Birde Vanheerswynghels Portrait
I make drawings. I draw.
I am not quite sure why I draw but it’s a fascination I had since childhood. When I am drawing my body is physically and mentally under pressure. It is this body tension that became an addiction. I need to draw the things I see in my mind – or is it my heart? Some of these drawings are representations of the real world. Then I draw from pictures I took. Other drawings derive from elsewhere and I’ve got no control over them …
The experiences or images on which my drawings are based – I like to call it ‘mental heritage’ – are not always clear to me. Sometimes I cannot find the origin of these experiences, these images.
I still remember one experience. One image. I must have been four or five years old. It was a bright and sunshiny day in spring. I see a black hole. A black hole in the ground underneath my feet. It has sort of a pink/purple texture. The black hole is, in fact, an impressive image of a tangible figure transformed in merely a flat shape. Only the impression of depth is leftover. What I am actually looking at is our cat. Our black cat run over by a car. The cat had become an image
No. I suppose this course of thinking would be too well-considered for a five-years-old. However, at that precise moment I started to be fascinated about the world. A world that can take different forms and shapes. Twenty years later I see this image again and I become aware of the fact that this experience was the beginning of a language in which I could express myself. A visual language so to say. I try to understand the complexity and uniqueness of this language every day bit by bit more and more.
The act of drawing became a constant in my life, or rather an addiction. It was my way to conquer my very own spot in this world. A world that had so many question marks. As a matter of fact, a world that still has so many question marks.
I started to copy the old masters. I was very fond of Picasso’s Blue Period. The emotional attachment I had with those paintings can be compared to a homecoming. I believe that I recognized something – in a different shape perhaps. At the time it was not so clear to me. I was not able to look at the paintings as well-thought-over as today. But I firmly believed that there was more to these paintings than meets the eye. Today I know it’s the sculpturality they contain.
When I come to think of it, it seems that my youth is filled with similar experiences as today. These experiences are some kind of analytical observations of my surrounding. I have created a visual memory. I have this inexhaustible imagination. I have chosen to look at things this way. I want to visualize my experiences. I want to make images, but I don’t like to make these images obvious.
I know why I create images. I don’t know why I make drawings. In fact I do know why I make drawings. I have always drawn, I have always taken pictures and I have always painted. I even made videos.
It’s rather a coincidence that drawing gained the upper hand in my practice. I have sort of a lifetime love story with the paper and the charcoal. I love to look at it. I long to look at it.
With drawing the material is reduced to its minimum. It is a classical way of creating an image, it’s not complex and it’s economical. With painting you need an extension for your hand. Drawing with charcoal can be compared to modeling clay for example. It’s me and my hands. I love the intimate preoccupation of drawing and the long process it takes to create an image. Normally I work four to six weeks on one image, one drawing. It brings structure in my life. Every day I go to my studio and draw. And with drawing I can go the distance. I reach my limits.
I discovered that drawing can have a big impact. I guess because it’s an archetypical medium and at the same time it’s almost controversial to draw nowadays. I find this interesting. I know I cannot work with this medium without referring to its history. I have a very one-to-one connection with its history. The images I create refer to those archetypes. But as an artist I am well aware of this time.
I create new images. Of course they are not new. They are rooted in history. My drawings are portraits and landscapes. Nevertheless I do not copy an existing image. I create again an image.
I used to make drawings based on pictures that I had found. I ripped these pictures out of magazines, downloaded them from internet or remembered them from television. Now I mostly take pictures from scenes I discover or that I create myself. This gives more autonomy to the images I create. At the same time I am the director and the editor of the image. I like to compare my images with silent movies that I have reduced to one or multiple images. How does this film start? How does this film end? And do I report on my observations?
I start with a picture (a photograph) because I believe that an imaginary world is still some kind of representation of reality. With photography I am able to capture the moment. The picture (photograph) is a representation of reality. But when I draw that picture I try to make it vivid again. The time needed for creating this image is essential to – literally -give birth to the image, to bring it alive. This time is also required to convert a colored world into a black and white one. The time that I’ve spend on an image, or rather the distance I’ve walked during this time, can never be reproduced again. That is what captivates me: the things that happen during the process of drawing. In other words the experiences I had during five, six or even seven weeks of intensive drawing.
The process of my practice consists out of several steps. First I take a picture. From this picture I draw the lines on a blanc piece of paper. Then I proceed without the picture. What happens next is that I draw from my own memory. And I do not only refer to the memory I have of the picture or the image I have of it in my mind. I also refer to a physical memory that can be compared with that of a dancer. A physical memory that takes control over my body-parts such as my hands, my arms or even my eyes.
With this way of working I have more room for improvisation. I never know the final result of my drawing. It would be sad to know that in advance I guess. Every time I start with a blanc piece of paper and let the eventual result be a surprise. I pay attention to coincidences and accidents during the process. Sometimes, many times, unpredictable things happen. It happens from within the drawing. Every image is a story that slowly comes into being. And from the one drawing I continue to the next one…
It’s not always necessary to convert a picture into a drawing. As a matter of fact my work is very intuitive. Sometimes I just change colors, resize, remove certain elements, cover it with pigment or graphite that creates a new layer which conceals every detail and neutralizes the contrast. The result is an image in which you see everything all at once. It’s a layer that brings the image closer to the viewer. It’s the way how it’s been put on paper. No. It’s not that simple.
