is gradual. To me, this always felt like a profoundly authentic way of being a practicing artist. I do the same to some extent in my work, remaining truthful to what went before in my oeuvre. I still tackle the same themes and concepts I have always done since I started making images.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
I pretty much covered this in question 2.
What do you need in order to create your work?
I don’t need much, and I am pretty adaptive as a visual artist. If I didn’t have access to camera(s), I would go back to drawing or painting. However, I have been very determined to make prints in the darkroom these past few years. The dozens of paper boxes containing thousands of handmade prints in my little study are evidence of this. Since I started printing my work manually, first in a colour darkroom, I feel I have grown much as a photographic artist. Being able to make images from scratch without looking at a computer screen is often precisely what I need when I get too much in my head. The process offers me bucketloads of flow, and I forget about time printing away in the dark for hours.
What work or artist has most recently surprised you?
Ever since I started following her work online, I’ve been a big fan of the work by Belgian painter Fia Cielen. She paints, makes collages and even ceramics recently. There is something about her work that hits a nerve with me. The subjects of her works are strange anthropomorphic plants, faces of dogs, and foxes. In her collage paintings, she often uses mushroom spore-prints as eyes for otherworldly characters she invents. It is enchanting work in my eyes; there is a playfulness, sense of wonder and darkness to which I can relate. Like what I try to do in my work, she seems to construct her brand of how she depicts this world. It’s always a delight to encounter her new work in my feeds.