During these weeks of social distancing, Galerie Jos Depypere is thinking about a way to bring art closer to its collectors. By sharing a glimpse of the daily lives of our artists confined to their home and atelier, we hope that we can build an imaginary bridge between our artists and collectors during these weird times of Covid-19.
Has this situation changed your daily life? This situation brings me back to the essence of what I feel is important. Everyday life was previously a tangle of activities that all screamed for attention: the artistic projects were sometimes even overshadowed by organizational concerns, e-mails and telephones, exhibitions, fairs, … With the outbreak of the corona crisis, the balance is suddenly the other way around. No more urgent practical matters, no more deadlines, a very welcome sea of peace and freedom that offers a double opportunity: on the one hand, to continue to work on the current artistic projects with more concentration than ever before, and also to breed new ideas, on the other hand now that the treadmill has come to a halt : a unique opportunity to stand still, crawl in a helicopter and see everything from a distance and see what is really important in life, a bit like the card of the hanged man in the Tarot. It is already one of my plans to build in more periods of similar isolation in the future.
Could you tell us what a typical day in your atelier looks like? There are days of magic and days of work. I miss the days of magic at the moment, these are the days when I bring scenes to life with models and assistants, where we try to create that one magical moment where everything coincides: idea, aesthetics, composition, expression … But yes, at the moment there are necessarily only days of work. They also have their charm, but they are more even. When I wake up from my dream in the morning I try to hold on to them, to remember the visions and dreams. Starting the day is quite a ritual, involving a warm bath, meditation, coffee and a breakfast overflowing with fruit. The morning is usually dedicated to on organizational issues: e-mailing, telephoning, backups,… fortunately, those activities have now been greatly reduced, so I often find time in the morning for more creative matters, or for a good telephone conversation with a fellow artist, gallerist, friend … There are no trips these days either, so a lunch in a family circle and then plenty of time for creation. I am very fortunate that I am currently on top of a lot of material that still has to be worked out: photo and video shoots of a whole year that should result in a new book, a video, a new website. At the moment, the creative piece consists to a large extent of post-processing, layout, programming … but also sketches, collecting ideas for new projects. The latter activity now continues into the evening: (re) reading classical literature and philosophy, viewing art documentaries, delving into other artists (currently Marcel Mariën and Broodthaers). It is of course also an ideal time for cleaning and creating order. This is urgently needed, because since that there are no more exhibitions and fairs, the works are piling up here. Still, I’m not so convinced of the need for too much order and tidiness: creativity thrives on chaos. My wife only agrees to a certain extent.
Has the confinement changed your point of view on art? This crisis suddenly makes it clear that the themes I work on are only growing more imporant. Somehow, after the Divine Comedy, Autopia and Flora and the Water Warriors, I felt that the message was clear and full circle. For ten years I have been updating stories and myths, creating a new gospel, with the message that we must revise some fundamental values and create new gods for the society of the future. Less male egocentric heroism and the urge to win, more female social empathy, that is one of the central themes, and that’s exactly what this crisis once more shows.
Do you believe that art can help people during this strange period of time? What really flatters the ego is that collectors, some of them from the very beginning, are now sending me selfies with my work in the background in their home or business, happily declaring that they can enjoy these works right now. I never believed that art should necessarily be able to help people, but apparently the fact remains that there can be some comfort and joy in art, that it confirms to people that life is not just doom and gloom but also moments of enjoyment of any kind. That must not only be beauty, it can also be intelligence, humor, wonder, an insight … Art can certainly tell stories, connect people, stimulate their imagination and their consciousness, make them dream of another world, and that is more important than ever at the moment.
What is the first thing you wish to do when this is all over? What we did right before the quarantine started: go have dinner at the Italian restaurant at the corner of the street. But first and foremost, re-establish ties with family and close friends. At the same time, my fingers have been itching for a long time to use new media in addition to photography (in which I can further deepen my familiar themes). In recent years I have regularly introduced performances and installations in my work (Autopia), and video (The Anatomy of Beauty, All About Eve) of course. Sculpture has recently been added. For example, I am currently working on a bronze statue of the Minotaur, this time not beaten by a Theseus with a sword, but by a dancing Ariadne. There are many parallels to the present and the near future, right?