Artist in ExileHilde Overbergh

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 Hilde Overbergh.

How are you experiencing this period?

I experience this lockdown period as a slowing down of time. No obligations for a moment and just falling back on myself. Knowing that there is nothing to be missed gives an enormous peace of mind to work. It is strange however that every passerby during a walk is a potential danger. Let's hope this pandemic has a valuable purpose for us all.

What impact does this period have on your work?

The difference with my usual life isn't that big. My youngest son and partner are always at home now, which makes my daily schedule a bit different. The last couple of weeks I made more time to thoroughly clean up the studio, organize my stock, order materials, update the website and complete the database. My work for Art Brussels was ready, but in the meantime we learned that the fair will be postponed to next year.

What does a typical day in the studio look like?

I work in phases, sometimes that means developing new ideas on a small format and on paper where the experiment comes first. My eye goes looking for the other side of things, so form and residual form can be the basis for a painting. It can also be litter that I collect and archive which can give lead to new work. Precious materials to work with often present themselves in the studio. At other times I work on larger works where the challenge lies in handling certain materials that I want to use. My work always starts from not knowing, from a reality, and from a fascination for materials. For example, I find fabrics in second-hand shops or order coloured flag cloth that I cut and stitch together and then further process. At the moment I'm painting a new series of works on aluminium.

Do you have a fixed way of working?

No, usually I don't know what I'll be working on until the day itself. My only fixed ritual is to start in the morning with a nice breakfast and admire the garden from my kitchen while listening to the morning news. After breakfast I open my laptop and answer incoming mails. Afterwards I go into my studio to see what I did the days before. From there I make decisions and choices for the next steps. I work on several works at the same time. I regularly make studio setups to see how works can relate to each other.

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

In this time of 'social distancing' art is more binding than ever!

What little things do you enjoy?

Drinking coffee, sitting in the garden and listening to a buzzing fly and singing birds. Going for long bike rides. Preparing good food together with my youngest son Dexter and partner Jeff after a full day at home.

What do you miss the most?

Cooking for friends and visiting exhibitions.

What music do you play in the studio?

Everything, that changes from day to day and according to my mood. From country, jazz, piano, Italian or Romanian folk, to French chansons and old classics, Radio 1 or Klara and podcasts. Also Nick Cave, Agnes Obel, The Killers, Goran Bregovic, The Velvet Underground, John Denver, Calexico & Iron, Tommy Guerrero.

What books are on your bedside table?

There are many, and now I have more time to read! "M train" by Patti Smith, "The Vertical Beach" by Oscar Van den Boogaard, "Homo Deus" by Yuval Noah Harari, "Notes from the Woodshed" by Jack Whitten or "Life A User’s Manual" by Georges Perec.