Richard Venlet’s work unfolds in the field of tension between the space, the work and the viewer. Assembled and designed environments stand alone as autonomous artworks but simultaneously provide a platform for art historical presentations and research. Because the distinction between artwork and exhibition is becoming ever more blurred, the culture of exhibiting and collecting can be called into question. In 2013, Richard Venlet created the exhibition ‘Museum for a Small City’ in S.M.A.K. as a reference to an unrealised museum project by Mies van der Rohe. Venlet placed a highly abstracted architecture with a slightly raised floor covered in grey carpet tiles into the space, where works from the collection, archival material and conversations were programmed in different constellations. During the exhibition ‘Highlights for a Future: The Collection (I)’, a ‘Lemurenkopf’ by Franz West from the S.M.A.K. collection was selected for the work, which functions as a discursive space in which exhibition practices, collection strategies, artist collaborations and the future direction of the museum can be considered.
This programme concludes with Richard Venlet on the occasion of his recently published doctoral research ‘It’s Walls, Floors, Ceilings and Windows’ (LUCA School of Arts), which also culminated in an exhibition at Bozar.
Commonality, identity, language and cultural and social inclusion are central themes in Oscar Murillo’s practice. He often incorporates aspects of his personal history and his cross-cultural ties with his homeland of Colombia. By involving family members, local factory workers and school children in the creative process, he makes social statements that connect different worlds. In this respect, the steering of community formation is just as important as the uncovering of phenomena and feelings related to rootlessness or displacement. His paintings are also made using a process-based method: cut pieces of fabric are treated with oil paint and left in the studio for a certain period of time, during which they absorb dust, dirt and other environmental elements. These materials, which are the same throughout the world regardless of the social or cultural context, are consistent with the egalitarian and inclusive approach seen within his oeuvre. One of Murillo’s paintings is currently on display in the exhibition ‘Highlights for a Future: The Collection (I)’. In 2017, the artist participated in the first Kathmandu Triennial, organized by S.M.A.K. in collaboration with the Siddhartha Arts Foundation. In partnership with a local silk-screen printing studio, he created the work ‘The Coming of the Europeans’, which addresses the lasting legacies of colonialism.
Bjarne Melgaard’s formative years as an artist are inextricably linked to the history of S.M.A.K. His work was included in two major exhibitions, namely ‘De Rode Poort’ (1996) and ‘De Opening’ (1999). During the heydays of neo-conceptualism in the mid-1990s, Melgaard broke through with paintings, sculptures and installations imbued with desire and sexuality, and which explored the boundaries of the permissible and the prevailing morality. His intense painterly style, characterised by rough and forceful brushwork, is in keeping with a long tradition of expressionism that can be traced back to Edward Munch, whom Melgaard cites as his spiritual and stylistic mentor. In a pictorial universe of sadomasochism, drugs, homosexuality and perverse violence, he stages an autobiographical fiction but also challenges repressive social conventions, religious doctrines, and ideas about normality and prejudice. The artist’s more recent work is often the result of collaborations, for example within the world of fashion and social media, in which his recognisable aesthetics and socially critical undertone are preserved.
Ulrike Lindmayr* talks to Bjarne Melgaard about the redisplay of his work ‘Moon over Islam’ (1999) in the exhibition ‘Highlights for a Future: The Collection (I)’, some twenty years after SMAK’s inaugural exhibition.
*Ulrike Lindmayr (b. 1962) worked in Vienna as an editor for international art journals and newspapers. At the same time, she also curated and coordinated exhibitions for various national and international institutions, and for a number of years advised the Flemish government on art in public spaces. Lindmayr is the co-founder of the non-profit centre ‘LLS 387. Ruimte voor actuele Kunst’ (Space for Contemporary Art) in Antwerp, where she was artistic director between 2007 and 2017. In 2010, she organised a discussion and performance with Bjarne Melgaard to mark the publication of his book ‘Untitled Novel’ (2010).