Past - Present - Stefaan van Biesen


P A S T : P R E S E N T





2019 > 2020:




MOZAÏEK [Mijn naam is Vijd] CC Ter Vesten Beveren Belgium. A multi disciplinairy project. Drawings - Photos - Texts - Soundscape - Photo/installation - Video ⋈ An artistic research. Location: Cortewalle castle Beveren 01.07 > 11.10.2020.




At the invitation of the Ter Vesten cultural center, Stefaan van Biesen is conducting an artistic investigation into the figure of Joos Vijd. Using drawings, photos, video and texts, he reads the layered meanings in attitudes, forms and symbols in the famous painting by Van Eyck. The Mystic Lamb is thus lifted from medieval Ghent and brought to a contemporary Beverse context.


Joos Vijd ordered the triptych of 'Het Lam Gods' (the Mystic Lamb) 1432 by Jan Van Eyck. The project/research by Stefaan van Biesen was given the working title: 'Mozaiek [My name is Vijd]'. This exhibition starts at the beginning of July and runs until mid-October 2020. Location: Cortewalle Castle, the former home of Joos Vijd (this castle is depicted as a miniature in the painting of the Lam Gods). Proof that Joost Vijd and Jan Van Eyck moved in the same cultural and diplomatic circles.


On Facebook [Dutch language] : Vijd Awa




Presentation of the first result of the 'Vijd Mozaiek' during a work meeting for the exhibition.


Outside of historical facts and observations, we can only be guessing about the intentions and aspirations of Joos Vijd. This sometimes leads to different views and interpretations. Nevertheless, it seems somewhat plausible that Joos Vijd had a great affection for the circles from which the painters Van Eyck purified their knowledge and can therefore not be seen solely as the client and financier of the Ghent Altarpiece. The fact that, given the size and duration of this work, Filips De Goede agreed to 'lend' Jan Van Eyck (who was responsible for the glamor of the Court) to a subject such as Vijd, is nevertheless curious and indicates on a great affection towards Joos Vijd. There is also the fact that on the Ghent Altarpiece his residence in Beveren (castle Cortewalle) is depicted on the central and main panel. The next question is: did Jan van Eyck visit Beveren to make a sketch of Cortewalle? A plausible assumption?


In his artistic research for the figure of Vijd, Stefaan van Biesen wants to focus on the timeless and universal gestures and their symbolism, in their layers meaning, in order to translate these into our own time and thus make them visible again in a contemporary context. What is still present and recognizable in our current, everyday life and how have they retained their ritual, spiritual or social function? Timelines have no hold on the essences of life. Art can be an instrument in a quest to situate someone like Vijd as a person from our own social, interpersonal experiences.


So, what links can be made and are still relevant and are therefore experienced as timeless? Or how is the time and environment in which Vijd lived in still relevant in our human, social and intercultural relationships?


This exhibition consists of different parts: 1. The drawings as a contemporary commentary > 2. An installation with photos "The Sacred Landscape" > 3. A video > 4. A music composition & soundscape.


Studio view models for the exhibition with little drawings 2020.








2019 :




[The Offering of the Heart]


The Book of the Love Heart in Love is an allegorical novel by Duke René d'Anjou [1409-1480]




Miniature from the Book of the loving Heart of love, depicting Love giving Desire the heart of the sick king. Attributed to Barthélemy d'Eyck.



















[En écoutant du Schumann / La Musique russe].



Art project 'Melancholia', S & H De Buck & university of Ghent Belgium 2000. Based on a dispute between the two famous Belgium Fin de Siècle painters: Fernand Khnopff and James Ensor. Ensor accused Khnopff of plagiarism.


A performance based on the Belgian painters, James Ensor (1860-1949) and Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921), who had known each other as fellow students at the Brussels Academy, had a violent polemic in response to the painting 'Listening to music by Schumann', which Fernand Khnoppf showed in that same year when it was finished. The canvas, purchased on 5 October 1945 at the Henri La Fontaine auction in the Georges Giroux gallery in Brussels by the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels, was indeed apparently influenced by the work of 'La Musique russe/Russian Music' from 1881 by James Ensor.





En écoutant du Schumann, Fernand Khnopff 18 La Musique russe, James Ensor 1881.













[Studiolo: Skin, must learn how to breathe]. Installation/a reconstruction.



Public library Zwijndrecht Belgium 2005.


The world of the recluse. Stefaan van Biesen's philosophical path.


Many will have looked at the painting “San Girolamo nello studio” by Antonello da Messina in the London National Gallery with certain amazement and questioning eyes. San Girolamo is better known as Hieronymus. The Saint is mostly represented as a hermit who lives in poor circumstances. Let’s think about the famous painting of Jeroen Bosch in the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium. We see the recluse who has thrown himself in front of the crucifix, only dressed in his undergarment. Behind him, a serene and most beautiful landscape unfolds, to which the hermit pays no attention.




San Girolamo nello Studio [1474–1475] by Antonello da Messina. ©National Gallery London UK.



The painting is recorded in a Venetian collection in 1529 as by Antonello, Van Eyck or Memling. Antonello da Messina may have painted it when in Venice in the 1470s. His style was much influenced by Netherlandish painting seen in the detailed treatment of objects such as the hanging towel and the view through the window. The 4th-century Saint Jerome was one of the four Fathers of the Church, and is often represented in the Renaissance. He was famous for the Vulgate (the translation of the Bible into Latin) and is often depicted in his study. A painting of Saint Jerome, thought to be by Jan van Eyck, is known to have been in Naples in 1456 and Antonello may have seen it. He certainly worked in Naples as well as his native Sicily.



