More SOFT? in the city: A talk with gallerists Sofie Van de Velde and Jason Poirier dit Caulier
Gallery Sofie Van de Velde
How did you interpret the subject ‘textile’ in the exhibition?
SVDV: For ‘SOFT?’ we wanted to show works of art that emphasise the surface of textile. The artists in our exhibition use textiles as a vehicle, as a means to achieve something more. Sara Sizer, for example, uses velvet of which she removes the colour in order to create an abstract surface. This way, she emphasizes the properties of the fabric while alienating it at the same time.
In your exhibitions, you often combine the work of more established artists with a younger ‘new’ generation. Which young artists did you collaborate with this time?
SVDV: It is indeed the vision of our gallery to bring artists together from different generations. We present two young artists that we have never shown before: Robert Roest and Laure Forêt, who approach textile in their own peculiar way. Roest approaches it from a digital perspective, while Forêt focuses on the aspect of craftsmanship and the human touch.
Will you show pieces by artists who are not particularly known for their use of textiles?
SVDV: Certainly, Perry Roberts, for example. He is known for his post-minimalist works, but for his latest series he developed his own textile technique. By combining and sewing together fragments of different materials, he pursues his love for the aesthetic qualities of linen, canvas, and cotton. By adding artisanal steps in this process, he embraces ‘accidents’. This human presence breaks with the remoteness and distance of post-minimalism.
PLUS-ONE Gallery on the Sint-Hubertusstraat used to be a fabric merchant warehouse. Did this history inspire you to at least once want to work with the subject of textile?
JPC: Jewish fabric merchant Louis Lebedoff had his studio and storage here since 1902. It has always been on my mind to refer to this in one way or another. The extra muros exhibition of MoMu was the ideal opportunity. It is nice to revive that part of history. At the entrance of the exhibition the ‘jeans jackets’ of Nel Aerts will be presented as a collection. This installation is our ode to the functionality and materiality of textiles and to the beautiful past of our gallery space. I quite like that crossover between art and functionality… or how we are able to interweave art with our daily lives.
While the exhibition seamlessly fits with ‘SOFT? Tactile Dialogues’, it is also a very personal curation. Which artists do you bring together?
JPC: The exchange with MoMu determinating which artists we would feature was great. On the one hand, we present work by artists with whom the gallery already cooperates and whose work can also be seen at the main location (Maurice Verbaet Center), such as Nel Aerts and Sven ’t Jolle. It was interesting to discover how different artists with whom we collaborate have a special relationship with textiles as a medium and/or concept within their own practice. In addition, we refer to the current and upcoming exhibitions in the gallery on the Nieuw Zuid with artists like the German Jenny Brosinski and the American Nicholas William Johnson. We also show work by deceased artists who were good friends of my father, such as Guy Mees and Bernd Lohaus. Surrounded by ‘younger’ artists, their work does not lose any relevance… quite the contrary.
On the poster we see ‘Command me to be well’, a work of art by Jenny Brosinski. She is known to interact with her canvas in a very intimate way.
JPC: That’s right, some of her canvases are altered in the shower or even in the washing machine and dryer. This gives surprising and uncontrollable results. In addition, this process softens the canvas even more, making it feel like clothes or bedding. Jenny then marks and finishes her canvases with oil paint, spray paint, or charcoal to give it an extra dimension. Her uncoordinated compositions reveal traces of use, showing the tactility and materiality of her canvas.