Sanne De Wolf: Meet the Artist Who Bakes Messages Into Loaves of Bread

By Kitty Jackson - Monday, May 25, 2020
Sanne De Wolf: Meet the Artist Who Bakes Messages Into Loaves of Bread

"Because of my love at first sight for a bakery in Tehran, I saw similarities between the bakery and my artist studio, were I work with porcelain, plaster and salt as a daily ritual.Aside from this, the Middle Eastern bakeries seem like a white wide space. You could almost be presenting a gallery space".

Image courtesy to the artist 


Sanne De Wolf lives and works in Antwerp. Her fascination for language and sign systems leads to art that has roots in conceptualism, but materializes in diverse media such as porcelain, paper, human hair, bread, textile, performance and video.

De Wolfs' works are subtle, often fragile and carry a poetic tension. Connection is central to her, whether it be social, geographical, cultural or historical. Although engagement is essential in her practice, her work is seldom explicit.

De Wolf has a natural affinity with the Middle East, both thematically and in the use of an implicit language. In 2017 and 2019 she stayed in Iran and Lebanon during a number of art residencies. The results of these residences were shown in exhibitions in Tehran, Ghent, Lebanon, Paris and Antwerp. 


ArtDependence (AD):You have an ongoing project in which you create messages on bread. You did this project in Syria, Iran, Lebanon and now in Antwerp. Is bread the medium or is bread the piece of art?

Sanne De Wolf (SDW): I guess both.

In this project, bread is the medium that spreads messages to question, to empower, to keep thinking, imagining and activating.It is intended to reach the widest possible audience, so it can find the heart of our society.

Originally the text is made by pressing a wood carved mold onto the bread.The letters appear in ‘haut relief’ on the surface. These unique pieces are made in collaboration with chef boulanger M. Saelen and available in limited editions which can be preserved as an artwork.

During the time of Covid-19, distance and communication made me switch the way of communicating. Now I send digital formats to the bakeries abroad. They cut the format and use it as a mold. The texts are made with flour on the breads.


Image courtesy to the artist


Because of my love at first sight for a bakery in Tehran, I saw similarities between the bakery and my artist studio, were I work with porcelain, plaster and salt as a daily ritual.Aside from this, the Middle Eastern bakeries seem like a white wide space. You could almost be presenting a gallery space.

Bread in the Middle East has different connotations; religious, necessary needs, food for body and soul. Maybe we can say the same about art?

SDW: By using daily necessities, I can reach everyone, not only people that are used to going to galleries and exhibitions.

For the project CHANGE, bread in times of crisis, every week I deliver a new format with a new text. Different bakeries in Antwerp sell their breads with these urgent messages.

At the same time bakeries that I worked with before in Lebanon, Tehran and Berlin are spreading the same texts we do in Antwerp.It is a matter of connection, because we are supposed to be connected, only we forgot, I guess.

AD: Why bread?

SDW: Bread approaches different layers and meanings. It is a universal material, object and subject that is used and needed by everyone, no matter the culture, economic or social differences. It’s considered to have a long history that has created new opportunities in the wellbeing and the human way of life.

AD: Why these places?

SDW: My love for Iran is originated because of the use of language.Iran has a long history of poetry, but also politics. In a certain way it gives context to the language I use in my work. We speak the same metaphorical language.Also the regimes in these countries make artists aware of what we don’t see any more in the West.


Image courtesy to the artist


My art practices focus on connection, communication and languages or signs.I am not afraid to walk on thin lines to reach essentials.I have chosen the current places where I work because they offer the possibility to question, to connect, to make bridges between cultures, religions.Originally, the texts on the breads were always made in two languages: a western and an Arabic or Persian one.

AD: What was the strongest message you communicated in this medium?

SDW: I like all of them. For me it’s a game, like music, a sculpture or an installation.They always balance on poetics and politics. I try to encourage people to reflect, to question evidence. It’s important that we keep thinking.

The texts as they are known arise by a process of modeling, twisting, putting upside down. They always reflect on an urgent situation or conflict. The most important thing is that the texts make people aware of their thinking and reflect on habits and ideas. I hope the texts are an opening for communication.

If I really have to choose a favorite one, I choose ‘Give us more light please’.On the one hand it refers to enlightening the spirit, at the same time it points to a political issue in Lebanon where people face a blackout every day.

AD: Are there other places upcoming?

SDW: Every action is an organic and spontaneous reaction of an urgent situation or context.The bread project will be a part of the Neukoln art weekend in Berlin where, due the Covid-19 situation, it will be shown by live stream.

The bread project started three years ago but will be always ready to react, no matter where or when.

AD: How do you deal with the Covid-19 situation and will it or does it affect your art?

SDW: Dealing with Covid-19 does not take a big effort from me. I experience more peace and focus than when times were ‘normal’. I don’t ask to go back to our previous situation, on the contrary, I hope that it has allowed people to reflect and to take time to think about what is really important. ‘Our Kapital’ one of the texts on the breads, is made to make people ask the question ‘what is our capital?’ Is it economy, nature, ….?

AD: What are your future plans exhibitions, project? 

SDW: I am waiting to present a show in Tehran, Iran. Due to the fragile situation it asks patience to exhibit there for the moment. Nevertheless I continue to work on a new project that I am working on in my studio. I am not in a rush. The moment I can start traveling again, I will go in the direction of Palestine.

During the COVID - 19 outbreak, the breads are for sale inBakker Aldo, Antwerpand GROFdesem, Antwerp.


Kitty Jackson has worked as an arts journalist and writer for more than 10 years. She began her career as an Editorial Assistant at before moving to IdeasTap to become Assistant Editor. After four years Kitty moved towards digital content and began working with leading PR firm PHA Media, helping them to establish a digital department before moving to iProspect, where she was embedded within the digital content team creating content for leading brands including The Body Shop, Thomas Cook and British Gas. Kitty is now excited to return to the world of arts journalism at ArtDependence.

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Image of the Day

Roman Pyatkovka, “VELVET SADNESS”, (1996), photograph glued on velvet passe-partout (paper).

Roman Pyatkovka, “VELVET SADNESS”, (1996), photograph glued on velvet passe-partout (paper).


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