Artist in ExileKoen Wastijn

'Artist in Exile' is 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. Today we talk to Koen Wastijn (1963).

How are you experiencing this period?

Quietly and with patience. Yet we are experiencing a period of short circuit. It’s totally surreal. A consciousness of death has crept back into our society and a new kind of acceptability is emerging. There is also that awareness of very close proximity and distance at the same time. Thank God for the internet. It's weird, as if that virus was tailor-made for our time.

What impact does this period have on your work?

I think it's a subconscious one. Our perception of the world has changed, whether we like it or not, and a tension is felt between what is happening and what you really notice. We will only realize the impact of this later, when we will end up in a new kind of ‘normality'.

What does a typical day in the studio look like?

I'm not really a studio person. I only stay there for a maximum of 1 or 2 hours. I'm constantly navigating between order and disorder, being busy and being interrupted. My studio is more like a cockpit where I set the course...

Do you have a fixed way of working?

It would kill me to be working on the same things all the time. I work very alternately and this is reflected in my work as well. I like small gears that set larger ones in motion. I think a lot, read a lot, take notes, look at a lot of media and walk around a lot. It would surprise me if someone has a more fragmented work time than I do. 😀

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

For me, art is a primary need. Art is vital for my mental health. Art helps one to inhale reality in its totality. Imagine analyzing ancient civilisations without their art…

What little things do you enjoy?

I love watching the moon and Venus from my terrace at night, or my cat sneaking up on a pigeon...

What do you miss the most?

The freedom to go wherever I want.

What music do you play in the studio?

When our daughter Tosca (15) plays the piano in the living room, I immediately mute all the music or take out my airPods. She makes a lot of her own music and a piano remains physical, certainly a Kawai 😀 ... I listen a lot to playlists on Soundcloud or radio WFMU, Spotify and podcasts of France Culture, de Groene Amsterdammer, Correspondent... everything that's interesting... Lots of classical music too, lately a lot of operas of Vivaldi and of course jazz.

What books are on your bedside table?

‘Anima’ a novel by Wajdi Mouawad, a Canadian-Lebanese writer. Furthermore a book about the Italian quattrocento painter Masaccio and Yves Challand's masterfully funny comic 'Le Jeune Albert' (a masterpiece from the '80s), a biography of George Herriman, the American draughtsman of Krazy Kat and a small book on the mosaics in Ravenna.