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Artventure : Where do you situate yourself in the artistic landscape?

Erik Pevernagie: I see myself embedded among the « phenomenologists ».

Artventure: What should that mean?

Erik PevernagieI like to make icons of « phenomena », occurrences, circumstances or facts which are perceptible by senses. I like to paint things as they appear every day, the way they are engraved in my memory, the way they react in the arsenal of my imagination, the way I experience things in their environment. I let things come to me smoothly and watch how they evolve  with « releasement »(« mit Gelassenheit » as Heidegger would say). In fact, I am a good watcher.

 

Artventure: Are those experiences depicted realistically?

Erik Pevernagie: All experiences are introduced in a linear, geometric adventure. Some times reality is transformed in such a way that interpretation is needed. The participation of the onlooker is then taken for granted.

 

Artventure: Your pictorial language is not simply “Spielerei”.

Erik Pevernagie: I establish links to events and to problems people are confronted with. Elements from our common mental heritage are to be highlighted. The aim is to project flashes from our collective memory. Art is seen as a social activity.

 

Artventure: So, the artist doesn’t live on an island?

Erik Pevernagie: The times of “damned artists” have passed. Now and then they still turn up and seem to live their own life of isolation. But nowadays art is not the product of misunderstood and unrecognized prototypes. In general the artist is not a weird, “weltfremd” creature. He is well and alive on the current world stage. He crosses frontiers, he builds bridges between several disciplines, gives interpretations to facts and events, often gives practical suggestions to policy makers.


Artventure: If we look at your work, could we say that it has a hidden agenda?

Erik Pevernagie: A work of art is a link, a liaison. It brings about social interactions. It creates emotion. This word, though, is very often used and misused when dealing with art. But for me it remains nevertheless a keyword. Moreover art has the power to stimulate the intellect and the imagination. If hidden agenda implies another dimension then I would say for sure.


Artventure: Another dimension?

Erik Pevernagie: I start from real elements taken from daily life or from simple “faits divers”. They are translated pictorially, placed in a specific context and receive equivocal contents. So, I don’t proceed in a univocal way. Reality is a starting point not a purpose, it is transformed into a puzzle which hides a “hinterland” of interpretations.


Artventure: Sol Lewitt should have said that in a work of art the idea is more essential than its implementation. Would a “beautifully accomplished product” not be viable on its own?

Erik Pevernagie: Though I am not a minimalist I can meet late Lewitt’s point of view. A work of art should have the power to move, to shake, to shock, to disturb. It should be pushed forward by an idea. But the idea should be carried by an artistic structure. It is particularly this structure that I am often missing when looking around in the art scene. It gives me controversial feelings when meeting art corsairs who commit bold actions, permanently dissolving the limits between art and non-art. But anyway, as an art watcher, I rank them among art historic ‘faits divers’.


Artventure: Are not many people desperately confused when they are confronted with artefacts? Are there still any rules or laws one can refer to?

Erik Pevernagie: We should take into account that old social and cultural hierarchies have crumbled down. Rules and regulations change. Some are abolished and new are created. All subjects and any topics have come to an equal level. Distinctions between artistic and ordinary activities have come to vanish. Frontiers between art and non-art seem to disappear more and more.


Artventure: And that is the point where many art watchers seem to be lost?

Erik Pevernagie: Yes, they are lost in translation. They are not aware of the radical transgressions of non-art into the art world or they don’t want to accept them. You can hear people say : " They make the most stupid things".


Artventure: We have seen those transgressions before. That is not a new scenario.

Erik Pevernagie: No, indeed not. In the course of the history of art we notice many trends like ironic art, nihilistic art etc . We should not forget the famous ready-mades of Duchamp with his Urinoire / Fountain in 1917 and later in the sixties Manzoni with Merda d’artista, Beuys, Broodthaers with his Casseroles de moules, Warhol with his Brillo Boxes. Some taxed them as cultural terrorism.


Artventure: Do you see any difference between Duchamp and Warhol. Or is it merely copy-paste?

Erik Pevernagie: Duchamp took a real urinal from the real world and introduced it in the art world. He didn’t make a replica. Warhol created Brillo boxes which were identical to the ones you could find in the store. They were made out of wood, whereas the real ones were made of cardboard.


Artventure: What did they want to prove?

