Atelier

Residence at ARC, Romainmôtier, Switzerland

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Arc is a residency for research and dialogue. It facilitates exchange and collaboration in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Artists and experts from different backgrounds are invited to appropriate the place over time, to critically reflect upon their practice, experiment and take their work forward, through shared activities and encounters.

During my stay at Arc, from 2 till 20 Oktober I will be exploring in what way our play as children influences our professional (art) careers and I plan on creating a new modular art work based on this research.

Our society limits play to the realm of the child, but do we really know the impact of play? How does play result in differences in architecture, construction and in the urban landscape?

For more information: ARC / artist residency

Selected for the Artist residency swap with Finland

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Curator Anni Fahler and artist Timo Wright are launching ARS – Artist Residency Swap, a new artist exchange pilot programme in the Benelux. The idea behind the programme is a platform where artists can swap both their work space and home with another artist from a different country. The goal is to create a space where artists all over the world can connect through their profile in order to not only share their work and living space, but also experiences and insights.

The activity between Finland and the Benelux begins with a pilot exchange programme partly funded by the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux, and involves two artists from both areas swapping their homes and work spaces. The open-call closed in July, and the participating artists, who will swap homes and work spaces in the end of September, have now been chosen:

Billie Hanne (Brussels/Belgium) and Anna Knappe (Helsinki/Finland)

Conrad Willems (Ghent/ Belgium) and Sivi Valima (Helsinki/Finland)

ARS – Artist Residency Swap is a side project by the Finnish gallery Unknown Cargo. The gallery was created in 2011, and began expanding its activities to the Nordic countries in 2015. The name of each artist is revealed only after their exhibition, letting the artist create freely and without expectations.

Winner of the Godecharle prize for Sculpture 2017

At the beginning of March, I received an email that I was selected as one of 4 sculptors as candidates for the Godecharle prize.

Organised for the first time in 1881 by Napoléon Godecharle in honour of his late father, renowned sculptor Gilles-Lambert Godecharle, the prize aims to promote the education of young Belgian artists - sculptors, painters and architects. Over the last 128 years, many famous painters, sculptors and architects have accepted to be members of the prize jury. Amongst them Emile Claus, Paul Delvaux, Fernand Knopff, Constant Permeke, Jean Brusselmans and Pierre Alechinsky. Some of the winners of the prize became very successful afterwards, further increasing the prestige of the award. These include Victor Horta, Egide Rombaux, Victor Rousseau and Guillaume Van Strydonck.

To take part in the contest proceedings, I was invited on Wednesday 22th of March to a remote farm near Wavre. Together with the other selected candidates (4 for each discipline - sculpting, painting, architecture) we received an overarching theme. The theme for the whole group this year was Palimpsest. We had until Sunday 26th to present a finished work in line with this theme. 

Without knowing the theme in advance, we had been asked to bring whatever we needed to produce a work. I had loaned my father's pick-up truck and brought with me 500 bricks, two pieces of paper, ink and a couple of thin brushes.

The following days we each worked hard and got to know each other over copious meals and late-night discussions. It was very interesting to see how my collegues tackled the theme and how we used each other to streamline our thoughts and ideas.

I started out with the bricks I brought and decided to embed one in the soil of the farm. From thereon things evolved through numerous in-situ installations rather than through theorizing. Over the following days, the installations became less and less about the bricks and more about the incisions they left in the soil - the rewriting of a place, a site, a landscape. 

I wrote down the decision and installations I made throughout the days and also combined this in a drawing. On Sunday, instead of handing over a sculpture, I handed in the drawing and 1 signed brick. The final work was a site-specific installation with wooden beams and incisions in the grass, but the evolution to get to this work is just as important here. A couple of weeks later, I had to defend the site-specific installations I made for a jury. Shortly after this, we knew who won the prize in each category, this was followed by the opening of the Godecharle group exhibition in the Academy of fine Arts in Brussels. 

 

First look: Construction III

After almost a year of planning and production, I received the finalized stone blocks for Construction III in my atelier.

This third installment of the Construction series consists of 540 Travertine Silver blocks and a framed hand-drawn construction drawing. The blocks have been cut and sanded into 10 different basic shapes, based on children's wooden toy blocks. These are built into the construction from the drawing on black paper. The blocks are not affixed in any way, but placed on top of each other in a specific building order.

The Travertine has an enormous variety in color en texture, which gives this work incredible depth. This is also the first work in the Construction series that is completely self-supporting, without an internal load-bearing structure. 

A professional photoshoot has been planned but I'm already proud to show a couple of teaser close-ups I took myself.

Demolition of the Gerald the Devil Castle

A sign has been put down at the Gerald the Devil castle - an important historical building from the 13th century in the centre of Ghent - announcing that certain historical elements would be demolished. Stones were seen lying on the inner courtyard. 

The Gothic building, one of the first stone houses in Ghent and former State Archives, has seen numerous renovations since the Middle Ages. Today it has become difficult to even recognize its original structure. Precisely these renovations were beiing "revoked" according to the announcement, removing the "Disneyfied" non-original elements to reveal the core of the original structure.

