In September, Belgian artist Rinus Van de Velde is presenting a video installation, a project he has been working on for about two years. The 40-minute video installation, entitled The Villagers, will premiere at Rinus Van de Velde’s solo exhibition opening on September 5th at Tim Van Laere Gallery in Antwerp. In addition to the video installation, some new charcoal drawings will be presented, as well as small colour drawings and three monumental sets from the film. The whole is a total installation in which the spectator enters the universe of the artist.
Van de Velde, who is mostly known for his large scale charcoal drawings, has evolved increasingly towards a ‘total artist’, creating a tension between fiction and reality by the use of different media such as drawings, sculptures, installations and recently adding the medium of film.
His finely rendered, monochromatic drawings have always incorporated a strong narrative moment, a scenic density normally found in movies. They seem like momentary ‘snapshots’, like single images lifted from a longer filmic narrative. There is often a sense that the imagined camera capturing the scene will pan at any moment to take in the next element of the story. Without exception, the narrative moment of these images is supported with the captions beneath them: literary testimonies, scattered like crumbs, that add an emotional component to the events depicted.
In that sense, one could say it is a small step to film. Yet The Villagers is not a classic linear movie. Van de Velde’s choice to work without a fixed script result in a succession of individual fragments that are only connected to each other through the sequence and editing of the scenes.
The storyline of the film follows the lives of a series of characters that live in a small village in an undefined landscape that resembles the French Alps. Only connected by their location, they present fragmented narratives that intertwine with each other without a certain plot point. The high-quality realistic production contrasts with the constructed, abstracted setting and the fictional characters which are played by Rinus Van de Velde himself, his assistants and friends, none of whom are professionally trained actors. This emphasises the tension between fiction and reality and places the narratives at the centre.
As an important part of his practice, Van de Velde builds life-sized decors in his studio, carefully constructed from cardboard and wood. Creating a fictional, constructed world sprung from Van de Velde’s own elaborate imagination, the decors present the artist with numerous possibilities of new narratives and imagery. His carefully constructed universe allows Van de Velde to cast himself in various roles, allowing him to inhabit different personas, genres and art forms. Initially, the decors were built as a preliminary study for the drawings. They form the setting for his narratives, which he himself and people from his immediate surroundings play out in his studio.
As the decors became more detailed and complex Van de Velde explored new ways to present them. At his solo exhibition, Donogoo Tonka in 2016 at S.M.A.K. a selection of large scale props left Van de Velde’s studio for the first time. Presenting large cardboard jungle plants, a boat, a wave and a pickup truck alongside his characteristic large scale drawings, the artist presented the viewer with a glimpse of his alternative constructed universe. At his solo exhibition at Tim Van Laere Gallery in 2017 he took this idea even further, presenting a total-installation of drawings, ceramics and props. As a continuation in his search on how to present the detailed craftsmanship of the decors, Van de Velde came to the medium of film. Inspired by a documentary he saw on the artist studio of André Breton, he started to scan the decors with a camera. In the process of capturing the decors, they started to present themselves with new narratives emerging from the artist’s fantasy. As a result, over the last two years, van de Velde has created seventeen life-size stage sets. From the telephone on the desk to the slice of cake in a café, every detail in every one of them is made of cardboard and is as rough or precise as it can be, given the material.
Rinus Van de Velde The Villagers 5 September – 12 October 2019 Tim Van Laere Gallery timvanlaeregallery.com