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Herman Van Ingelgem, Please stay!, 2010

Tables in different materials approximately 400 x 400 cm, variable dimensions and materials


For the work entitled Please stay! I started from the idea of using the fewest possible steps and limited interventions to result in as wide a stream of meanings as possible. In this space, tables are not foreign objects – they are, as it were, objects in their natural habitat. However, by changing the nature of the tables – I opted for a ‘cheap’ dining room table, a plastic garden table, a cafeteria-style table, a pub table – a discrepancy between the objects and the space emerges. The space dates from a bourgeois period, while the tables are the result of democratisation, emancipation and the correlating ‘cheap’ mass production and functionality. They represent a totally different system of values from the space in which they stand. As such, it is actually a political work. It points to a gap between pre-modernism and post-modernism, but by means of everyday objects. This allusion to historical modernism can also be found in the composition of the tabletops. It is a ‘balanced’, ‘stable’ arrangement with rectangles, squares and circles – a language of forms directly linked with constructivism, De Stijl [The Style, neo-plasticism] and other movements of that period.

The relation with historical modernism occurs more than once in my work (Bye Bye, the IKEA sculptures; ...) and this relationship has a melancholy touch time and again – sometimes an ironic one. This has to do with the ambivalent attitude of my generation towards this period. On the one hand, we know that modernism failed, but on the other hand we still long for the power and the emancipatory zeal of this movement.

Apart from this art-historical and political layer of meaning, the work is also about communication. The different tables may be read as different communities, each with their own language and codes... A table on its own is a practical object; a table among other tables changes into a meaningful something, like a word in a sentence or a sentence in a story.

Yet first and foremost, the work is intended purely as an image, as the play of the varying heights of the tabletops and their impact on the space – the exterior light coming through the window and falling on these surfaces, sometimes sliding, grazing, reflecting; the means in which it is bounced back, but colder or warmer, or slightly refracted...

The psychological impact of the image also plays a role: the way you enter and immediately realise that you are in the wrong place; or at the wrong moment. You enter an exhibition space and you see a group of tables set next to each other. As if you have come to a meeting room where the meeting is yet to start, or has just finished... The title aims to counter this signal: don’t go away; stay!

The entire set-up is an ambiguous whole of repulsion and attraction, an attitude often to be found in my work.


Herman Van Ingelgem, Between two seconds, 2010

MDF, oil paint, handkerchief 180 x 105 x 17 cm

For this work, I started from a very simple movement: placing a panel against a wall. This kind of action is repeated dozens of times every day in the studio, consciously or unconsciously. The action is a member of a larger family of other actions in which objects are put down somewhere, moved, leaned against, rearranged, ...  My intention with this work is to focus on a specific moment – the short instance, just before the panel touches the wall. A fraction of a second. By extension, it is also about all those moments when other objects are put down somewhere: a cup of coffee on the worktop, a new printer on the desk, a bicycle against the wall, a heavy box on top of a high wardrobe... The work evokes a very simple kind of farewell, something that jumps from your body to the world at large – a change-over of forces (from human muscle power to the force of gravity). A mental bridge. The handkerchief is something intimate and personal. As an object, it is actually very human, almost an extension of your body, or part of it. The image is a bit brutal, as if you unveil a part of your body that should normally be covered. On the other hand, the image also has echoes of tenderness: the handkerchief softens the pressure of the panel against the wall.

The painted panel is also linked with the art of painting. It mumbles comments on the traditions of monochromes, the objectification of the painting, the disappearance of the art of painting, the problem of the support, ...

Herman Van Ingelgem, Family conversation, 2010

Plywood, self-adhesive foil with wood print, 60 x 70 x 50 cm

The box is a very popular object in contemporary art. Many artists use it in their work. I have noticed that this is also the case for my contemporaries and for the artists whose work is akin to mine (Koenraad De Dobbeleer, Frederik Van Simay, gerlach en koop, Philippe Van Snick,...). Consequently, I decided to make a ‘box’, too. As such I am taking part in a discourse that may be considered a family conversation. This discourse is a subtle game of opinions, arguments, considerations – as subtle as the position and movements of the flaps to close a cardboard box. They open, close, invite, include, cover, ... ; they create millions of variations on the same theme.

In this work, I also try to explore the problem of language. The ‘cardboard box’ is made of wood, then covered with a plastic film with a wood structure print. In order to completely confuse this interaction between signifier and signified, object and language, real and fake, I have included ‘mistakes’ in applying the plastic film: wrinkles, a tear, a piece that hasn’t been cut off properly... The resulting tumble of our conceptual framework makes us aware of the constant swing between reality and the mental world of the image.


Herman Van Ingelgem, Fun in Happyland, 2010

Old plastic soccer, new polychromed plastic soccer 50 x 25 cm

The work Fun in Happyland consists of two plastic balls. One was found in the street; it is an old ball, its colour bleached by sunlight and dirt. It has shrunk because of a slow leak. The other is a new ball, bought in a toy shop; it has been painted in polychrome to resemble the old ball. By joining the two, a new image is created in which a dialogue is taking place – a dialogue between old and new, real and fake, signifier and signified, painting and object, painting and viewer, ...


