MARC. Creative artist, between earth and sky

 

Marc (Van Krinkelveldt)’s long artistic career is highly exceptional in terms of art in Belgium. Fascinated by the glass display cabinets and galleries in the former Natural Sciences Museum, he was interested in drawing from a very young age. His thoughts were constantly absorbed in the scientific presentation of natural discoveries by graphical means. This however, did not lead him to study at the School of Fine Arts. The offspring of an entrepreneurial family, he did business studies and followed a career in this field. This in no way diminished his interest in art and his curiosity about primitive arts, as they are called. He discovered these among the merchants who worked around Sablon, the hub of ethnic arts at that time.

 

In 1987, he opened his own gallery in Sablon, exhibiting ethnic objects from around the world, with the emphasis on African art. He also featured some of his own works and those of contemporary artists, whom he brought together under the “Kâ” group. The founding of this group in 1993 was the beginning of a period of intense creativity.

 

Marc is a multi-faceted artist: he draws and sculpts (in bronze) – nothing unusual in that – but he is also interested in vision and the physical side of vision – and hence in the lot of the partially sighted. Such social concern is very unusual for an artist of our time. He has developed a code that enables the partially sighted, people who have either partially or completely lost their sight during their youth, to detect colour by touching a paper or cloth medium. The artist has spent a great deal of time in research on the subject, attracting considerable interest among the scientific and social communities. The practical application of this system for enabling partially-sighted people throughout the world to participate more intensively in normal life is eagerly awaited.

 

In terms of drawing, the artist is developing a particularly individual technique which he calls hyper-pointillism. It consists of juxtaposing small dots of plain colour to create realistic effects. Since the animal world is Marc’s main source of inspiration, this technique, which requires a great deal of work, enables him to render colours and shades in all their richness, for example in the portrayal of feathers, skin, shells and so on.

 

If Marc’s drawing technique is original, so are his works. We should consider the concept behind his work more closely. It is true that sometimes (or often) strange-looking animals initially prompt some astonishment. We tend to like and appreciate what we already know, or what we end up recognising. It is difficult to grasp and appreciate something we have never seen or that is unknown.

The strangeness of these works is, however, only an impression. The artist has no intention of amazing us through mysterious or surrealist special effects. The general public is unfamiliar with the animal world (including insects), whereas the artist is profoundly knowledgeable about it. The gulf between these two levels of perception is what lies at the root of a feeling of incomprehension. Once familiar with the work – and there is no need for specialist studies to achieve this – the charm and appositeness of some of the shapes become clear.

 

In sculpture, the harmony of the work, or rather of its component parts, is more easily sensed, because everything is brought together under one skin as it were, the sheen of bronze. This is less so in drawing (pen and ink), a very precise technique that enables very realistic portrayal and faithful rendering of all the subtleties of the model. Such drawings, these collections of masks, are wonderful proof that a concern for detailed observation does not diminish imaginative quality. There are, unfortunately, very few artists at present who can do the same.

Marc’s work has great clarity. The subject is clear and so is the execution. This is because he is a highly-skilled master of his art, a talent that is evident on several levels. In the conceptual phase, the anecdotal is removed from the subject. The execution is characterised by complete mastery of technique and economy of rendering. The artist does not add to it. He allows suggestion to play its part, a performing role in art and communication.

 

Marc’s career has something of a Tour de France mountain stage about it – to use an image. There is no lack of honours and successes, but it has not been devoid of the trials of life. What is certain is that the artist has not deviated in his pursuit of his artistic, and to some extent social, mission. He has developed his art throughout the first thirty years of his career, and this has given him an expertise that combines technical perfection in the realistic rendering of natural subjects with a sense of imagination and play.

 

We should have many more artists like Marc in our society, artists who see beyond their studio or their apparent value. While environmental preoccupations and the preservation of nature are the number one concern in daily life, here is an artist who makes it the main subject of his work, and has done so since his career began. There is actually a lovely sense of continuity between the young lad who visited the Natural Sciences Museum and the artist of today. Throughout this period he has never stopped observing and thinking about what might become of our natural environment in the worst of scenarios. He is not suggesting science fiction, but creative art based on possible evolution. This does not give rise to black and pessimistic visions, as we might expect. Marc retains all his sensitivity to life and living, life which will always reveal itself despite what might happen. Marc thus conveys a message that is both artistic and moral. The artist is a profound humanist. The series of masks bears witness, furthermore, to his sense of fun and his surprising creative talent.

Joost DE GEEST