p o l y m o r p h i c _ d r e a m s

The Polymorpic Dreams of Wouter van de Koot

Published on Mutant Invasion by Ignasi Centelles / 13/10/2011

It wasn’t just like any other Sunday, ok weather was crap, it rained and it was windy as usual, but it wasn’t just like any other Sunday.

I felt something special would happen because I was summoned to THE SWITCH – an exhibition opening at Ponyhof Gallery in Antwerp – where I would interview WOUTER VAN DE KOOT one of the most rapidly rising talents in the art scene in Belgium and Holland.

So there I was, ready to meet one of the most interesting emerging artists in Belgium and hoping to discover his secrets. “I started out studying graphic design but at some point during my art studies, I switched to painting, although I still use some digital techniques during my work process”, he mentions to break the ice, just a few minutes before the official opening of the event. Pointing to his drawings he adds “Somehow I prefer the fluidity and directness of watercolor and ink to other media. In my watercolors I use the white of the paper as one would use negative space in sculpture.”

Wouter van de Koot and Liv vaisberg

Liv Vaisberg, Ponyhof Gallery’s director, goes up and down tying up the event’s last loose ends and promises to have a sit with us when everything is ready. She seems relaxed. I guess she knows THE SWITCH will be a success even before the fireworks start. “I would like to see my paintings in a museum at a certain point but I certainly enjoy the feeling of urgency that one-day pop ups create and I like this space. It facilitates contact with the viewer” says Wouter “it’s the perfect spot to show the development of my creative process, I take an image and I invite he viewer to observe it in different forms. It is in fact a very simple exercise yet sometimes not obvious to realize that an image can be seen in different ways”. He is not making a conceptual theory, it is actually what THE SWITCH is all about, one image with several treatments, yet it is not a just style exercises, it is his personal approach to art, the depiction of absence, and one can see his hand behind every stroke “a challenge for the viewer, a game”.

Indeed, yet being a serious artist his creative process looks very game-like. He dresses up (a surgeon outfit is recurrent) and exposes himself to the camera trying to find a special “action”: Something that is simple and improvised, with emotional shapes, contrasts and colors. Once he has found that instant he plays with it, reworks the initial image and brings it to completely different stages. Results may vary: figurative and abstract but still the same image. He has control over the game, not much is improvised. “I have a very clear idea of what I want when facing the canvas, so the best work is made pretty straightforward, with one or two moments of improvisation or insight to take the work to another level. When the work oozes inner tension it’s finished. Then most of the times I just keep it for myself, I’ve only shown to anyone 30% of my production, the rest is at home or in the trash bin” he recognizes.

Even being both the painter and the subject he doesn’t consider his works to be completely autobiographical “I project my fears, fantasies and dreams onto the characters I create, so they may appeal to other people with the same fears and fantasies” focusing on that and exploring a personal style based on the absence of colour as a key element of his compositions he has succeeded to get away from mainstream trends that “come and go cyclically”

At that point early birds start to show up, Wouter breathes deeply and ends the conversation “let the games begin” he concludes. I stay there for a few more minutes, enough to witness how the fascinated visitors fall under the spell of possibly the most thrilling emerging artist in town.

It wasn’t just like any other Sunday….

Text: Ignasi Centelles.