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Rinus Van de Velde

11 February - 29 May 2023

Fiction and reality, but also words and images merge in the work of Rinus Van de Velde (1983). With drawings, sculptures, installations, photos and films, this Belgian all-round artist rebuilds the absurdist stories that take place in his head. For his solo exhibition at Voorlinden, he ‘borrows’ works from the museum collection. For example by Kaari Upson, René Magritte and Rodney Graham. The exhibition can be seen from 11 February to 29 May 2023.

Rinus Van de Velde is a true explorer, but does not want to leave his studio to do so. And he doesn’t need to. He collects photos and clippings, watches documentaries and reads (artists’) biographies and books on philosophy and art history. Whilst daydreaming, he transforms these different sources of inspiration into his own surrealistic stories, often putting himself in someone else’s shoes. Van de Velde records his daydreamed journeys and encounters with pastel crayon or charcoal drawings. He also makes ceramic ashtrays full of stories and rebuilds his dreams with cardboard and wooden sets, which he uses for his drawings and films. The diversity of the Belgian artist’s oeuvre is clearly reflected in his exhibition at Voorlinden.

Rinus Van de Velde: ‘I depict a life I never had. For me, daydreaming is more important than what happens in reality. After all, you can experience so much more in your mind than you can in reality.’

Building an autobiography

Rinus Van de Velde’s solo exhibition feels like a fascinating journey through the artist’s imaginary universe, taking you from one strange scene to another. You are, as it were, walking through a part of his fictional autobiography full of daydreamed adventures, as he sees his oeuvre. He started with giant charcoal drawings with captions containing thoughts or dialogues. He draws so virtuosically that these works look like paintings. Nowadays, he also creates them with pastel crayons. Since 2013, he has been building huge installations full of ‘props’, such as a train made of cardboard. These installations are used for photographs for drawings and as sets for his films The Villagers (2017-2019) and La Ruta Natural (2019-2021). The sets and sculptures have also become an essential part of the artist’s fictional autobiography.

Directeur Suzanne Swarts: ‘Rinus’ work is absurd, surrealistic and at the same time super-convincing, because you want to believe in his strange world and bizarre adventures. He fits perfectly into the Belgian tradition and confidently, without hesitation, enters into dialogue with the great masters at Voorlinden. Truly admirable.’

Exploring the collection

If you look closely, you will also discover works by other artists in Rinus Van de Velde’s exhibition. The Flemish artist selected works from the museum collection by artists who intrigue him, attract him or are his opposite. For instance, out of fascination for the mythical artistry of Joseph Beuys (1921-1986), he retrieved Beuys’ sledge with felt and grease from the Voorlinden depot. He also selected a work by the recently deceased Rodney Graham (1949-2022) and Kaari Upson (1970-2021). He also enters into dialogue with compatriots such as René Magritte (1898-1967) and Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976) and included a work by Thomas Demand (1964), a German artist who makes photographs that also appear convincingly real or strangely artificial.

Head of exhibitions Barbara Bos: ‘Rinus’ work is overwhelming and we are deliberately going to present it that way. You might walk through the exhibition confused at first, but I promise you: everything you see will eventually fall into place.’

Daydreaming artist

Rinus Van de Velde was born in Leuven (Belgium) and studied sculpture at Sint-Lukas Hogeschool in Antwerp. His narrative work is in the tradition of Belgian artists such as James Ensor (1860-1949) and René Magritte. An inventive sculptor and humorous storyteller, his playful work aims not to depict the world, but to invent it. In doing so, he places himself in art history and explores the role of the artist. His oeuvre and exhibition at Voorlinden reflect this image of a searching, constantly role-shifting artist daydreaming about other possible lives and encounters. For instance, as wandering adventurer, inventor, athlete, sculptor William Crowder (1913-1979), poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) and chess genius Bobby Fischer (1943-2008). The latter work is part of the Voorlinden collection.