Erik Pevernagie: In the first place Duchamp wanted to challenge bourgeois art. They wanted us to look at those common, worldly gadgets as art. They wanted us to question what art is and what can count as art. Traditional conceptions of what art should be made of or should look like had to be abondonned. Art as a process should be emphasized more than as a material matter. Cognitive value should be stressed rather than aesthetic value.


Artventure : Thus we had a trench war between art and reality: the real world wanting to conquer the art world?

Erik Pevernagie: Art philosopher Danto hinted at the barriers being broken down between art and real world. He even said that things were latent artworks waiting to be transformed, like bread and wine of reality, into flesh and blood of the sacrament. For them the fundamental and philosophical question was posed: why of two identical objects one is an artwork and the other an ordinary object. Why is a urinal that is exhibited by Marcel Duchamp or a pile of dirt exhibited by Robert Morris a work of art, when there are many restroom objects and piles of dirt that aren''t art?


Artventure: Once the question is posed what is the next step when we are confronted with an object, art or real?

Erik Pevernagie: For post-modernist philosophers the eye can not decide whether we have a real object or an art object. The artist has to turn a non-art object into art by infusing it with a meaning and present it as an artifact. The role of an artist is the role of a thinker rather than an object maker. The art object had to be de-materialized. For Danto it is the role of the artistic theories to make the art world and art possible.


Artventure: So the art watcher is taken for a poor sucker?

Erik Pevernagie: For art philosophers the art viewer needs something else than eyes. As I said before, a work of art is more to be appreciated for what it means than for how it looks. The visual qualities are not enough. Skill in representation is not enough. Art should create meanings. Baudrillard for example likes contemporary art for what it means. In the opinion of Danto and his master Hegel art is a way of coming to grips with who we are, finding out where we are as a culture. Danto looks for a philosophical meaning in paintings like children look for Waldos in a “Where’s Waldo?”book. Art is embodied philosophy. But for me the features of the body count. Visual qualities are essential.


Artventure: We are told that we are living in a “post-historical art age”. Should we say that “art is history”? Have we come to “the end of art”?

Erik Pevernagie: My friend, Michael Glover, uses to say: “We are history“, whenever a party is over. In the past we had the well known representational art or mimesis, followed by modernism and abstract expressionism (Greenberg). With postmodernism or POMO we seemed to have the feeling that art was at the end of its tether. The age of “After the end of art” made its appearance on the art scene. As art became perceptually indistinguishable from non-art, many people felt it as the end of art. If it was all mainly about ideas and statements and not about aesthetics, why still use the art forum? If aesthetics and cognitive elements came in opposition, didn’t it mean that they had become mutually exclusive? Indeed, this seemed to be the “end of art” and many animated, controversial discussions were endlessly held.

 

Artventure: What is the concrete result of it?

Erik Pevernagie: Pluralism has replaced the previous forms. All the artistic genres, topics and techniques of the past can be used by the artist. It means that the artist is free. Everything and anything can be admitted into the artistic world. A wide and eclectic range of art practices are applied in the new kingdom of art.


Artventure: So in case of total freedom…

Erik Pevernagie: …anything, any object can be a work of art. But I want to stress that if anything may be a work of art, not everything is a work of art. In my opinion the contextualist aspect of art is very important. For me, art should relate to a social, cultural and historical context. Art should be the result of a thorough reflection on the spirit of the time, ”Zeitgeist”, and possibly be transdisciplinar.


Artventure: Have philosophers hijacked art?

Erik Pevernagie: Art has always been an interesting subject for philosophers: Plato, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Adorno etc. Since a few decades Baudrillard and Arthur Danto have added their pepper to the dish. For Danto you have to learn from your experience, think about what and how you experience things and so you have to turn to philosophy. Art has become a philosophical problem. The fact that anything can be art makes a philosophical reflection on art necessary.

Artventure: How well do art critics do their job?
Erik Pevernagie:
It is rather tricky for art critics nowadays. They feel on slippery ground. That is the reason why many stick to explaining instead of giving some judgments. What a work means is not always easy to find out. Anyhow it should be interpreted and its meaning should be highlighted. Then the body of the meaning should be studied. In how far and how well does the body express the meaning. How well does the illustrative part represent the semantic element. Moreover, one should not forget that one interpretation does not exclude other interpretations. Interesting in this matter of interpretation are the artist’s story, the narrative aids provided by the artist, the artist’s background, the artist’s intentions.