Published on Apr 28th, 2016

Assistant Curator, Helen Turner talks about her experience in Brussels and participation in Poppositions Art Fair last week.

Wallpaper: POLAR, An exhibition by Marina Pinsky until June 4th 2016, C-L-E-A-R-I-N-G, Brussels

The simple poetry of hunger, shelter, expression. This is what unites us. Plateaus our differences and highlights the monstrosity of relentless global violence.

I make these remarks in the context of Molenbeek, where I exhibited a small selection of artists as part of Poppositions; an alternative art fair that provides a platform for emerging art-makers and curators to showcase their work. This exists alongside the 2 major fairs, Art Brussels and Independent, who annually draw the art world to this nook of the world, which has recently exposed its plagued conflict in communication and incapacity to deal with the global threat of terror.

In the wake of March 22nd many major galleries were reluctant to proceed with their participation and many international collectors sided with their embassy’s advice to avoid travel to Brussels. And so here terrorism inescapably succeeds.

Official hyperbole, perhaps, but as a woman gracing the streets of Molenbeek the ugly reality of misogynism, and therefore terror, was perceptively real. Lost whispers for the most part but also physical and violent manhandling, each equally as abhorrent as the other, was directed at my female-ness, not (I felt) my western-ness. My liberty to walk where and when I like suddenly became a privilege I must, yes demand, but also respect for shamefully not all woman on the globe are permitted to exist without fear.

LaVallee, Molenbeek, Brussels
LaVallee, Molenbeek, Brussels

This is not to say that the people of Molenbeek, the prevalent and evident male Arab community who live here, were not consciously and furiously in favour of the prevention of dividing communities and perpetuating antagonism. I have heard miraculous stories of simple human kindness within this context, where polarized communities have melanged. One such myth exists that the renowned art collector Michael Hort was reportedly lost in Molenbeek looking for Poppositions, when a local Moroccan green grocer offered him a simple and un-heroic act of kindness and drove him to the fair. It is here in these small, momentary and commonly overlooked acts where defiance in the face of adversity triumphs. The heroism is contextual.

With this in mind I have chosen to celebrate 3 art works from this important week of art that (to me) relinquish irony and champion sincerity.

Crème De by Victoria Adam, WRONGUNS, AGENCY AGENCY

In the work Crème De by Victoria Adam two prosaic bottle caps have been calmly and carefully pushed through setting plaster and left to monumentalize this gentle process. Simple and unostentatious this work has always calmly resonated with me due to its analogy of making art; the desire to deposit a feeling or make a gesture in the world. 

Art Nouveau house, 20 Rue Washington, Ixelles, Brussels

Group show Made in Oven, Rodolphe Jannsen

The ostensibly wild exhibition ‘Made in Oven’ at Rodolphe Janssen in collaboration with the celebrated Belgian florist Thierry Boutemy showcases ceramic works by Eric Croes, Dan McCarthy, Dionisis Kavallieratos and Gert & Uwe Tobias. Although there is now of course an outsider currency being manipulated to hip effect in contemporary art, I found an integral humility in these ceramic works. Throughout the space Dan McCarthy’s vases, that sport wonky clown faces, are filled with an awe-inspiring display of flowers, whilst Eric Croes totemic snowman heads peer out from behind mazes of green hedges and Dionisis Kavallieratos’ ceramic vegetable sculpture confronts you upon entrance into the space. There is sincerity to all these artists’ works in their detectable struggle and enjoyment to work with an unfamiliar material.

POLAR by Marina Pinsky, C-L-E-A-R-I-N-G 

Marina Pinsky’s wallpaper work at C-L-E-A-R-I-N-G captures the eclectic and frequently astounding feeling of Brussels, through her wallpaper that covers the entire ground floor of this Avenue Louise gallery. Representations of the diverse range of architecture found in Brussels are framed in cloudbursts and surrounded by the multiple variations of rain (who knew!) that is frequently experienced by the Bruxellois. Interested in site-specificity Marina’s work is refreshingly uncomplicated and merely seeks to encapsulate its momentary location at C-L-E-A-R-I-N-G, which overlooks the busy Belgian Ring road that circles the city that is often used as a concrete voodoo for the Brussels people to express their frustration.

To me Pinsky sensitively and sincerely encapsulates what we all think we hate, but actually adore about this uniquely maddening city.

Antwerp Pipe Smoker, Zinc Oxide and Untitled #1 Lidded Rainbow Facepot, 2016 by Dan McCarthy in exhibition Made in Oven until May 5th at Rudolphe Janssen gallery, Brussels.
Untitled (GUT/S 2475/00), 2016 by Gert & Uwe Tobias in exhibition Made in Oven until May 5th at Rudolphe Janssen gallery, Brussels.
Crème de, 2014 by Victoria Adam in WRONGUNS by AGENCY AGENCY at Poppositions
Installation shot of exhibition WRONGUNS by AGENCY AGENCY at Poppositions

Words by Helen Turner who is the Assistant Curator at Cass Sculpture Foundation and runs independent curatorial platform AGENCY AGENCY, which provides research, exhibitions and residency opportunities for artists throughout Europe.

Photos by Brendan Michal Heshka who is an artist based in Brussels working on a long term project called The Psychosculpture; a long term therapeutic art practice that appropriates the form of the ninety-minute talk session from its clinical Psychoanalytic setting and brings it into an art context to produce works of art. The general aim of the work is to engage with participants into looking at events, dreams, goals and failures from their lives as possible artworks, working with the artist to see the symbolic poetry contained in everyday life. In effect turning the ‘viewers’ into the producers of art.