Egon Van Herreweghe at The Stable

Artist: Egon Van Herreweghe

Exhibition title: Heidi’s Delight

Curated by: Marko Stamenkovic

Venue: The Stable, Waregem, Belgium

Date: August 26 – September 17, 2017

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and The Stable, Waregem

“Some glory in their birth, some in their skill, some in their wealth, some in their body’s force, some in their garments though new-fangled ill.” Thus wrote an English poet in the early seventeenth-century. These verses in Shakespeare’s (romantic) Sonnet 91 set an inspiring and also intriguing tone for another project: a small yet larger-than-lifesize exhibition that, centuries later, recalls and paraphrases their original meaning from a perspective informed by market-dictated human conditions under the regime of global capitalism.

HEIDI’S DELIGHT – the exhibition of textile-made sculptural works – revolves around one of Egon van Herreweghe’s most prominent subjects over the last few years: lingerie and accesories. It draws attention to what is largely unspoken about the nature of interpersonal relationships in the age of hyper-consumerism and advertising related to it. Van Herreweghe closely inspects how the production of glamour in today’s fashion industry intersects with the visual rhetoric of fe-male intimacy while fuelling both aesthetic pleasures and sexual drives among potential clients. In his view, this is orchestrated on the grounds of ‘faultless and flawless’ communication machines, which are able to create and re-create infinitely multiplied appearances of idealized images of contemporary human beings whose mission is at least twofold: to play a role in spectral projections of their ‘perfectly’ vestured breasts and hips, but also to contain and mediate the message (between fashion enterprises and spectators) through their made-up, divine-looking presence valued by a certain brand. In response, the dazzled spectators are converted into loyal clients who will take over the role of brand-ambassadors in their everyday lives, only to continue the PR campaign game in the never-ending theatre of product-driven phantasms – about one’s own self and about the others.

The exhibition opens up new horizons of thought surrounding the fe-male subjects as consumers of such images and projections. It points out at their constantly updated and ‘upgraded’ status of over-consumed objects caught in a trap of their own, Narcissistic desires towards unattainable visual perfection. The larger-than-life advertising power behind the intimate apparel’s global market is here also understood as a new-fangled ill that expands the logic of branding to other domains of public interaction. Thus Van Herreweghe does not only question how lingerie and accesories have turned into popular objects of desire through image-based propaganda-machinery that brings to light market-driven conditions of human existence at the present moment in history, but also the strategies behind the institutional construction, collection and dissemination of messages related to contemporary visual art production, in Flanders and abroad. Accordingly, the exhibition highlights the relation between design-shops and galleries, as well as fashion products and artistic production: both arenas have the power to make use of a sweetened version of reality, thus testifying of the desired ‘picture-perfect’ female identity (seductive and obedient at the same time), while reflecting – and contributing to – the proselytic and ever-growing neoliberal utopias of our times.

So, some glory in their birth, some in their skill, some in their garments though new-fangled ill. With HEIDI’S DELIGHT Egon Van Herreweghe puts on display, right in front of spectators’ eyes, the ghost of an absent, invisible woman, a woman without her body. Traces of her previous presence, scattered around the exhibition space, create the atmosphere of an imaginary sleeping room and give voice to innumerable silent ‘blonde Angels’ from the covers of fashion magazines, TV shows and internet channels whose glamorously flattened personhood is mediatized through one simple fact: that their bodies are but contentless hangers for clothes or, as Virginia Woolf would have said, “a symbol of something hid deep beneath” the shimmering effects of their overexposed surfaces. However, HEIDI’S DELIGHT is not an exhibition about those women, not even about a single one. Rather, it puts light on monsters hiding deep beneath the underwear character of our image-worlds, yours and mine. From the point of intersection where financial interests meet economies of desire Egon Van Herreweghe poses an old, but never exhausted question: What does it mean “to want something” at a time when buying and selling products (including artworks, often larger-then-life-size) can fulfill the logic of the day, when our living is dependent on business trade, and playing the role of brand-ambassadors is taken so much for granted? If cultivating a personal brand around your name can eventually advance your career and, depending on how it actually appears to potential customers, it can help you sell your work, what does it mean “to want something” – for monsters hiding deep beneath the underwear character of your image-world?

-Marko Stamenkovic, Gent, Belgium, August 26, 2017

EGON VAN HERREWEGHE is a visual artist born in 1985 in Gent (Belgium), where he currently lives and works. He studied photography between 2004 and 2008 at KASK – The Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Gent and undertook his research in art and design over the following year (2008-2009) at the St Lucas School of Arts in Antwerp. He is the laureate of HISK – The Higher Institute for Fine Arts in Ghent, where he recived his postgraduate education between 2014 and 2015. He has exhibited his work since 2010 in museum institutions, galleries and artist-run venues both in Belgium and abroad (The Netherlands, UK, Estonia, and USA). His solo shows include: “Heidi’s Delight” (The Stable, Waregem, 2017), “Now Plums Burst With Ripeness” (Hopstreet Gallery, Brussels, 2015), “Paintings and Sculpture” (FOAM, Amsterdam, 2014) and “Always a thief and never caught” (Netwerk, Aalst, 2014). He has taken part in numerous group exhibitions out of which the most recent are: “Presidential Suite” (Brussels, 2017), “Current Residents & Associates” (Brussels, 2017), “The Ideal Husband” (Ghent, 2016), “Every Letter is a Love Letter” (Tallinn, 2016), “Friendly Faces” (New York, 2015), “A Set of Lines, A Stack of Paper” (Plymouth, 2015) and “The Catwalk” (Brussels, 2015). His publications include: “Presidential Suite” (2017), “The Ideal Husband” (2016), “Totally Fucked Up” (2016), “Inner Beauty” (2015), “Best Available Copy” (2014), “Elective Affinities” (2014; 2012), “In the name of beauty” (2013), and “A Modernist Garden” (2012).