Artist in ExileRobin Vermeersch

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 Robin Vermeersch.

How are you experiencing this period?

In the first week it felt like being liberated of everything I was doing. Of course this sounds a bit strange these days but things were a bit too busy for me. Just like many people I needed to digest everything that was going on. It’s a double feeling: on the one hand I am horrified by what is happening and on the other hand it also presents a period of personal rest and contemplation.

What impact does this period have on your work?

Not much in itself, I am continuing the work I was doing. You do tend to think about what is really relevant these days. Because projects have been postponed and exhibitions have been cancelled you can give your works more time, rework them, review them. The pressure is gone, which is a good thing for me. And you get by with the materials you have at your disposal.

What does a typical day in the studio look like?

In the morning I teach for Sint Lucas Ghent, guiding students online with feedback on their photo material using email and Skype. In the afternoon I work in the studio. During the holidays I spent entire days in the studio. I alternate between working on the sculptures and drawing. In between there are moments when I work in the garden, read, cycle and do chores in the house.

Do you have a fixed way of working?

Not really. I don’t work on fixed hours. Sometimes I work a bit late, sometimes I stop around 6 o’ clock. I like to do a lot of things at the same time. That’s a bit disturbing. It’s like a lot is being processed at the same time. Now I try to finish sculptures before I start a new one.

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

That’s a bit difficult. You have to be able to see art of course. That’s also what is lacking in all those online exhibitions. They are very nice, but I miss the feeling, the tactile, the smell… I cycle a lot and now I often think: we should have more art in public spaces. Personally I also miss museum visits. Luckily I was just able to see the Van Eyck exhibitions in Ghent. Just amazing!

What little things do you enjoy?

Having the time, gardening, watching seeds germinate, potatoes raising their head, flowers blooming in the garden. I also like to cycle and really enjoy the Flemish Ardennes around the corner, the views over the Pays Des Colinnes.

What do you miss the most?

Family, friends and the spring classics in cycling!

What music do you play in the studio?

Lots of stuff. I often listen to Spotify and my latest discoveries are Porridge Radio, Bibio, Sorry and Caribou. I also listen to a lot of podcasts. I have listened to every Klara podcast there is during my work, from the fantastic podcast by Bart Van Loo to another one on the fall of the Berlin wall. I also like the slightly lighter podcasts about sports.

What books are on your bedside table?

During the day I often read nonfiction and at night before bedtime I tend to read fiction. Right now I am reading the latest book by Jeroen Brouwers, Client E. Busken, which is great again. I also read Avant Gardisten by Sjeng Scheijen, which I recommend. I also enjoyed Oek de Jong (Zwarte Schuur) and Edouard Louis (Weg met Eddy Bellegeule). Now I am about to start in the latest Sarah Bakewell (At the Existentialist Café). And I am waiting with anticipation for the new Bahamontes, an outstanding cycling magazine, as well as the football magazines Catenaccio and Santos.