CURATOR PICKS 001: Sacha Verleyen



Sacha Verleyen (1998) born in Brussels, is co-founder of the collective known as Medusa. Here he is realizing the role of curator, although he absolutely does not want to call himself a curator. The envy for the title ‘curator’ in all its facets, is a reaction to the so many curators who in his eyes simply are no more than a group of people who create exhibitions.

The exhibitions he composes or creates do not stem from any kind of necessity, relationship or research aspect. They are simply results of what is exhibited, no more or no less. His working method is therefore best described as instinctive and intuitive. What animates Sacha Verleyen about organizing exhibitions is mainly to open up possibilities for both the artist and the public, with the aim of simply inspiring people.

For the first edition of Curator Picks Sacha introduces six artists.

Chloe Arrouy & Oscar Mathieu

Chloe Arrouy & Oscar Mathieu, Duo graduation show

Chloé Arrouy explores concepts of transgression, sacrilege. Moving back and forth between beauty and pain, sensuality and austerity, innocence and infamy, sacred and profane, she seeks paradoxes in pagan, candid and witchcraft symbolism, which become tangible pretexts and spiritual fields of experimentation.

Her practice of objects sculpting pushes her to explore the empathetic power of forms in their capacity to cause, with their mere view, a torment, a physical sensation, often one of pain. The convened universe resonates with those of witchcraft, bdsm, adolescence. All those territories provide her with ways to evoke, sometimes with a satyrical touch, her relation to life, sexuality and culture. In their rapport to craftsmanship and ornamented, rustic artefacts, her objects bear references to medieval societies and their proliferation of troubling forms.

Oscar Mathieu is a faggot. At the moment, he’s trying to make something out of the ambiguity of this identity where pleasure & danger are entwined. Here come little houses for protection, little dogs for companions, shiny clothes for becoming who we already are.

He aims to suggest, through this multidisciplinary practice, clues that possess the power to recount a complex & intimate narrative. Art is viewed as a means to create bonds, to address a public in its core knowledge of something shared.

Feeling a sense of risk in unveiling oneself, as well as an urgency to do so, he uses cuteness and childlike imagery for their capacity of emotional honesty & visual delight.

From a technical standpoint, he’s forever curious of new mediums, always learning, rejecting mastery. But wherever he goes – sewing, drawings, sculpting, tattooing… – the body is always present, pleasured or hurting, cared for or caring.

Chloé and Oscar’s encounter happened with a collaboration: the latter asked the other for a device to present textile works, then returned the favor by sewing a cushion for a sculpture of hers. Between metal and fabric, the sharpness of tips and the delicacy of satin, they designed this exhibition as the testament of a fortunate companionship between two extremes. Somewhere in the center of this, they moved propelled by their shared liking of dogs, embodied during the whole exhibition by the presence of Salem, Chloé’s pup.

This gave life to a porous collaboration, a dialogue between two worlds opposed in everything – but violence, binding them together as a raw material.

Justin Somjen

Justin Somjen, Decorative Facade 1 (Achilles’ Heel, Coke and Beer Cans), Plaster, paint
Justin Somjen, Decorative Facade 1 (Achilles’ Heel, Coke and Beer Cans), Plaster, paint
Justin Somjen, Decorative Facade 2 (Asphalt Spill), Plaster, paint, framed photograph
Justin Somjen, Decorative Facade 2 (Asphalt Spill), Plaster, paint, framed photograph
Justin Somjen, Decorative Facade 3 (His and Mine), Plaster, paint, chestnut shells
Justin Somjen, Decorative Facade 3 (His and Mine), Plaster, paint, chestnut shells
Justin Somjen, Waterproof Nest, Recycled rain jackets, photographic prints, chains
Justin Somjen, Waterproof Nest, Recycled rain jackets, photographic prints, chains
Justin Somjen, Waterproof Nest, Recycled rain jackets, photographic prints, chains

Artist statement from the graduation project:

Justin Somjen’s project at the Academy is a materialization of the research he conducted that addresses the notion of protection. He approaches research in a loose, layered way, spiralling through multiple avenues to come to a collage of ideas. The research for this project focused on queer identity and relationships, bird nesting and mating behaviour, shells, decoration, the relationship between images and objects, family history, and pollution. He is interested in works being presented like an anthology, where the works act as a collection, rather than a cohesive whole. Through his process, he is dedicated to creating multifaceted relationships between objects, forming a language that exists between his works, moving between vulnerability and protection, two dimensionality and three dimensionality, and surface and content.