Herman Van Ingelgem, X - ray, 2010

Metal, plastic, textile,102 x 43 x 25 cm

X-ray moment is a trolley suitcase with all textile stripped away. What we see is a wire model of a suitcase, a graphical translation of a three-dimensional form, a (spatial) drawing. The work refers to the moment in which suitcases are scanned at the security checkpoint, the entire contents visible on a video monitor. It is a work that explores the borderline between the private and the public, the intimate and the superficial. It is a humorous image which is terrifying at the same time. It tells the story of the terror of the public, the vulnerability of the open society.

It is also a work about language, visibility and comprehension. When does an object become a sign? Each object relates to the world and its surroundings in different, often contradictory ways. It reveals and hides at the same time. It changes meaning according to the construction that is woven around it. Every reality destroys itself when it enters a discourse; in that sense, every form of communication is an ideological maze.


Herman Van Ingelgem, Rain again, 2010

Plastic bucket, rope 38 x 28 cm

The upturned bucket on a rope aims to stylistically represent rain – and at the same time the word ‘rain’. Not the graphic letters, but the connotations borne by the concept of rain. The concept. Actually the experience or perception – and its report: the fact that it is a moment – not eternal, but recurrent. The dull triviality that rain pours over us time and time again; its influence on our activities and pursuits, on our moods...

Rain again is an attempt (like Please stay!) to generate a multitude of reflections by means of an everyday object. Again, it is a work about language – through the way in which an empty bucket does contain mental water.


Herman Van Ingelgem, Afterglow, 2010

Plastic bag, shopping wares, rope, color sample card 143 x 35 x 115 cm

From the wall, a colour chart with red hues projects. There is a hole in the chart, with a string tied to it; the string leads to a white, semi-transparent plastic bag on the floor. The bag contains supermarket items, all of them red. Just like X-ray moment or Between two seconds, this work evokes a moment, more in particular the moment when the supermarket is about to close.

Evolutionary biologists claim that we associate the colour red with danger, because the sky turned red at the moment when our natural enemies would wake up and begin their hunt for food (viz. us). The idea of the romantic sunset is, as such, a recent construction, as the evening glow originally meant straightforward horror.

Afterglow intends to be an abstracted image of the moment when westerners – hungry and hurried – set out to gather food in the supermarket after a working day.


Herman Van Ingelgem, Karate Kid, 2010

Elastic hair, 12 cm

My works often have an autobiographical aspect. They do not aim to bear extensive witness of my personal experiences because those are interesting as such, but I do aim to integrate experiences from my personal life in my work in an almost abstract way. As such my work remains close to reality. It is not of an anecdotal nature, but relates simple experiences of universal value; things that everyone experiences, and as such also recognises. I aim to integrate events that occur during the conception, elaboration and set-up of an exhibition into the story. Karate kid is an example of this.

It happens very occasionally that you meet someone and that the image of this person remains in your head for days on end. You are affected by a certain look in the eyes, the tension of the skin in the neck, the beauty of a movement, and it does not let you go. Millions of books have been written about this, and it is also the basis for Karate kid. At a party I happened to meet a young lady, and I completely lost my bearings. For days she haunted my thoughts, and her image began to mingle with the images I was working on in my studio.

Somehow it even started to influence my work. I decided to go with it and tracked down the woman in question. I explained what I was doing and asked her if I could borrow an elastic hair-ribbon (she wears her hair in a beautiful, tight ponytail). During our conversation I got to know that she likes karate films – hence the title. It obviously also refers to the strength of the elastic band stretched tightly between two hooks and to the blow you can get from just looking at someone. A few stray hairs were left in the elastic band; as such the work is actually a portrait of the young lady.


Herman Van Ingelgem, Wait!, 2010

Chipboard, bicycle stand, 244 x 222 x 2 cm

Wait! refers to Richard Serra’s sculptures, but also to the recent tradition in the visual arts of using chipboard (Manfred Pernice, Hermann Mayer Neustadt, Jan De Cock,...). It also links up with the theme of architecture in my work and the way in which I treat this theme. Wait! may be seen as a scene from the life of any DIY enthusiast.


Herman Van Ingelgem, Parts of the day, 2010

Wood, metal hinge. H. measured from the floor: 105 cm

Parts of the day consists of a wooden plank fixed at a right angle to the wall with a hinge at hip height. You can make the plank change direction by pushing it; as such, its position may be changed. This change in direction also changes the mood of the space. Just like the sunlight coming through the window slowly glides through the room, effecting an emotional change, so this simple wooden plank affects the psychological mood of the space and its visitors. The plank may be read as an object of resistance or an obstacle, but equally as a signpost or a guide, depending on the position taken.

The plank also affects the other works; it seems as if it sometimes points to one work, or then again shields it. The result is a changing hierarchy, a conversation. Parts of the day is a minimal intervention, very simple and clear. No tricks are used, nothing is hidden; you see what you get. It is exactly this ‘honest purity’ that leads to agitation, for the plank reveals a sensitivity that leads us to suspect that reality is playing a game with us.

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