Philippe Vandenberg
Philippe Vandenberg in his studio, Stokerijstraat, Ghent
  Philippe Vandenberg was born in Ghent in 1952. It is in the Museum of Fine Arts of his native city that his encounter with work by Bosch and Gustave Van de Woestijne sparks off his fascination with painting. In 1972 when he decides to devote himself full-time to the study of painting and in 1976 he graduates with a degree from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent.
Text and image have grown intimately entwined in Philippe Vandenberg's oeuvre.
On the occasion of his 1999 retrospective exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, he writes On his way in a cage is a man, his hands red, an interim reflection on his oeuvre. In 2004 Ergo Pers published Painter's Exile in a bibliophile edition with the Letter to the Nigger text and 64 etchings, in a graphic design by Rein Ergo.






Exil de peintre, an artists' book with 64 etchings and a text by Belgian artist Philippe Vandenberg. Exil de peintre, is published in a limited edition of 33 copies.
Each book includes two volumes : a firtst volume with 53 etchings an an additional second volume with a suite of 11 echings, signed and numbered by Philippe Vandenberg.
Each book is signed by the artist in the colophon.

The etchings were done directly by the artist at the studio of Henrie Hemelsoet in Ghent.
Techniques used include softground etching, hardground etching, whiteground aquatint, sugar lift aquatint and others.
The entire edition is printed on Hahnemühle 150 g. Size 28 x 36 cms.
Exil de peintre is a realisation of Rein Ergo, Henrie Hemelsoet and Philippe Vandenberg.





I' was a painter as I was a child, for a long time.
For lack of a mother tongue, I took up painting to formulate life’s questions and demands.
But once the questions were asked, once the demands were expressed, where to find the answers?
And I became a painter of bottlenecks. A painter of exile. A painter of great crucifixions of bottlenecks within the canvas, lacerating the skin of the beautiful painting. Am I still innocent?'


Philippe Vandenberg, Letter to the nigger, 2004





    Philippe Vandenberg & Berlinde De Bruyckere | Innocence is precisely: never to avoid the worst
Museum De Pont | 30 June - 28 October 2012




‘Innocence is precisely: never to avoid the worst.’
This final sentence of Lettre au nègre, written in 2003 by Belgian artist Philippe Vandenberg (1952-2009), has become the title of an exhibition where Berlinde De Bruyckere °(1964) engages in a dialogue with the work of this artist for whom she has great respect. In a carefully considered presentation she shows a personal selection of Vandenberg’s paintings and drawings, in combination with her own watercolors and several sculptures that have not been exhibited in Europe before.

Berlinde De Bruyckere hardly needs to be introduced as an artist. At De Pont her impressive figures in wax, appearing in two large vitrines, are a permanent part of the collection on display. The paintings and drawings of her fellow countryman Philippe Vandenberg are less known in the Netherlands.
To Vandenberg art and life were one. This outlook determined both the strength and the dramatic quality of all his work. By the time Vandenberg finished art school in Ghent, in 1976, he was already considered a highly talented artist. In 1981 he received the Prix de la Jeune Peinture Belge, and soon after this he would be among Belgium’s most successful painters. Vandenberg was an artist who sought the connection between mind and soul. In his paintings he expressed the human condition, often referring to his political, philosophical and literary concerns. Painting was his means of coming to terms with life – with his own complex personality, with the absurdity of the world around him and with the art world, by which he was both celebrated and dismissed.
Having made a virtuoso debut, he then renounced y display of skill. His work became, especially after 1996, increasingly austere. Vandenberg’s development is characterized by creative ruptures in which he alternated between painting figuratively and abstractly. From the mid 1990s onward, drawing began to assume increasing significance in his work. While his paintings are often searching and obdurate, thousands of his pencil drawings make up a continuum of associative, occasionally cartoonish images, in which fears and obsessions are warded off. There are also works in which language becomes image; sometimes he achieves this with a single word, other times with invoking statements. Time and again, Vandenberg questioned form and content, trying to fathom his own depths and to understand why painting was such an adventure to him. Taking risks and exposing oneself to them were the consequence of his perspective on life as an artist. In June 2009 this ended with his suicide.

Over the past year, Berlinde De Bruyckere has looked at the thousands of drawings in his studio. ‘I often discerned a part of myself in them; Philippe Vandenberg is a soulmate,’ she writes in the book in which she combines four related series of pencil drawings by Vandenberg with her own watercolors. That affinity is primarily expressed in the subject matter. Both artists deal with existential themes: with suffering, with physical and emotional pain, loneliness and vulnerability. They also share a fondness for the old masters and a familiarity with the religious visual tradition. Christian motifs such as the Cross, the Pietà and the crown of thorns take on new levels of meaning in their work
[Source: press release Museum De Pont 2012]

°Berlinde De Bruyckere (1964, Ghent, Belgium) lives and in Gent, Belgium.
She specialises in sculpture in various media including wax, wood, wool, horse skin and hair, though she also works in watercolour, gouache, and since the early 1990s many of her major works have featured structures involving blankets. Their use is symbolic both of warmth and shelter, and of the vulnerable circumstances such as wars that make people seek such shelter. De Bruyckere began making work around ideas of the human figure in the early 1990s, first through its absence, stacking and draping woollen blankets on furniture, symbolising shelter and vulnerability. Then she added bodies made of wax, almost completely covered in wool; imperfect, sexless and headless.



‘I am an artist of emotion and reflections. I don’t mean sentimentalism, the emotional, but the shock of the emotion that triggers, as it were, the reflection. Only the reflection creates space.’ – Philippe Vandenberg (1952 – 2009)



Philippe Vandenberg painting, Julien Vandevelde (2001)



Philippe Vandenberg painting, Julien Vandevelde (2001)

Footage by Julien Vandevelde documenting Philippe Vandenberg painting in his studio in Ghent in 2001.
Director: Julien Vandevelde | Production: Cavalier Seul










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