in the Category: art
You can read our work in a similar way, the exhibitions visually harmonise
Two solo exhibitions recently opened at De Garage in Mechelen: Doppelganger by Hans Demeulenaere and Eén enorme seconde by Rein Dufait. While they were putting the finishing touches on their shows, we exchanged views on materiality, conceptual art and working together. The two artists, who met each other at an artist book fair, bring together artworks from a range of different media – drawings, architectural constructions, sculptures, books – that create a visual dialogue through the museum space.
Interview by Sofie Frederix
Photos shot in Mechelen by Sepideh Farvardin
How would you describe your work?
Hans: Collaboration is an important part of my practice. In the exhibition, I have a lot of interactions with other artists. Even if there is no interaction, there is a reference. Spatial Gestures, a work consisting of pedestals with chairs, is an example of that. It’s a collaboration with Dimitri Vangrunderbeek: he refers to Gerrit Rietveld while I refer to the Italian designer Enzo Mari.
Rein: It’s about fundamental ideas, selection, working. It’s about things that matter in the world. As Hugo Claus put it, ‘Form and content are one, and if the content comes from me, the work must also have my form.’
What are the connections between both exhibitions?
Hans: There is a connection in how we work with books and approach materiality. We both show sculptures on an autonomous base. I also like the conceptual aspects of Reins' work. You can read our work in a similar way. In this way, the two solo exhibitions visually harmonize.
Rein, why did you choose the title Eén enorme seconde?
Rein: It’s from a sentence in Samuel Beckett’s Stories and Texts for Nothing, which my brother gave me. It’s a good title to unite various works from different years, and it brings some kind of focus. I have done a lot of my work in one second, anyway.
Even if there is no interaction, there is a reference
How do your artist books relate to your sculptural work?
Rein: They’re on the same level for me. Of course, there is a difference: my books are not objects, they’re books. Sometimes I’m tired of working standing, so I sit to make books or drawings, although my work has nothing to do with sitting.
Hans: It’s a different experience. You need an exhibition in some kind of architectural space to show sculpture. An artist book is already an exhibition in itself.
Rein: There’s a direct link with sculpture in the sense that I often use the same material: sometimes forms and ideas cross. I use different knowledge and apply it to other domains.
What’s your vision on materiality?
Rein: The material is not that important until it is. I could take almost anything in my studio and make a piece out of it. It’s a matter of making the right decisions: as long as there’s motion, you can select a direction.
Hans: For me, materiality is always connected to the constructive aspect of my work, although you can’t separate the visual from it either. The color or wood grain, for example, determine my work as well.
Hans, you published an artist book for this exhibition, Sammlung. How does this book relate to notions of collecting, museums and assemblage?
Hans: The publication is a collection of spatial collages. I collect objects and materials in my studio, a bit like Rein does and start building or making assemblages. One work inspires me to make another. Sometimes I also deconstruct an existing work to make a new work with it. Sammlung is a collection but it has no end. It’s not fixed.
It’s a matter of making the right decisions: as long as there’s motion, you can select a direction
Can you tell us a bit more about the title of your exhibition, Doppelganger?
Hans: I was watching a movie about a murderer who was a doppelganger. Then I thought, ‘That would be a nice title!’ [laughs] I specifically chose this word because of all the collaborations. What I’m actually doing is placing myself in the work of another artist and vice-versa, so we both become a doppelganger of each other.
How did you experience these various collaborations?
Hans: It’s always different. It depends on how the other artist prefers to work. For the work I created with Jochem van Laarhoven and Bas Van Den Durk I rather acted as a curator. I created a scenography with which they interacted. You have to trust each other and say everything you do is fine. Good dialogue and preparation are part of a collaboration.
What I’m doing is placing myself in the work of another artist and vice-versa, so we both become a doppelganger of each other
Would you typify your work as conceptual?
Hans: For me, my work is conceptual but there’s also a link to architecture and sculpture.
Rein: It’s rather conceptual - yes and no, but slightly more yes. It’s about everything that relates to the material world: proportion, form, space. How you connect things, how you create verticality, how you can twist or add colors, how things disappear, how materials compete against each other: that’s essential. A good idea alone doesn’t function as an artwork.
What’s your favorite artwork from each other?
Rein: I really like Tarzan, the work with the drumstick.
Hans: It’s because the drumstick is fixed with elastics. It was a trial-and-error process and this is similar to Rein's way of working.
Rein: No, for me it always works in one go! [laughs]
Hans: For me, it’s the layered concrete piece on the ground.
Rein: It’s the only one that doesn’t have a title yet.