in the Category: art
New Masters: Les Monseigneurs
Vibrant drapery adorned with florals, French texts and eerie mythical creatures. The work of Les Monseigneurs references both the brutal and the fragile, as they explained to us when we visited the Textile as Resistance exhibition, a collaboration between textile museum Texture in Kortrijk and MoMu created together with journalist Samira Bendadi and photographer Mashid Mohadjerin. Refuge, resistance, hope, happiness, tradition, beauty, spirituality and decolonization. Textiles are - and have long been - a powerful medium for the expression of identity, especially in times of war and crisis. The artistic alias of Thomas Renwart and Victor Verhelst reminisces times when tapestry would embellish the walls of castles, yet the tapestry the duo designs isn’t the product of mere nostalgia.
Interview by Stefanie de Meerleer
Photos shot by Tiny Geeroms in Texture, Kortrijk
How did your collab begin?
Thomas: We met in school four years ago. Victor wanted to make an artist book about my work as a textile designer. As we were working on that project, we noticed that there was something special in the air when we create things together. So we decided to work together full-time.
How did your journey go so far? You recently won the BKRK-award.
Victor: We can’t emphasize enough how grateful we are. We spent the past year in our studio making things that didn’t have anything to do with graphic or textile design. When we heard about the contest for the BKRK-award, we decided to enter because we trust each other blindly. We had so much fun it didn’t really matter what we made.
Thomas: It’s important to not take yourself too seriously. There’s an enormous amount of freedom, humor, emotion and friendship in our work, and that’s what is most valuable to us. Our work is based on intimate or emotional stories we share with each other. We’re not going to tell the stories though, people should be able to make their own interpretation.
Do you try to work regardless of what the current trends are?
Victor: In our final school project, the jury asked us if we worked with nature because it’s socially relevant at the moment. Most of all we include nature in our work because it’s Thomas’ passion. I’m fascinated by colors and contrasts, so we threw those two interests together. When working with nature, you can’t think in black and white. Nature is something colorful.
Victor: I loved the picture of a colorful sofa in Brussels neighbourhood Matongé.
You often use fauna and flora, but I also noticed French texts and mythical creatures in your work.
Victor: Thomas was educated in French. We could have used English or Dutch, but the French language has a certain poetic and aesthetic quality. It sounds so beautiful and fragile.
Thomas: French sounds tender, that’s the romantic aspect of our work. The brutality of Victors drawings and the softness of my words strengthen each other.
Victor: I drew the mythical creatures. As a kid I was always fascinated by monsters. I still have that childlike fantasy and we wanted to use that in our work. If you can create your own garden, you can also create your own animals.
How do you create designs for tapestry?
Thomas: It’s a continuous process of construction and destruction.
Victor: We make different pre-studies. They’re often a combination of analogue and digital techniques. Thomas likes to collect and dry flowers and I like to manipulate and accentuate them digitally. Those pre-studies result in tapestry. That’s why we’re in our studio everyday: anything that happens can have an effect on the previous day, the next one and eventually on the weaving day.
Thomas: In the second room, ‘Embroidering not to forget’, there was a picture of a vase and a bouquet. It looked so intimate and honest, you could sense the desire.
You often use overstock, how come?
Thomas: When we were weaving in Waregem, we found a basement full of stock yarns. They were rotten and would have been thrown away. We saw the beauty and creative value in them.
Victor: Using old yarns allows us to experiment. During weaving we never know which colour will come out of the machine. It’s pure rock ‘n roll.
Can you connect your work to this exhibition?
Thomas: In some figuratist works the natural elements were used to construct identity and blow off steam. Some artists were women who lost their husbands in Syria, they used nature as a therapy.
Victor: If you spend your days surrounded by war and despair, the beauty of nature becomes a metaphor for utopia. That’s something we recognize in our own work. The exhibition displays the healing power of nature beautifully in a poetic and subtle way.
Thomas: I also loved the big coat in the ‘Afghan pride’ room. The coat was made from old jackets and meant for men, but ended up being worn by women.
Was there a piece or a room that you liked in particular?
Victor: I loved the picture of a colorful sofa in Brussels neighbourhood Matongé, it was shown in the room called ‘Africa is coming’. I’m fascinated by subcultures and by people who are proud of their heritage. Matongé is a beautiful example of how culture flourishes.
Thomas: In the second room, ‘Embroidering not to forget’, there was a picture of a vase and a bouquet. It looked so intimate and honest, you could sense the desire. I also loved the big coat in the ‘Afghan pride’ room. The coat was made from old jackets and meant for men, but ended up being worn by women. The artist didn’t want to be nostalgic about her Afghan descent so she presented it rather like a statement. She combined her roots with her current surroundings.
MoMu and Texture Kortrijk present: Textile as Resistance
The protesting power of no-slogan fabrics
The exhibition runs until 16/02/2020 at Texture Kortrijk
Tuesday - Sunday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Thanks to Les Monseigneurs