play
logo
turn to landscape
logo
portfolio
Photo Stephan Shillemans
1 / 1
biography

Q: Your works clearly bring together your backgrounds in fashion and scenography. The costumes you exhibit play with gross exaggerations in terms of forms and their external attachments. Some costumes also toy with a child-like aesthetic. Could you expand on how you combine these elements in relation to the notion of restriction?

A: The restriction is interesting if you work with movement, you have to improvise to find a way to reach the most aesthetic images and how to transform them into the next one.

Q: So, exaggeration and restriction are actually really tools for you to reach an 'aesthetic' image? At what point does an image become aesthetic for you?

A: Nice question! Aesthetic is for me the balance of the tradition of making clothes, the human body and abstraction. The recognizable and the unknown. My way of thinking about aesthetics is looking for perfection where I combine couture clothes (one of a kind), the body and abstraction. The performer in the costume doesn't look nice in all the postures, when it reaches a clear shape that talks to the spectator then I have reached my goal.



Q: Could you elaborate on what you specifically mean by abstraction in relation to your practice? And could you say a little about the colours, forms, and materials you choose to work with?

A: Abstraction is a direction within modern art that has not always tried to create objects inspired by the natural world or the real world. Underlying principles are made visible with shapes and colours, rhythms and contrasts. Working with shapes and colours are most important for me. The inspiration for forms comes from drawing over a drawing of a human figure, that makes it easy to stay focused on the proportions of the human body. Sometimes I buy children's toys on the flea market or I go to toy shops to get a magazine with the latest collection for inspiration. The materials I use have to be strong and flexible, also in the way the costumes are manufactured, they are stronger than ordinary costumes. Most of the time I work with bright colours and I make a composition with the forms and colours, but the shape always comes first. The bright colours symbolize the toy and imaginary world to me. Do you know how many shades of yellow or red there are? Sometimes it takes me a week or more to find the right colour, or I make my own and dye the fabric....



Q: You've mentioned improvisation several times. What does improvisation specifically mean to you as an artist working with and responding to materials and as a scenographer interested in storytelling?

A: It's like writing a song, you have a style and you pick your notes and create new melodies. When the costumes are ready (the notes) the composing begins in cooperation with modern dancers and later music and sound. Spontaneous movements in the costumes and letting go of all the things that you know or normally do. When I design a costume it has a storyline already which is very useful for making decisions in the end. Using improvisation is necessary to push the boundaries of your mind and vision.



Q: What made you or the curator, Nathalie Hartjes, choose these works for the exhibition?

A: Nathalie showed me the selected work of other participants which made it easy to decide which costumes or objects would fit in the best. We were on the same level.



Q: You graduated from MFA Scenography in 2004, how has your artistic practice developed since? Were you faced with crossroads or any key turning points?

A: After my graduation I made a second performance called Truth truth nothing but the truth starting from the costumes. I worked with five costume designs that could perform alone but were also interesting when they made contact with each other. It's a kind of storytelling with costumes. Later I sold this work to the dance company Project Sally. After this I lived in Dallas for eight months and worked on sculptures created from children's wear and exhibited them at the Mac Contemporary as a wall sculpture. The sculpture work is still in development and takes some time because I was originally trained as a fashion designer and I need to learn some new skills. For the last few years I've worked mostly as a costume designer and a producer of designs for different theatre companies or artists.



Q: How do you see your future as an artist/scenographer?

A: In the future I see myself designing costumes and producing them. I love the process of making and working towards the premiere or opening of the show, the point where the creators have to let the work go. I love to work with choreographers, directors or artists who have a strong vision, imagination, creativity and humour - serious organized weirdos :-) Creating new worlds and stories which only exist in the imagination where costumes and clothing can connect with the real world in a different way. I love to travel for my work and I'm thinking of developing more workshops in costume storytelling, like I did in Bhutan and Bolivia in the past. Besides collaborative projects, I also make storytelling sculptures with fabric and other materials without any influences from anyone else; a 'no hurry' dream, but my goal is to have a show with these sculptures within 5 years.



Q: And what do you- think are essential components in helping you to achieve your aims?

A: Believe in yourself and love what you are doing.