ABOUT THE WORK.
During a trip to the South of France, where my mother was going to have surgery for breast cancer, I stopped for a cup of coffee on the way. I saw a signpost to a museum of prehistory and I visited it. I was totally overwhelmed by the dioramas with 'stuffed' ancestors. Neanderthals, the invention of fire, prehistoric objects, but especially the reconstructed figures, prehistoric hunters and collectors, a 'stuffed' mammoth of plush, men in caves, half-naked behind glass, attacked by a prehistoric tiger.
I photographed the dioramas in different ways and had the feeling that for me everything came together here. The transience of life, death, extinction, change, evolve. I myself have been working on the family tree of my own ancestors for 15 years. I search online archives, find original documents and photos. That genealogy hobby takes me a lot of time, and I often wonder why I'm actually doing it. My father was an anatomist and a physical anthropologist, so that fascination with man, the human body, but also with foreign peoples, history, 'ethnology' (I also studied Cultural Anthropology myself) has inspired me. When I was young I could read in his scrapbooks about an expedition he took part in in the fifties to Dutch' Papua New Guinea, then still a colony. According to us, Western people, those cultures still lived in 'the Stone Age'. My father always spoke with great respect about the Papuans but he was an anthropologist and he was there to do research, so in the pre-DNA era that meant measuring bodies, taking samples, (blood, hair) and so on.
Scenes from the films that were shot at the time in which he measured a face are still often used today when it comes to the way Western man deals with - and looks at - the 'primitive peoples' and the coloured fellow man.
So my starting point was initially the series I made in the little museum in the South of France, but I also used an image from the film with my father, and during the past year I collected more and more information and publications about prehistoric finds, research, and I visited many other museums to find out how our ancestors are actually portrayed there. In this way, the project naturally evolved into an issue about 'where does that go with humans? Covid-19 already prevailed in China, and the anthropological layer even questions colonization, racism, Black Lives Matter.
This thesis Free Graphics deals with the view on the evolution of mankind.
The way in which today's man looks at our origins, at the Neanderthal, at prehistory, and even at the origin of life, the world. It also deals with how the future man will look at us, when we will be excavated by archaeologists. The way we look at our ancestors and fellow human beings says a lot about how we look at ourselves.
The work confronts us with our view of the other and ourselves. The size of the work overwhelms us, as does the amount of images incorporated into the work. The viewers recognize Lucy, excavations of dinosaurs, historical finds, skulls, anthropological research, as well as modern man, DNA samples, excavations with headphones, mouth caps and the smartphone.
The variety of graphic techniques and formats used is just as diverse as man himself.
Lithography, copper engraving, photogravure on zinc, collography, woodcut, lino and even a photographic process in which the zinc plates are made light-sensitive with PRP 20 positive spray, originally intended for etching electronic circuits. Also the original transparencies, normally used for exposures on copper plates, are used in the final work as well as a covering paper where the varnish left a trace and an original copper plate itself.
While I was making the Lucy family (female and male Neanderthals in different print runs, printed on different papers and life-size), I was also working on smaller works that communicate with this, such as a lithograph in several colours of cave drawings.
In February 2020 I got the opportunity to exhibit. I placed all the works on a wall of 3 by 5 meters, the Lucy family next to each other, and the other sculptures right above and beside it. Moreover, I placed a transparent of a modern human body, a composition of X-ray images, across the image. The work had a lot of impact, visitors stayed for a long time and asked a lot of questions.
After this I continued to work mainly with the current human being. The human being I am not always proud of. Where did that evolution lead to? A lot of people have headphones on, or a telephone in their hands. The corona virus was already raging in China at the time, so I also processed the mouth cap in some engravings.
Then the virus also reached Belgium.
My last big work, a copper plate of 90 by 50 centimetres in which I had pressed human bones, a mouth cap, plastic gloves, hairpins and half decayed tarlatan cloths into the varnish, I couldn't print.
This is actually rather ironic, as if the world really has perished, like a Pompeii where life suddenly stops. If I were to exhibit my work as a whole, I would not be exhibiting this work as a print, but the plate itself, precisely to show how civilization could suddenly end, by a virus, a meteor impact, or wars.