Kasper Bosmans at CIAP

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Artist: Kasper Bosmans

Exhibition title: Loot, Soil And Cleanliness

Venue: CIAP, Hasselt, Belgium

Date: March 12 – June 5, 2016

Photography: Kristof Vranken, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and CIAP, Hasselt

bericht aan de bevolking/ message to the people

kasper and i met for the first time in spring 2013, during the open studios at hisk, the post graduate art school in ghent, located in a wing of a huge neo-gothic building near the park that was built and still partly is used for the the military forces and even hosts a prison. I walked into his studio and saw him standing in the middle of the room: shy, with his feet crossed – as he often does- looking almost like a ballet dancer frozen in a movement. the room itself reminded me of an attic in a 19th century novel. he was surrounded by his latest work, which included a small gold leaf attached with delicate strings to the vintage radiator. the hot air made the leaf flow up and down, as if dancing to the rhythm of the sounds of the sizzling heat. it was probably the smallest but most certainly the most poetic work i saw during that day of studio visits. when i arrived, kasper was starting a short public talk walking us through his studio practice and inspirations. i felt an instant affinity with his choice of words, the references he used in his work, and of course his presence. i decided to struck up a conversation. my knees went week, and i felt we’d never been strangers.

that same day, a few doors further in the massive dark hallways of the institute i also met marthe ramm fortun, the norwegian artist and frequent collaborator of kasper. i have gotten infatuated with many warm and charming norwegians ever since.

before kasper graduated from the institute and decided to move to brussels, i would visit him at school, and we would secretly spend the night in his studio. whenever i would arrive late at night, the building would feel scary, with sounds coming from old water pipes. it reminded me of the couple of months in 2008 when i was living clandestinely in the attic of MoMA PS1, the famous old public school-turned-art museum in queens, new york. i had no place to go after breaking up a long affair, and the museum director, whose assistant i was at the time, agreed with my unheard plan of bringing my belongings to the museum and to start sleeping there as well. as i would walk around the museum alone on early mornings, i would see imprints of children’s feet in places that were not open to the public. the cleaning staff said it were the ghosts of the schoolchildren. maybe the noises in the hisk building were also ghosts of prisoners once kept there and whose names are long forgotten. but as i would walk up the old stairs, I would start hearing classical music from kasper’s studio and in the middle of the hallway see a strip of light coming from underneath the old studio door. he had been given a huge work space, with big windows overlooking an internal courtyard. it made me feel like a young patti smith, arriving in their messy brooklyn apartment and finding robert mapplethorpe making art.

already then, more often than not kasper would be working feverishly on new work until late into the night, and he decided he really didn’t need another place to live and he might as well save money on rent. it was at this time attention for his work picked up. exciting exhibition projects, which also come with their fair share of time-consuming correspondence and other practical issues, were being proposed. kasper’s work ethic and non-stop desire to create is something that holds a strong presence in him, and there were moments i would worry about him losing some of that pleasure of creating, with not enough time to reflect and explore. i suggested he’d slow down and enjoy these last months in school, where you can take the time to create for yourself, and you are more free to experiment. but in a way he was already beyond all that, with the demands of being a selling artist represented by a gallery, and an agenda filled with exhibitions. how could he say no with so many ideas to explore and the right people receiving them with open arms.

in that spring of 2014 he was working on a series of paintings of animal figures executed in bright colors, on small wooden panels, and canvases. images stemming from research on things such as breeding horses for european royals and the import of tigers and other exotic wildlife to the old continent.

it is this kind of histories that kasper is drawn to, and (re)invents. one can suggest he is most fascinated by forgotten or understudied traditions or tales, and i am quite sure he has been to the national folklore museum of each country he has visited. extensive, emotive-based research allows him to create his own visual mythologies. together we developed somewhat of an obsession about the alleged plans of the mughal emperor to build himself a black taj mahal, which was to be constructed near the world famous white one he commissioned for his beloved wife mumtaz maha. one day kasper gave me a drawing he made of this mythical taj mahal, with the words “tim look!” added. now it doesn’t matter if the legend is true or not, the taj is real.

it was also around this time in ‘14 that kasper had just finished an impressive large series of 79 intricate drawings each containing one of the whiskers of a fox. he found the dead animal while hiking in the forest of his childhood village. one needs to possess a special gusto and eye to turn this morbid source material into something at the same time so conceptual and poetic. Perhaps they were his way of commemorating the life of this small unfortunate creature. a large wooden table in his studio at the time also took inspiration from animals, and its surface was covered with tiny bits of stone. they were once inside the stomach of a cock who accidentally picks them up from the ground, but is unable to digest them.

this documenting of and finding inspiration within the unconventional and fragile things in the world, is one of the most fascinating aspects of kasper’s work. visits with his favorite grandaunt to antique shops and flea markets and the stories of his grandfather, who was a pilot in the army, installed an everlasting love for history and objects containing great history. but as an artist these found treasures or stories are only a point of departure. in his own visual translation he has often added many layers of references. for till i get it right, an exhibition we did in mexico last summer, he created a series of small formal studies of renaissance mandorlas, painted in bright colors on a white primed background. a visual exercise that called into mind aby warburg‘s visual library, also inspired by the renaissance and classical representation .

the sand carpets, which are on view for the first time all together here in hasselt, pull from local northern european folklore. in them he is linking seemingly remote references such as bringing canaries into coal mines with the northern european tradition of large sand paintings.

like many of the artists i admire, he is master of mixing the personal with the eternal. i feel this is certainly true in his smoke paintings, which are inspired by the tradition of smoking and drying meat or fish as a way to preserve. building his own stove burner by placing the blank canvas at the chimney end, the smoke leaves a subtle gradient coloration on the fabric surface. the resulting paintings act as an in memoriam and the only reference to the source material can be found in the title or for those with a sharp nose by sniffing the surface in the week after its creation. after a while people started sending him the remains of dried flowers to create a special smoke coloured canvas for them. a new, more durable and esthetically far more pleasing take on the dried flowers hanging on a wall, where they are bound to fall apart.

In the summer of 2015 kasper came to visit new york for a few weeks. it was his first trip to america and i was set on showing him the best the city and the eastern coast had to offer. i feel happy and secretly proud each time i can introduce him to something new that sparks his fantasy and  might become part of his artistic language. a highlight of our time together is taking a boat full with otherwise beach bound hipsters from wall street to see patti smith’s big sculptures and photographs she had installed in an abandoned hangar right near to ocean.

recent new works kasper has made suggest that this visit to america -which also led us to a wedding in maine of two women that had been together for over 30 years and finally received the right to legally marry- seem to have further inspired a string of recent works, including a reference to a historical peace treaty between english settlers and native americans. old and new come full circle in this sculpture of turtle shield with three silver balls.

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