Justine Grillet

Justine Grillet, qfwfq, photo credit: Lina van Hulle

Artist statement:

Throughout my practice I’ve mostly been working around three topics:

Theatre: Structure & Performance, explains my idea of working with different scenes from a play. To create a stage where figures can perform and dance. For this, I use theories from fictional stories that I consider as truth and applies them in my work. By playing with a non-physical world I feel like I can question the role of a performer and the meaning of his performance. This means that creatures living in this particular world can be drawn, written down, or become a piece of sound. These non-physical creatures or monsters suggest figurative work. They do not exist in the real world but in words, memories, and stories, they are present. After this process some of them become physical beings and they’re growing into characters with a personality.

The relationship between sound and object. This has been one of my main concerns in the last years. They can be compared to an archaeological sound archive. I record all sorts of sounds in my atelier, from ceramic rattles to banging metal. My way of working with sound is an experimental and spontaneous process. I combine the sound of handcrafted objects with the sound of electronic devices such as a synthesizer and this by implementing the device in a sculpture. It’s essential for me to see how the elements work together and how they function as an arrangement.

‘In ‘The Book of Imaginary Beings’, Borges comments on all kinds of mythical creatures in a sly and humorous way. It is full of abstruse references and lots of fun. Something I want to keep in mind during my process. These stories can lead me to create my own creatures. According to this, drawings are and will remain an important element in my play. First of all, they are a way of thinking and processing. In addition to that, they can also be used as a tool to create a story, context or a landscape.

About the work:

A mysterious non physicality creates my interest for mythical creatures and its surroundings.

Things that don’t exist physically are easier to espouse. There is no right or wrong.

It’s a fictive story whit no comparison to the ‘real’, physical thing of it, these non rules create a feeling of endless freedom.

The sculptures are casted as performers in a play. The audience is guided into the installation with a metal staircase followed by a stone path.

The layout is inspired by a fairy tale theme park. The path leads to ‘the control room’ where the visitor can activate one of the performers.

These moving creatures are like puppets and the one creating/controlling them can be seen as the puppeteer.

Everyone of them was assigned a name, as well as the non moving sculptures who are considered as props. The titles are displayed on a led screen, hanging on the control room. These function as a lyrics for the music piece that is composed by the movements and footsteps.

Noa Verkeyn

Noa Verkeyn, No Title, photo credit: Lina Van Hulle

The work of Noa Verkeyn (1997) includes drawings, sculptures and installations. In her work she explores the relationship between human and nature and tries to tell a story in which plants are humanized and living things are questioned.

Her works are composed of ink, spray paint and colored pencils on the one hand and clay, earth and flowers on the other. Combining these materials creates a tension that leaves the viewer confused with both a familiar and alienating feeling.

Color is crucial in Noa’s work because for her it embodies the sprouting of life. By playing with color, in all shapes and sizes, her drawings establish a connection between her vivid utopian world and the one we find ourselves in. Creating a world that evokes these contradictory feelings is ultimately the core of her artistic practice. By bringing nature inside and disconnecting it from its natural habitat, she creates a moment that is separate from the outside world. A new reality that culminates in a field of flowers where the ugly becomes beautiful, the fickle becomes reliable and humor eases the pain.

About the work:

Digging! Digging! Sweatdrops dripping on the dark, dug up ground. Roots appear, rebelling flowers take flight after throwing a final challenging glance. They race through the field, protruding their tongues. Freedom! Freedom! they cheer while running.

Stan Van Rompaey

Stan Van Rompaey, Notes on Bimbos and Bodybuilders

Artist statement:

Stan Van Rompaey’s impulses and personal affinity for absurd aesthetics, vulgar imagery, banal rituals and unintentional humour are a preposterous study on the manifestations of culture. She understands her job to be the structuring of knowledge, which opens up an intriguing space for disturbing the very foundation upon which knowledge is built. Out of this meta-critical view on literacy and visual culture she likes to consider her work an homage to Oscar Wilde’s quote “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”, which to her explains the human tendency to go to extremes and the theatricality of everyday life; that which Stan seeks to exhibit in her pretentious approach.

About the work:

Notes on Bimbos and Bodybuilders:

Mastertreatise (text & visual essay)

56 years after Susan Sontag published her epochal essay ‘Notes on Camp’, her extensive definition of the term has inevitably succumbed to transience despite camp itself having acquired a cosmopolitan understanding. The notion of camp being “the love for the unnatural; of artifice and exaggeration” continues to be the essence of ‘Notes on Bimbos and Bodybuilders’, which comprises a post-Sontagian, yet equally dishonourable examination of the intimate affinity for transgression and the pervasive flamboyance of everyday life. The synthesis of a visual essay with written notes endeavours to exhibit the camp sensibility in which the questioning of ordinary language serves as a leitmotiv. The goal is not for it to be timeless, but rather for it to establish camp’s current state in the context of personal (perhaps common) experience.

Sacha Verleyen

Instagram: @sacha__verleyen, mail: