Visual artist Babs Decruyenaere creates a personal universe with whatever natural elements she finds outdoors. Pebbles, leaves, sea shells, … she collects the natural gems she comes across by incidence, on long walks along the beaches of Zeeland, Picardy or Lanzarote. Not to expose them merely as decorations, but to put them into well-considered compositions, by visual association.
Decruyenaere hardly ever takes her camera outdoors, the selection, storage and artistic creation is a process of concentration and fluid creativity that takes place in the intimacy of her studio. All objects get photographed and categorized before Decruyenaere reassembles them into amazing compositions.
Her photograms are minimalistic studies of structures, lines, motifs. The formal aspect is always predominant. Decruyenaere makes visual associations, almost abstractions. Her work experiments with different materials and how they relate to each other, triggering the imagination.
Catch your breath
Decruyenaere has always been a hunter and collector of beauty. “As a child, I was heavily asthmatic so my parents sent me to a sanatorium at the Belgian coast. I remember the long weeks at boarding school, I was only a small girl. Every Friday night when I got home, my mum used to find shells, little stones and lots of sand in the pockets of my clothes. It seems I’ve always been a beach comber… I just need to be near the sea from time to time. To clear my mind, to feel free and to catch my breath again. Literally, even, the air is cleaner there than in the city where I often find it difficult to breathe.”
“I’m not really one for organising administration and all that, yet I find it surprisingly satisfying to organise and structure my archives and collections of natural finds.” These archives form a work of art by themselves: highly stacked piles of cigar boxes, minutely arranged and their contents photographed, the collection forms a Wunderkammer by its own means.
“The materials I work with are fragile, the compositions I make just as well. Maybe that’s because I’ve often perceived myself as fragile. Nature and beauty are a necessary escape to me. They provide a world where I can breathe freely and can be strong, regardless of my rather fragile health and my introvert disposition. My work lets me breathe, it provides oxygen just like the trees and the leaves I use.”
Decruyenaere’s works possess a harmonious modesty that doesn’t show its beauty at first glance. She creates by composing, by the coincidence of a deeper look.