Artist in ExileAlbert Pepermans

This month Zwart Huis publishes a series of interviews with artists who live and work in today’s quarantaine. As such, the gallery hopes to support and promote its artists in these strange times of Covid-19. We continue the series “Artist in Exile” with Albert Pepermans (1947).

How are you experiencing this period?

I’m experiencing it as a very quiet period, in which everything is possible without any obligations. Outside it is extremely quiet, without any noise from cars, airplanes, construction sites or other street noise. Actually, I experience little difference with the old days, because I don't have to work for a number of years now, so I’m used to arranging my days to my own liking. This period is of course a global catastrophe which is structural, is causing economic devastation and a loss of solidarity between countries. My thoughts are also with the people in Syria, Sudan and the camps in Greece. Over there the chaos is incalculable and those people have already been living in a wretched situation for months or even years.

What impact does this period have on your work?

I tend to work more now because I also spend more time in the studio. There's nowhere to go and everything is closed anyway. The crisis as such doesn’t influence the content of the work itself. We do have more time to do an inventory of my earlier work: we look at every work and Greet photographs and sorts everything into folders on the computer, a long process!

What does a typical day in the studio look like?

I like to sleep late. I hate getting up early. I always start the day very quietly with a healthy oatmeal porridge (at my wife's insistence) and after that I spend quite a long time drinking coffee and superficially looking at the newspaper to read an article here and there. I look at some incoming mails, but there never are any (which is okay) and then I open Artnet and see what's going on in the artistic world. Around noon I start to aimlessly wander around the studio and in my mind I start a new work. I look for visual material, because I usually start from photos. These are the still lifes that I prepare.

Do you have a fixed way of working?

I don't really have a fixed way of working. I start every work from scratch. It needs to stay exciting and adventurous. I don’t rely on skill and experience, which would be annoying.

What role do you see for art in moments like these?

Not in an obvious way. People have a need to go out and do their shopping, see friends and so on. Some of them miss exhibitions, visits to galleries and events of course. So for this group, showing art on the internet is very important, both emotionally and intellectually. It almost becomes like our daily bread.

What little things do you enjoy?

I enjoy how I live here. It’s almost like living on an island, safely remote from the outside world. I also enjoy the garden, the Japanese cherry tree and the architecture of my studios (front and back) and the house. Just enjoying the time, the good food and the good wine.

What do you miss the most?

Of course I miss the freedom to go and drive where I want, to visit exhibitions, buy painting materials, visit bookstores, get inspiration, go to restaurants.

What music do you play in the studio?

Radio 1, especially now that they are doing a top 1000.

What books are on your bedside table?

I don’t have a bedside table, so… !