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art in public space,

Billboard Series #08: Nel Aerts

Nel Aerts (BE)

The Studio

10/08/2017 — 08/10/2017




The works of Nel Aerts’ (° 1987, Turnhout) move freely and intuitively between different media, such as painting, collage, video, performance, drawing, sculpture, and textile-work. Within Nel Aerts’ organic and layered practice - where elements from older works often return to new work - the theme of the portrait has become more and more important in recent years. Her previous series of portraits show expressive characters, in simple colors and shapes. They are anonymous characters inhabiting undefined spaces - apparently naive, colorful shapes on carved wooden panels or canvas.


A 2015 residence in the Van Gogh house in Zundert (NL) heralded a new phase in this series of portraits. Where the previous characters of Nel Aerts implicitly embodied the artist’s feelings and characteristics, the artist explicitly takes centre stage in these 100 drawings. In the drawings - made with black ballpoint pen during this stay in Zundert - Nel Aerts draws herself in different situations during her residence: working in her studio while smoking a cigarette, drinking wine in a bar, walking around Zundert or lying on bed. These drawings are full of references - both to moments from art history (like Vincent Van Gogh's famous bedroom, or Marcel Duchamp's Nue en descendant l'escalier), as to Nel Aerts’ own previous work, which she integrates into the interiors or which her painted persona is drawing in different settings. Of course, these 100 drawings are not all autobiographical - the artist makes an alter-ego of herself, a figure that can stage in all conceivable situations.


Over the years that followed the residence in Zundert, the 100 drawings further developed as large textiles and paintings on canvas. In these new works, Nel Aerts plays with materials and media, and with the simplicity of the simple black and white ballpoint drawings. The works becomes bigger and more abstract, simpler in line, but also more colorful and more expressive. In one of the works from this series, the character (originally a self-portrait of the artist's work in her studio) is abstracted to such an extend, that it almost resembles one of Nel Aerts’ older expressive, colorful figures.


The work Nel Aerts made specially for this Billboard Series is based on this last painting. It’s a small watercolor of a similar figure, drawing at a desk. Because the billboard hangs on the outside of 019, the work seems to give a glimpse of what's happening inside the building. In this way, Nel Aerts plays on the pre-modernist idea of painting as a window on the world.


Nel Aerts had solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; Carl Freedman Gallery, London; Horizont Gallery, Budapest; A KIOSK, Ghent. In addition, she also showed work in institutions such as M HKA, Antwerp; Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo; Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort; Kunsthalle Vienna; Aargauer Kunsthaus; And WIELS, Brussels. In the near future, Nel Aerts has solo exhibitions in the Warande, Turnhout; And Museum M, Leuven.














All images courtesy of the artist


Billboard series is a project by, in collaboration with All Things Contemporary vzw and 019, supported by Stad Gent.



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