Interview with Belgian Artist Johan Gelper

By Dirk Vanduffel - Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Interview with Belgian Artist Johan Gelper

For Johan Gelper, drawing is a way of thinking, a way of giving physical dimensions to his ideas. The drawings are a study of organic growth and probe the boundary between 'intuitive' drawing and 'construction'.

Image: Botanical, 2018, drawing/collage, Pencil, calligraphy ink, coloured pencil and pasted paper leftovers (confetti) on paper, copyright of the artist. The artwork is on sale at The Art Lodge Gallery


Johan Gelper was born in Kapellen, Belgium in 1980. Now he lives and works in Ghent, Belgium.

Johan Gelper does drawings, sculptures and installations that express a fascination for nature and the biomorphic movements of its growth processes. The process of abstract scientific construction is also part of his work. His intention is to study the ambiguity of handmade objects on the basis of both natural and manufactured things. For Johan Gelper, drawing is a way of thinking, a way of giving physical dimensions to his ideas. The drawings are a study of organic growth and probe the boundary between 'intuitive' drawing and 'construction'.

The line is a fundamental element in Johan Gelper’s sculptures – be it the smooth, arcing contours of his ‘spatial drawings’ or the sharp, clustered spikes of his ‘botanicals’. His drawings in space become energetic open sculptures as we walk around them, incorporate their movement and as they invite us to engage in an embodied dance.

Art Dependence met Johan for a small talk to discuss the artist's work and plans for future.


Art Dependence (AD): What attracts you most in the medium you work with?

Johan Gelper (JG): In drawing, the directness of the medium and the idea that something can develop or grow from one simple line, attracts me most. In three-dimensional work, I like the physical relation to the space. In sculpture space itself has a perceived quality. It relates to the surrounding space or architecture and one has to move around to see it.

I often switch from sculpture or site-specific installation, to drawing and look for a creative relationship between drawing as thinking, and sculpture or installation as a way of presenting that.

By working with different media, I also like to discover new techniques and ideas trough experiments. When working with found materials, which can be very various, I often choose techniques and materials in a kind of wonderment for the materials themselves but at the same time I may find image associations, combinations or references to art history that I find interesting.


AD: What moments in your career had the greatest impact on you thus far?

JG: I’m very proud to have several drawings and a large sculpture in the collection of S.M.A.K. thanks to Philippe Van Cauteren who selected my work twice from the Young Artists (selected by) exhibitions organized in Ghent by LUCA School of Arts and KASK in 2007 and 2008. Also, every opportunity I’ve had to show works abroad so far, in Germany, The Netherlands or France were very exciting.

AD: What artists do you admire?

JG: I have a preference for art that is open. For instance, I admire the works of Naum Gabo and his belief that there should be an interaction between sculptures and the space around them. He rejected the idea that they should be just static objects. But there are many more other artists that I admire. I’m interested in all art history and admire different styles and artists from dadaism to constructivism, arte povera to land art but just as well I like very old art such as the paintings of Jheronimous Bosch or Pieter Breugel the Elder.


AD: Do you think art should always send out a message?

JG: I think that good art usually sends out a message, even if the message is that there’s no message... Often “message” means translatable into words, but a lot of visual art also has to do with the practice of seeing and the connection between the viewer and the perceived, which can also be a message.

 

Constellation with plectrum, 2017, drawing/collage, Pencil, East-Indian ink, watercolour, pasted plectrum and pasted sim-card leftover on paper, 29,7 x 21 cm,  the artwork is on sale at The Art Lodge Gallery

Botanical, 2018, drawing/collage, Pencil, calligraphy ink, coloured pencil and pasted paper leftovers (confetti) on paper, copyright of the artist. The artwork is on sale at The Art Lodge Gallery

 

These two artworks are available to purchase at the Art Lodge Gallery

 

Dirk defines the overall policy of ArtDependence Magazine, in addition to conducting interviews. He specializes in valuation and auctioning.

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