Public library Zwijndrecht Belgium 2005.


Antonella da Messina pictures the recluse in his study, an open construction in which the church father withdraws. His wooden construction is part of a bigger picture, an imaginary, gothic room which could refer to a church as well as to a palazzo. Slender pillars and vistas with a view on the landscape, only meant for the viewer, not for the character who has withdrawn in that space. He has retired voluntarily in a firmly structured studio with only walls. The studio is somewhat elevated above the world, it is like a stage. The learned church father is reading a book and is surrounded by several objects. He observes the world through educational material, not through direct observation. He observes the world in which he has retired. Let’s not forget that the man is a monk and a scholar who is responsible for the Latin standard version of the bible, the Vulgate. His cardinalate was assigned posthumously, therefore the red mantle and cardinal’s hat, attributes with which he is mostly represented.


Text by Daan Rau [published in Openbaar Kunstbezit 2007].



Skin was show at 1. 'Skin, must learn how to Breathe, CC De Werft Geel [2004] > 2. Public Library Zwijdrecht Belgium [2005] > 3. ' Rewind' [curated by Filip Van de Velde, SMAK Ghent], Vierkante Zaal KASK Sint-Niklaas Belgium [2008].










1994 - 2019:




[Obstacle/Passage/Obstacle]. Installation/a reconstruction.




The photo above of the installtion [during art project 'Speelhoven' Aarschot Belgium 1994/1997] was published in the book 'Buiten & Binnen (outside & inside), Visions on and by the actual landscape [1998]' by author/art historian Johan Pas. It was taken in a place that is very reminiscent of the landscape that can be seen on the original painting 'the prodigal son' by Hieronymous Bosch [1450-1516] made in 1516. That was also the main reason for placing the work on this spot.



[The Prodigal Son] 1516 by Hieronymous Bosch. Collection of the Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam the Netherlands.





Sculpture/permanent installation public space for a birth park of the community of Zwijndrecht in Belgium September 2018. Installation / Reconstruction. The gate symbolizes renewal, change, a mental rebirth or the start of a new beginning during a life phase. The wanderer, the nomad, the refugee tries to come 'home'.


Stefaan van Biesen works in his oeuvre with the concepts present/past, body/mind, culture/nature. This results in images, drawings, videos, performances in which a special view on mankind, nature and social events always is given.




[Obstacle/Passage/Obstacle]. Integration Geboortepark Zwijndrecht Belgium September 2018.



[Obstacle/Passage/Obstacle]: 'Speelhoven' Aarschot Belgium 1996 > 'Artificial Landscape' [Betoverd Bos] Schuurlo Sint-Maria Aalter, Belgium. [curator: Angelique Campens] > 'How Long Is Now?' Biscainhos museum Braga Portugal 2010 > As a permanent work in the public space: Geboortepark [Birth Park] at Zwijndrecht Belgium 2018.








2002 :




[World kitchen] Breugel & today' Herman Teirlinckhuis Beersel Belgium 2002.



Art Project [Breugel en Vandaag]. Several artist were aksed to make a tribute to Breugel [1525-1569] at the Herman Teirlinckhuis in Beersel Belgium [2002]. The house is situated in the region where Breugel once lived and worked.






Fragments form the paintings 'spreuken' and 'Boerenbruiloft' made by Breugel.



[World kitchen] Breugel & today' rooftop of the Herman Teirlinckhuis Beersel 2002. 60 rice pies made in plaster. The work is based on a painting with Flemish spells from Breugel and specifically on the saying: 'There, the roofs are covered with flans' (people who live in wealth and abundance). Luxury in an unequally divided world. A permanent world problem.








1998 :




[Wild Man Variations] video performance. Corpus CC Ter Vesten Beveren Belgium 1998.



[Wildman Variations] is a video of a performance based on pagan 'wildman' paintings and wooden ornaments in the old Christian house chapel in Castle Cortewalle Beveren Belgium. Art project 'Corpus' CC Ter Vesten [1998].


The wildman is a mythical figure that appears in the artwork and literature of medieval Europe, comparable to the satyr or faun type in classical mythology and to Silvanus, the Roman god of the woodlands.


Nature versus Culture. Or a desire to be 'nature', to be one with nature? The polarity between culture and nature, but also the inability to connect both. The definition of the term 'nature' is determined by culture. The term 'nature' is an interpretation, a filtered look at our environment. Maybe it is therefore a difficult concept to describe. We often forget that we ourselves are 'nature'. We often place ourselves outside of 'nature' and look at it as an observer who is detached, who has lost or denied the bond with what he is in essence.





Photo: one of the several wildman paintings in the chapel of Cortewalle Castle in Beveren. A remarkable combination of Christian and pagan representations.













[Friedrich Walks] walks in Europe [since 1999]. Spaziergangwissenschaft.

Photographs taken during several walks in Europe as an hommage to Caspar David Friedrich.



Friedrich [1774-1840] was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic or megalithic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. Friedrich's paintings characteristically set a human presence in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that, according to the art historian Christopher John Murray, directs "the viewer's gaze towards their metaphysical dimension".







Photo: Annemie Mestdagh at Wilhelmshöhe Apollo Temple Kassel Germany 2007.












[My load is undefined] a two day walk 1992.





[My load is undefined] My first walk as the start of an artistic practice: registration of a two days walk. Melsele Belgium 1992. Attribute Stefaan van Biesen. An homage to Breugel and Bosch. Camera and video by Toon Saerens. Time 04:46.



Fragments of the video.







© stefaan van biesen-annemie mestdagh 29.05.2020