in the Category: art

From the Symbolist way towards the image as a complete object

We confront recently graduated Anthony Ngoya with fellow painter and previous mentor-figure Xavier Noiret-Thomé at de Centrale in Brussels, where Noiret-Thomé is currently showing works alongside sculptures by Henk Visch. Ngoya is the perfect company since he considered himself a painter of objects before he started making paintings as objects. We meet amidst the buzz of a car-free Sunday to discuss the current exhibition at de Centrale and his own work.

Photos by Nina Linggadjaja
Interview by Louise Souvagie

You are from the rural region of Limousin in France. What attracted you to Brussels and its art scene? 

After one year at l’Académie des Beaux-Arts in Limoges, my hometown, I was left feeling disappointed. All they were interested in was pottery and ceramics. I came to Brussels once for New Year’s Eve and had a great time. I decided to give the entrance exam at La Cambre a go and got in. 

If you want to start a project in Brussels: you can

If you want to start a project in Brussels: you can. It’s easy to find people to work with and explore both small and bigger institutions. 

You’re a painter but you work in a very installative way, too. Are you a painter-turned-installation artist or the other way around? 

At the beginning, there was a lot of drawing. When I started painting, I was in fact very traditional. But then my attention shifted towards the textile, the tissue underneath. I realized a painting doesn’t need to be framed, it can be hung in the middle of a space. The object of a painting has a relation to its environment and the different surfaces. I left my clothes outside one day to dry. I thought: 'There’s an installation.'

You mentioned that Noiret-Thomé used to be your teacher. In what way did he help shape your work? 

I used to be very into a Symbolist way of painting. He took my attention away from that towards the image as a complete object, not just as a two-dimensional layer on top of a canvas. 

All of his references stem from art history. My work on the other hand is more about what type of material use can be applied to painting. A research of objects. 

Are there any other artists who impacted your way of working?

I was very influenced by the French ‘Support Surface’ art movement in the sixties. For me, they were the first ones to question 'painting in itself' and challenge it conceptually. They opened my eyes when it comes to the definition of painting as a medium.

How do you build up a work?

Sometimes it begins with a drawing, usually a simple sketch of something I’d like to try out. But more often, I find material on the street or at the recycling park. I like to collect things and have them around me in my studio. From that point onwards I can assemble them according to form or colour. Often I start by dyeing my canvas, too. It never goes according to the original plan. I happily welcome ‘l’hasard’ – chance -- in my way of working.

As an artist, I vow not to take myself too seriously. Ever

I like playing with accidents. A painting shouldn’t be harmonious, but a bit rough, almost a violent thing. I don’t like art which pats you on the back. It’s forgettable. There should at least be some kind of shock or interrogation. You need to get the public to the point where they want to understand how something was produced. 

I like the marks the guys on construction sites make while working. It’s pure gesture, unspoiled by aestheticism. It’s a dynamic I try to mimic in my own work.

One of your works is called ‘Jeux d’enfants’. Do you consider painting to be a kid’s game, too?

I have been delving into my childhood relics lately. The image was actually based on a drawing I made when I was a child.  I copied a fragment of the drawing as the foundation for the painting. It was hard to imitate something which was so unconsciously drawn.

This show was very playful. Do you relate to that?

Yes, a bit. I suppose I like my work to be a little dramatic, theatrical even. I keep an archive of images from historic geopolitical events. Not that I want to make any political statements, but almost as the reframing of a perspective. As an artist, I vow not to take myself too seriously. Ever. 


PANORAMA : Xavier Noiret-Thomé – Henk Visch
CENTRALE for contemporary art, Brussels
free for members until 31 December
Members need to book their free ticket via the website of CENTRALE.
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