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Indepth Arts News:

"Jacques Charlier: Belgian Aspects of Flanders"
2003-01-25 until 2003-04-13
Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst
Gent, , BE

Jacques Charlier describes himself as a ‘wholesaler in Belgian humour of all categories’. His main themes are the socio-cultural and economic issues in art and the art world. He uses a range of media including painting and sculpture and also photography, film, video, words, caricatures and strip cartoons. He opposes any authority that imposes an aesthetic form and is in constant conflict with conformism in art. This gives him a sparkling, exuberant humour with a penchant for ‘Belgian’ themes.

Charlier is a Belgian artist who is internationally appreciated. Until now the main impulses behind this have come from Flanders. In fact few curators in Wallonia support him. This fact provides the theme for the S.M.A.K. exhibition. Charlier wants to show works that use anecdote to show a Walloon’s view of Flanders. In paintings, photos, sculptures and films, he examines the Belgian aspects of Flanders’ broad cultural scene. His work is not only a telling analysis of the cultural life of Flanders, but, by means of irony, the juxtaposition of pictures of ‘icons’ from a more popular culture (Sergio, Helmut Lotti, etc.), sport (Kim Clijsters) and religion (Cardinal Daneels), he also succeeds in transcending the boundaries between genres and focusing attention on the power of the expressive image. Charlier’s work seems in essence to be concerned with analysing and undermining all traditional visual strategies. He does this both by means of dramatic theatrical images - compositions and set-ups that refer to such artists as Rops, Rubens, Fontana and Toroni, and by presenting the most trivial reality - the ‘stars’ of the fifties, images derived from advertising and industry. In this way he states pertinent questions about both the use and perception of the image and the originality of the work of art.

No catalogue will be published for this exhibition, only a publication in the form of a local paper handed out free in the town. Charlier is in no way trying to make this magazine a guide to the exhibition. As a work of art it is simply an integral part of it. It is primarily an artistic creation and not a commercial or marketing product. The magazine will provide a unique view of the Flemish cultural world, from someone who knows it well but is actually an outsider.

As far as content is concerned, the publication will be filled with photos of well-known Flemish people, articles he himself will write and fictional interviews. The whole thing will be accessible to everyone, with an avoidance of intellectual and theoretical arguments. Charlier’s art is full of humour and irony (without ever being insulting). At the heart of Charlier’s work lies the issue of identity and individuality, both of the person and of the art object.

As an outsider, Charlier wants to make his mark on the existing dynamics of the city. Ghent presents itself as a City of Knowledge and Culture. For Charlier it is therefore an obvious and essential choice - in an exhibition in one of the city’s museums - to make use of the city’s existing channels of information to disseminate his art. The City Magazine is ideal in this respect; it is widely distributed and read by huge numbers of Ghent people. In this way, Charlier is not only linking up with an historical tradition of art democratisation, but is also giving very concrete shape to a present challenge in the national and international cultural debate, that of cultural participation. S.M.A.K. has in the past launched work focused on particular neighbourhoods, which proved that this approach works. In 1999, for instance, there was ‘The Road to S.M.A.K.’, when leaflets containing a free ticket to the museum were distributed in deprived neighbourhoods.

Jacques Charlier
Chambre d' ennemi, 1986
Philippe Degobert

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