Curious passers-by
Passers-by and tourists needn't to worry. The announcement looked very similar to a building permit announcement, but was actually part of my latest art project. The stones thrown down from the rooftop were not coming from castle's structure.

Criticism on urban planning
The symbolic demolition was the result of an investigation I've done regarding the history of the Devil's castle. It has seen many forms and functions but also has been made more attractive for tourists to look at over the years. This is exemplary for a wider Disneyfication of the historical city of Ghent. There is for example an ever-ongoing "restoration" of the Counts Castle (after 20 years of restoration it is more fiction than fact), ubiquitous facade architecture where the actual buildings are being demolished but the facades are left alone, and the ongoing redevelopment of the city as an open-air pedestrian shopping mall.

1.6 tons of bricks
Between 16/01 and 15/02 I carried 1000 bricks (1.6 tonnes) to the roof and threw them down in the - private and enclosed - courtyard. Every week I'd put up a new announcement board, each with a new reason for the symbolic demolition, threatening to remove the embattlements, rebuild the Castle in a contemporary style, or to convert it into an artist's asylum.

This action aimed to dispers disinformation, which today has become increasingly difficult to distinguish from actual information. The pile of stones in the garden formed a temporary sculpture. The one-month performance was titled "Deconstruction I".

In July 2017 an exhibition about this and 5 other performances at the castle will take place in it's medieval basements. 

More information on the project and its organisation: Yart

Compostition I

I've started on a new series in concrete, using the same wooden building blocks I use for the Construction series as a basis. Not for constructions this time, but for compositions. 

When I got my first building blocks, I was just a very young child. The blocks were transported in a wooden crate on wheels, with a lid that slid off.
When the lid came off, the blocks formed a neat surface of perfectly arranged blocks. To me, this was a magical moment of possibility, I could make anything I wanted. Starting from a neat and almost 2D surface, 3D objects emerged. And then later, when playtime was over, the blocks needed to be fitted back into their container, always in a new order, as long as they fitted. 

This moment, this joy and sense of possibility and new beginnings, of playtime, is what I started from. The compositions of wooden building blocks were translated into fixed concrete casts, scale 1:1. Once framed, their surface almost becomes 2D, but it is actually a bas relief. 

This fist cast will be executed five times, in five different colors of integrally colored concrete. I'm already working on the second cast, which has the same scale but uses three times more blocks. 

Brick works

Looking for new ways to build. Once the weather improves I'll be attempting large scale outdoor structures!

24 meters of mural @ STAM / Ghent city museum

The STAM Ghent city museum invited me as one of 4 artist to come and make a mural with tape. Visitors could get some tape and give it a try on a separate wall. My wall piece ended up 6 meters long and connected to the work of the other artists, for a total of 24 meters of mural! 

Check the pictures for the process and the end result above.

(pictures by Michiel De Vyver & Phile Deprez)

Launch Production on Construction III

I'm very excited to announce we have started the production on Construction III, the latest installment to the Construction Series.

Following the Construction Series' rules, number III consists of an original architectural structure and a technical drawing, and will be executed in it's unique stone. We've chosen the gorgeous Travertine Silver, an Italian natural stone used since the beginning of architecture as a building material. It comes in a range of colors ranging from white to red, always marked by sedimentary lines and pitted holed on the surface. Ours will be the color Silver, a richly shaded warm grey.

For the first time, the construction will be 100% load bearing. Construction I and II had an internal volume in plywood to reduce cost and weight. Construction III will be built fully in stone cubes in a vaulted construction, a technique comparable to a roman arch bridge. Two openings in the sides of the construction and an oculus in the roof will provide a view into the structure's internal architecture.

The finished construction - consisting of 540 pieces - will measure 1m20 in height, but will be presented on a higher made-to-measure plinth. 

Dhondt-Dhaenens auction

The Dhondt-Dhaenens museum celebrated its tenth annual garden party. Each year, they organize a charity auction to fund their own operation. This year, Christie's was responsible for the auction of a large number of works of art, donated by artists, galleries and collectors. Besides a number of established artists, there was also a selection of 30 young artist, who were nominated by art world insiders.

I was nominated by Monia Warnez, a Belgian "young collector" and co-owner of the Fotorama fine art prints studio.
For the young artists auction, I donated "Study No.10, drawing included".

This was the first time I presented one of the clay studies as a work. I'd included an original drawing, meant to be presented together.

The party and auction were an incredible succes, fetching over 200.000 euros for the museum's operation.
"Study No.10" performed very well, with bidding ending up 50% higher than its estimate.

Tryptic limited edition

Tryptic is a dialogue piece between my parents and myself. My father has studied graphic design, but worked as a travel agent his entire career and has recently retired. My mother is a philosophy professor and author, but started making drawings in her late forties. They have been divorced for over 20 years. 

After finding some old drawings from my father on the attic, I recognized my own way of working in them, using pen and ink, patience and hard work. My mothers work has the same qualities but with a very different result. I decided to try and make a work combining all three. 