I want to make images that resemble to the moment of opening your eyes. A moment of only looking and not proving anything. It’s a way of looking that can make the world invisible. Maybe a way of looking that is impossible due to the incompetence of people (human) or just the complexity of this act.
My images refer to the world. Or rather, a world. Let me say: I refer to a virtual world that is out of reach and that is elusive. In other words: some kind of otherness that may be part of us or maybe not, but I’m not sure how to explain it. I believe in movements that absorb us. I am trying to create images that – just like looking at the world – keep on moving. Images that are crossing different timelines. Images that are based on observations from the past and that are crossing with present observations.
According to me my studio is the place where reality and fiction intertwine on different time-scales and the endless appearance of it. Images are in constant movement and infect each other so that they mutate constantly. They grow, they shrink, they disappear and appear continuously. Just like my eyes that are in an on-going movement.
Every image, every drawing is the result of a complex, dialogue with that what is perceptible. My eyes cannot see clearly and never will. They are not able to focus. I have no peripheral vision. I have no perception of depth. I look at things like a camera does. It’s a characteristic way of looking that I do not want to neglect nor emphasize it. My perception is severely different from other people, but I hear and I feel and I have my imagination. I guess we all have an inner-eye. Everybody’s looking at the reality with its own eyes. You look at the others, especially at those you love. You’re seeing objects, you’re seeing cities and landscapes – you see your everyday environment. Our mortality and the transitoriness of objects. You see and you experience love, loneliness, happiness, sadness, fear. Everyone beholds life.
Death we can’t escape. Love happens. And we try to change what and whenever we can change something. Endless are these stories of celebrating, concealing, forgetting, transforming, recreating, discovering connections or capturing the world as completely understandable… if only for two seconds. I draw to get a grip on reality, on me being in this world, which is constantly changing.
I find consolation in the task to rediscover myself every day. This does not mean that I am somebody completely else every time. It’s more to ease the suffering I’m experiencing from the constant quest for the temporarily ‘truth’, the quest for that what awakens the being in me. It has everything to do with experiencing from within yourself. The experience of ‘being in this world.’ I am speaking about the temporarily ‘truth’ because as a human, as an artist, I am not able to see, hear, feel or speak time and time again in the same way.
Am I the images I have created? Are the images creating me? Am I constantly changing? Where do those images come from? I ask these questions every day, not looking for the answer.
// Birde Vanheerswynghels / vita
|2013-2014||HISK, Post Academic Residency, Higher Institute for Fine Arts, Ghent|
|2006-2011||Master Fine arts Sint Lucas, Ghent|
EXHIBITIONS (selected) (S= solo show)
|2018||Birde Vanheerswynghels & Sara Bjarland, Dash, Kortrijk / B|
|2017||Happy Ever After, Komplot, Brussels / B (S)|
|2017||Sylvie De Meerleer, Gideon Kiefer and Birde Vanheerswynghels, Galerie Martin Kudlek, Cologne / D|
|2016||The cat with nine lives, Galerie Tatjana Pieters, Ghent / B (S)|
|Drawing Front, Drawing Centre Diepenheim / NL|
|Jumanji Soft Focus Institute, Ghent / B|
|Baker Tilly Roelfs stipendium, KIT – Kunst Im Tunnel, Düsseldorf / D|
|2015||Terra Incognita, Poortgebouw, Antwerp / B|
|Little HISK, Poortgebouw, Antwerp / B|
|2014||Red Dawn, Final show HISK, Ghent / B|
|Verf na van Eyck, Croxhapox, Ghent / B|
|Paper Works, Galerie Tatjana Pieters, Ghent / B|
|Westenwind, Galerie Martin Kudlek, Cologne / D|
|ARTSPACE XL, Quincaillerie Vander Ecken, Brussels / B|
|HISK open studio’s, Ghent / B|
|2013||You Are Not What You Seem, Zwart Wild, Ghent / B|
|Vanity Fair: A City Under The City Skin, Oude Vismijn, Ghent / B|
|When I became an image, Tebeac KASK, Ghent / B|
|HISK open studio’s, Ghent / B|
|2012||GROUP SHOW, G11, Berlin / D|
|Gute Naht, Tapir, Berlin / D|
|2011||I+I=II, tamtam, Berlin / D|
|HET ON(VER)DRAAGLIJKE, Anatomisch Theater, Leuven / B|
|2010||The sky touches the earth and the earth touches the sky, CEAC (Chinese European Art Centre) Xiamen / CN|
|2013||The Big Draw, SMAK, Ghent / B|
This is Belgium – Birde Vanheerswynghels, 2017
The cat with nine lifes, The Word Magazine, 2016
Terra Incognita, catalogue KIT- Kunst Im Tunnel, 2015
Red Dawn, catalogue HISK, 2014
PARK art magazine #4 January 2013
Ruby #61 March 2012
DRUKS magazine nr.1 March 2011
Bld nr.2 (imagemagazine). June 2010
Bld nr.3 (imagemagazine). June 2011
AWARDS / GRANTS
|2015||Baker Tilly Roelfs stipendium for the contribution to Terra Incognita at KIT-Kunst Im Tunnel, Düsseldorf / D|
|Development grant from the Flemish Government, Ministry of Culture, Belgium|
Cité internationale des Arts (June- September 2013) Paris
Kunstprojektraum Tapir (March 2012) Berlin
Boiling point PRESS (February 2012) Berlin
Takt kunstprojektraum (October-January 2011) Berlin