Selection by Jos De Gruyter
Artist or art professional:
About the selection:
I love sketch pads. Their raison d’être is not always clear. They are enigmatic. Which makes them interesting. They are filled with drawings, paintings or written texts, lacking any visible structure. One should read them as an archaeologist. Each detail counts. The cover of this particular sketch pad shows some pencil marks. At the bottom right, there is the circled letter D, next to “september 1997”. At the bottom left, there is the capital F, above “1997”. A little further to the bottom we can read “000”. And way up in the left top corner we can see the number “542”.
The sketch pad in question, which I shall refer to as the September Pad, bears the Croquis brand. It is made in Spain and contained 120 pages of 90 gr, 29.7 x 42 cm. Of these 120 pages, 87 have been used and 33 have disappeared. For unlike bound sketch books, pages can be torn out without a trace, as they are held together by small rings.
The 33 pages that are absent and those 87 that are still present in the September Pad evoke in me equally major questions. Some of them may have been leading a separate artistic life, as works in their own right. They might be hanging in a museum, be a part of an art collection or be packed in silk paper in a folder in a safe with the right temperature and humidity. These are the fortunate ones. The less fortunate have simply disappeared, have been burnt or have rotten away.
After he had bought the sketch pad, Philippe could use it to give free rein to channel his ideas. He appears to have spit them out and when it all became too much, he tore out pages and destroyed them. He tore out and framed the pages that had turned out right.
The 87 remaining pages are somewhere between these two extremes. Quite recently, I visited the studio where Philippe had worked during his last years. It looks like a storage room for ideas, a warehouse, a gigantic sketch pad in which to get lost. Everywhere in the space are motifs that also pop up here and there in paintings, drawings and other sketch pads. Texts and figures that are being interpreted and endlessly re-interpreted. Like religious themes from the early Middle Ages, when monks still copied books by hand and often added funny or obscene drawings in the margins.
It says a lot about the artist. It yields a feeling of intimacy.
The 87th and last drawing is a portrait of the artist entitled Portrait of Papa by Mo on 22 Sept. 1997. I cannot tell how old Mo was when he or she drew this. It does not matter anyway. It is above all a touching statement. We can see Philippe Vandenberg staring at the soul of the world, staring at what we have seen in the previous 86 pages, staring at the intangible that had to be grasped whatever the cost.
We must stare at Philippe Vandenberg’s work.
That is why I love the sketch pads.