I cut 3 pieces of paper in the same size, made a drawing on the first and asked my father and mother to each respond to my work on their own piece of paper. On the left is my father's response, on the right my mother's. 

Because of the very intimate nature of the work and its unique position within my oeuvre, I had decided in advance never to sell it. 

After a couple of serious enquiries from prospective buyers specifically for this work, we have agreed to make a limited number of prints available. This museum quality reproduction (Printed by Fotorama Fine Art) uses light and colorfast ink on acid free paper. The three pieces of the tryptic will each be framed separately in an acid free oak frame. Only ten prints will be made, each signed an numbered.

Size: 58cm x 35cm x 2cm

For inquiries, please email conradwillems@wambach.be

Museumnacht Antwerpen / Construction II

I am very proud to announce that Construction II will be shown at Katoen Natie HeadquARTers during the Museumnacht Antwerpen.
HeadquARTers selected this work through a competition with 500 entries, 60 of which aiming for this location. Construction II will be displayed solo for a full week. 

As a performance, I will be installing the construction between 7 and 10 pm on the 6th of August. 
Don't forget to swing by on your Museumnacht tour!

41 Variations

When we produced Construction I in white sandstone, the manufacturer made 41 cubes more than necessary.  

These 41 cubes are not needed for the construction itself and were left untouched in my studio for many months. As I am unable to refrain myself from making constructions with anything I can lay my hands on, I started making a series of drawings based on the varying constructions I could make using these 41 cubes.

The rules are simple: each time I build a new construction using all 41 building blocks. After sketching, I then draw the four side views and superimpose a perspective drawing of the construction. I then carefully draw the lines for the background.
By early October, I should have 41 unique drawings of 41 the different constructions that have each only been made once and then destroyed again. Each drawing will be sold with one of the individual building blocks. 

In October, I will present the work in full: a construction using all 41 building blocks and the 41 different drawings. 

More information on this project will follow in September. 

Working with old photographs

10 years ago I made a series of approximately 50 black and white photographs. I printed them myself, using a gelatine silver printing process. The photographs show different setups of my large Cubicles installation I started as an art student. 

I still work with these Cubicles and each time I show them I produce more.

Recently I've been trying to work these photographs. Amongst the 50 photos I found this self portrait and started working on it with brush and ink. I'm not sure yet what these will become, but I will work on a couple of them to find out.

A sense of scale

Hands can bear a broad scope of meanings. I use my hands to draw, to sculpt, to stack objects. More than anything, they are the tools I use to see and build my world.

While documenting Construction II, photographer Cedric Verhelst decided to take some pictures of my hands to give a sense of scale to the Belgian fossil building blocks, which range from 1,4 kg to 5 kg.

Limited edition Photography Construction II

I am happy to present a limited edition of 5 photographs showing close-ups of Construction II. Each of the 5 photograph will be for sale in a limited edition of 5 prints each.

We are using the high quality Platinum Paladium printing proces, an amazing photography process which can really only be judged on the actual print. We've had ours printed by Manuel Gomes Teixeira, a specialist based in Aveiro, Portugal. 

The photographs are made by Cedric Verhelst, a young and talented photographer from Ghent with whom I have worked before for documentation and process pictures.

Each of the photographs will be framed in a museum-quality frame with anti-reflecting glass. They will be signed and numbered in crayon in front and with ink on the back. Each photograph will be sold with a certificate signed by the artist and the photographer.

Process: Platinum Palladium Print

Paper: Arches Platine, 310g

Size: 30cm x 22,5cm

For inquiries, please email conradwillems@wambach.be

A new studio in an interbellum building

In November 2015, I took residence into a new and fantastic studio: a gorgeous 60-square-meter space with 5m-high ceilings, flooded with natural light. The space is the former principle's office of a disused Veterinary School which was empty for 20 years. 

Nucleo is an organization seeking out spaces like this and turning them into temporary (1-5 years) artist studios. The gorgeous interbellum building by Ghent architect Valentin Vaerwyck now houses 17 individual studios and a large shared studio space, as well as an exhibition space. 

One week of Italian sculpting

At the beginning of September 2015, I travelled 1400 km to the charming Tuscan village of Volterra for a an intensive one-week sculpting course. 

Even though I've actually got a master's in Sculpting, I've never really carved in stone. During my training and after that, I mainly focussed on installations, drawings and performances. So this week in Italy was my first real experience with working in stone. We've worked in alabaster from the Volterra quarries and marble from the Carrara quarries. 

The resulting piece can only be presented as an exercise, not as a finished work. The slideshow above shows the process of carving a first corner and after that 1/8 of a sphere. My interest in geometry proved an asset: a nicely rounded surface can only be reached through facets, like the faces of a diamond. By gradually working from larger to smaller facets, the stone eventually curves. The final step is then to sand the surface.

After the 1/8 sphere was finished, I started freewheeling a bit, drawing on and cutting into the marble, experimenting with shapes and techniques. 

The final 3 photos show the sculpture exercise in its current shape. Now to buy a set of chisels so I can work some more on it in Belgium.