New masters: Shirley Villavicencio Pizango

Every now and then, there is a nearly once-in-a-lifetime type of events for a museum, where it lays out all its cards and reshuffles them to offer a new reading of its assets for audiences to enjoy. This is it; the already outstanding Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) in Ghent revised its permanent collection last October. Interventions in various parts of the museum open a conversation between its incredible treasures from the past and the promising hopes of the future. We’ve sent Shirley Villavicencio Pizango to search inspiration, while Sybren Vanoverberghe documented her quest.

Interview by Herlinde Raeman
Photos by Sybren Vanoverberghe, shot in MSK, Ghent

Although I go to SMAK regularly, I do not often get to the other side. The last time I came here was for Luc Tuymans when I was still in school. Today felt a bit like the first time again. I do not visit museums that often – only when there is something I really want to see – and I prefer going to openings of young artists. After what I have seen today, I am inclined to go again and have a better look at the other (right) side of the building. Because you need a lot of time [Laughs].

Can you learn from that?

Yeah right! When I go to museums, I often take close-up photos. To see which paint or brushes they have used to achieve something particular. It’s a bit of an imitation, but not really. You can learn from the past. I’ve learned the techniques at school but you also have to apply them to your hand in your own way.

We have been lying on the waterbed for a while. I felt like staying. I think it’s okay to take a nap there

I work with acrylic paint because it dries very quickly and I like to work quickly and a lot. With oil paint you have to wait more and work on different works in parallel. You have to start looking at your work in layers. For example, if you use brown and you want a touch of white, you’ll have to wait so it doesn’t becomes a mixture instead of having the effect of white on brown. Sometimes you have to wait for weeks, depending on the pigment you have used. White takes a long time, for instance.

But you see the difference between oil paint and acrylic paint very well. The colors are brighter with oil. I am now starting to mix my acrylic with a product that ensures that everything shines more.

Because I am working on animals now, I was also fascinated by the landscapes with cows. During my upcoming solo at Geukens & De Vil in May, my work will revolve around how life is in the Amazon rain-forest. I spent time there to take analogue pictures of my family and their piece of land (a cocoa plantation). On the paintings with the cows, I could see their hair in detail. You can see a lot of beauty from afar, but from up close it is even more captivating.

Which works did you like the most?

  • Hubert Malfait – Self-Portrait or Harmony in White

I am very fascinated by portraits and self-portraits. That is also the subject of what I paint and the reason why my attention is drawn to it. In terms of perspective, it is also very strange. I do not look at perspective either. It’s my signature according to my teachers. My paintings always have a weird angle and it was also the case in this one.

  • Heinrich Campendonk – Young Man with Green Parrot

It seems like there is movement in the wings of the parrot. I found its figuration, angularity and combination of colors interesting. I have also made a work myself that is very dark compared to what I normally make. There is also a parrot in it and the shades are brown; that made me think of it very vividly.

  • Henri Evenepoel – The Spaniard in Paris

I think it’s impressive how artists have managed to produce paintings like this in the past.

All my career I have been working on portraits, therefore I was logically drawn to this one in particular! The painting has a lot of black, you do not really see what attitude he takes, but there is so much happening in the back; the movement, the Moulin Rouge, … I thought it was interesting because I often start with the people and only after I add the details and objects to it. If you look at the face from close, it is very nicely done with very little paint. Also when I stood in front of the work, I thought, ‘this is my style, this suits me’. If I were to be a man, I would love to dress that way. So elegant. The scarf especially got my attention. In terms of color and texture, it hardly fits the painting. It is very graphic and the rest is rather vague. And last, the frame also stands out. I am also thinking of making a framework with my name on it. I think it’s impressive how artists have managed to produce paintings like this in the past.

From 1 till 28 Feb, members have free access to From Bosch to Tuymans : a vital story at MSK, Ghent. Join here.

Catch a glimpse of Shirley’s work during the Art Group Exhibition at In De Ruimte, 16-18 Feb

Sybren is launching his book and solo exhibition at RIOT, 9 March.