In a quiet residential area of Antwerp you’ll find Kunsthal Extra City, an exhibition space that houses, among others, the workplace of artist Tom Volkaert. His art is solid, straightforward and seemingly in opposition to the fleetingness of contemporary society. Though he has a graphic background, the two-dimensional world never fully satisfied Volkaert. So he started to translate his ideas into 3D while still considering his sculptures as drawings and shapes. With a cup of warm coffee in our hands we chatted about his views on the art industry
Interview by Laura Ramos
Photos shot by Tiny Geeroms in the artist’s studio in Antwerp
What I noticed about your work is that it’s very sturdy. You tend to use a lot of heavy, primary materials like concrete and metal. Is that a deliberate choice?
When I started making things I was looking for cheap materials to experiment with, so I started working with concrete. I immediately had an affinity with it because it’s so easy to manipulate, almost like clay. I prefer to be able to control the whole creative process, which is why I wouldn’t make bronze sculptures, for example, as I’d have to get them moulded by someone else.
Raw materials also allow the art to be imperfect. When I work with ceramics or concrete, and it cracks or breaks, it gives the art a new layer, which I like. By now I’ve mastered the material a lot better, so my pieces don’t break anymore. Sometimes I miss those imperfections, they tell a story that my new, unbroken work just doesn’t.
Raw materials allow art to be imperfect
It’s almost like the firm nature of your art tries to defy the fleeting nature and rush of our current society. Is that something you think about?
In a way, yes. Even though I’ve been doing this for years, things only really started to move forward when I had my solo exhibition at Hole of the Fox. The art industry is very ephemeral, it’s all about making the right moves at the right time. So I’m aware it could easily be over again soon.
I guess as our society is always changing, so does art.
Yes, but I deliberately try to avoid making my art a reflection of our society. I always put amusement above argument and try not to communicate political stances in my art. The only stance I do want to make is to ridicule the sacralisation of art. Once an artwork leaves the hand of the artist, it becomes something sacred. You’re no longer allowed to touch it and that annoys me. Often, art is just a simple object yet it tends to be exalted to something much bigger. If you break something in my studio, it won’t cost you anything. If you break something in a museum, however, that would be a whole different story.