Joost Vander Auwera – Honorary Senior Curator Royal Museums of Fine Arts, BE

Petervan, in the world Peter Vander Auwera, after a rich and varied career in the business world, has changed his vision after the revelation of intense beauty in an exhibition of Dries Van Noten, one of the strength holders of the Belgian fashion scene.

I am his cousin, even with parents who were siblings, so from the pure DNA and as an art historian by profession, I should be able to put myself in my cousin’s artistic world and try my best to nevertheless remain objective.

First of all, let me say that I find it courageous to definitively abandon the prestige and the remuneration of business. I can also suspect the rat race when I listen to Peter’s new ideal day in his video “Interior Truth”. I have often met (former) colleagues who, after studies that offered prospects of a certain existence and helping to provide a living for a family, felt the regret at a later age for not having followed their artistic passion. But with Peter, this turn is different and more radical, although the artistic sensitivity was already evident in his initial choice for architectural studies.

Petervan has a special sensitivity in his art for the image that captures. And he knows how to maintain this in a multitude of styles and media. He constantly experiments, but his images keep capturing attention, in a wide variety of formal languages.

He rightly emphasizes the importance of beauty in our earthly existence, of art as a free haven in life and of unboundedness as a guideline for a meaningful inner experience. It is Ernst Gombrich who, in 1960, in his “Art and Illusion. A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation ”, opened our eyes to the fundamental insight that art does not represent reality as through a window, but conversely, we see reality through what we have stored in our image memory as art. The essential importance of beauty as such for a meaningful life has already been articulated for the first time in the philosophy of the 18th century and enlightenment, with Immanuel Kant as a shining example, because in him the aesthetic faculty in man became the final piece of his philosophy – thus of the search for meaning – after his analysis of the right knowing and the right action. Since then, the term beauty has been neglected in art, and expressive ugliness has also received its nobility in contemporary art.

Art as a free haven for the artist and its public remains a precious commodity and unfortunately has to be constantly defended, both in communist-Marxist and capitalist-based societies, including after the fruitless proclamation of the end of ideologies and even of history.

The fact that management theories aim at problem-solving and art is purely creative, has critical reservations from my background as an art historian: artists have tackled many successive artistic problems in art history, from controlling perspective to Adorno’s question if poetry is still possible after the Nazi extermination camps? But the search for solutions happens in art in a specific way: by continuously responding during the evolving creation process itself and not from a pre-formulated problem statement. Picasso put it this way: “Chercher ne signifie rien en peinture. Ce qui compte, c’est trouver. ” And also: “Tout ce qui peut être imaginé est réel.”.

To conclude with a very appropriate insight from Einstein: 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. ”

Joost Vander Auwera

Petervan’s cousin

Honorary Senior Curator Royal Museums of Fine Arts, BE

Chris Vanbeveren, Petervan’s supervisor at the Academy of Visual Arts, Ghent, BE

Peter Vanderauwera is one of those exceptional painting students at the Academy of Fine Art Ghent, who combines professional and artistic activities. Working in the international ‘event’ sector, installation elements emerge on the stages where he lands and of which we often find the basis in his paintings. I am grateful that Peter knows and uses the functionality of his creations. With Peter, there is no strict distinction between applied arts and liberal arts. Fortunately. They stand side by side in equal dignity. Peter is very aware that the external aspects in which a lecture is given determine the way in which the audience will receive the content. A lecture with his speaker becomes part of a visual installation.

Peter is passionate. This is all the more evident when you enter into a conversation with him and give him time to elaborate on online lectures. I, as his painting teacher, have the privilege of having such conversations with Peter in the midst of his visual work. The universe of Peter thus reveals itself.

His production is extensive and diverse. It ranges from model drawing to figuration to minimalist abstract. A very varied range that tells about the quest that Peter is currently in. In which we, as supervisors, are immediately tempted by an often formulated statement: the search, the process is more important than the goal, the product.

Peter likes to work with different materials and techniques and since a few months he also expresses himself with digital imaging. In that context, we can definitely speak of “mixed media”. There are even initiatives and ideas to give this a three-dimensional character. We can only encourage it. In his exhibition we see that diversity. There are “grid structures”, paintings with collage-like aspects, idiosyncratic representations of man, interiors, models like I already mentioned, geometric and organic.

I think we can safely say that Peter is a thinker in images.

Chris Vanbeveren.

Petervan’s supervisor at the Visual Arts Academy Ghent, BE

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