Rinus Van de Velde | Rinus van de Velde
CAC Malaga, Malaga, Spain | 1.2.–31.3.2013
Rinus Van de Velde (1983, Louvain, Belgium) is one of Belgium’s most internationally renowned artists working today. For his first exhibition in Spain, presented at the CAC Málaga, he is showing a new series of large-format charcoal drawings on canvas. All dating from 2012, they have been specially created for this exhibition. With the artist as the principal protagonist, these works offer a reflection on the process of artistic creation, which is a recurring theme in Van de Velde’s work. For these drawings the artist staged compositions in his studio, either based on pre-existing or invented images, which he photographed and which provide the basis for the final drawings. The images are accompanied by titles, long stories, that complete the story of each drawing by giving it a very specific narrative context. Although independent, taken together these drawings relate an open story that is part of a broader fictitious autobiography running parallel to the development of the artist’s real oeuvre. Van de Velde creates narratives that are open to the viewer’s interpretation. 

Rinus Van de Velde studied sculpture but subsequently turned to drawing as his principal focus, considering drawing to be a more interesting medium due to its fast and experimental nature. He is influenced by artists such as Raymond Pettibon and Paul Noble who have redefined drawing as a medium. His large-format drawings use a scale that offers the viewer the physical sensation of being part of the work. Drawing is usually associated with a small, portable format, while its close-up, intimate language is allied to introspection and the communication of ideas and emotions. However, by moving into a larger scale the artist changes the relationship between the viewer and the object being looked at. Van de Velde has abandoned colour and always uses charcoal, a technique that he handles with complete mastery and which barely allows for corrections. 

Commenting on the use of a larger scale, Van de Velde says that it enables him “to make larger gestures, to actually ‘sculpt’ the charcoal with my fingers and palms into forms with a certain volume. Besides, it’s important that a spectator can imagine himself stepping into a drawing. I choose to uphold the illusion that I create a 3-D world”. “The choice of black and white has to with the primitiveness of it, but also with the fact that charcoal is better suited for large-scale drawings. And I am also not interested in making photorealistic illusions: my illusions are, I guess, mostly narrative. They have a documentary value and often relate to the past. I think I link black and white with memories”. The starting-point for Van de Velde’s artistic universe is photographic representation. The artist possesses a large photographic archive taken from popular scientific magazines, biographies of artists and scientists, art catalogues and the internet. These images provide the bases of his drawings in which the source is still recognisably present. He chooses the images that best represent the “collective myth.” Van de Velde’s drawings do not have a documentary character; on the contrary, he adapts photographic images to the requirements of the drawings and also adds texts that recount a totally different story to the one in the original photograph. The texts either appear in the drawings or are painted directly onto the wall. On this occasion they function as the titles of the works. They are written by the artist in collaboration with his friend the writer Koen Sels. 

Van de Velde mixes fiction and truth, creating a fictional, experimental space in which he analyses issues such as the history of art, the myth of the artist, scientific progress and the artist’s studio... The personal mythologies that he constructs touch our collective unconscious, allowing the viewer to deduce a more significant truth than the artist’s fictitious realities. 

Van de Velde’s earlier series focused on fictitious characters such as the artist William Crowder or on real ones including the explorer Richard Burton, the volcanologist Haroun Tazieff and the chess players Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky competing for the 1972 world title. These are characters whose attitudes inspired such empathy on the artist’s part that they became his alter egos. In his recent series Van de Velde appears as the principal figure, implying a further development in his approach and one that allows him to appropriate the story and make it his own. 

In his own words: “I think that in general you could say that I am mythologising my own biography, by constructing a fake drawn and written autobiography. By weaving my fictitious story into another ‘real’ biography of a historical figure, I try to make his story my own, and create what one could call a mythical biography of myself. […] By doing this, you are at the same time, of course, deconstructing the myth of a biography”.