Philippe Van Wolputte at Be-Part and Bruthaus

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Artist: Philippe Van Wolputte

Exhibition title:  Fade-Outs

Venue:  Be-Part, Waregem, Bruthaus, Waregem, Belgium

Date: February 28 – April 29, 2015

Coproduction: Be-Part/ Bruthaus / Claessens Artists’ Canvas

Photography: Courtesy of the artist and Be-Part/ Bruthaus / Claessens Artists’ Canvas

In the course of the past ten years, Philippe Van Wolputte has been purposely searching for remote and often underground locations and tunnels to develop his installations. From his perspective, these are locations of escape in case of threat or danger, starting points from which to explore and transform or intervene in public space. Van Wolputte mainly uses the materials on the spot readily available, unsophisticated, left behind, materials for these ‘urban caves’. He re-creates those places to preserve them and to allow them to be experienced anew. His projects aim to reclaim and hold on to what has often been singled out for demolition. The constructions are witnesses of an industrial past, imprints of bygone economic activities. So, the atmosphere in his installations is often unheimlich, uncanny.

At the same time, though, they are places of contemplation and isolation. ‘FADE-OUTS’ points at the images in the memory of the artist. Images of locations visited and lost. Mental imprints that wane and fade out, just like the places themselves. That is the reason why the artist wants to re-create them. He holds on to the images in an attempt to mourn. Van Wolputte tries to revisit these lost refuges and draw the public’s attention to them.

In the FADE-OUTS show at Claessens Canvas, Van Wolputte built an installion using a mixture of tunnels and corridors he previously discovered and explored. It is deliberately assembled in a naive way, with a DIY-aesthetic. Quickly crafted together, helter skelter like the barricades left behind after a demo that got out of hand; an improvised camp made from stuff left behind at the spot. Van Wolputte plays with the relics of previously visited tunnels: signposts of urban explorers in the catacombs of Paris, scaffolding left behind by construction workers at unfinished and derelict city developments…

At the end of the tunnel of FADE-OUTS the light quite literally fades out. The tunnel ends in a larger, wider, space, where all light is absent. The visitor is in the dark. In this obscured ‘womb’ – a ‘dome’ according to the artist himself – a video is projected showing fading tunnels, taking with them the ghosts of workers toiling away. The images in the video of these corridors have been assembled in Van Wolputte’s signature print and collage technique while the added soundscape completes the uncanniness and shows the artists’s ‘noise’ prowess.

It is no coincidence that Van Wolputte created the FADE-OUT installation at Claessens’ Canvas. Claessens has been the world market leader in premium quality painter’s canvas. The buildings are typical a hundred years old. industrial workshops serving the needs of renowned artists all over the world. This is simply an outstanding example of industrial archeology.

Some of the ateliers are no longer in use because contemporary, cutting-edge products fit other requirements than the handmade fabric of old. So, some of them are still preserved as they were in the interbellum. In one of them, Van Wolputte presents his installation. Here, in his own highly personal way, the artist loads meaning onto what was. This artistic intervention must be considered a key work in his as yet developing oeuvre. New meanings are created without using the original function of this venue in an obvious and literal way.

In the Bruthaus-gallery in Waregem, Philippe Van Wolputte shows graphic interventions, images made during the construction at Claessens’. He overprints, scrapes, scours, scribbles and pastes scraps of other works on unique screenprints, monotypes and photo assemblages. Memories of what once was. Thus creating an archive of documents relating to this temporary, short-lived installation, the graphic work amounts to an attempt to hold on to what will be wiped out.

– Joris Van der Borght

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