About the artist

Jack Berben

The beginning…

During my first encounter with art, I experienced the urge of creating, not by following a defined guideline, but by trial and error, from within, feeling deep tranquillity and satisfaction from a result I could not foresee.

My grandfather, Jac. Douven, was a photographer and a painter. For the rest of my days, the scent of oil paint will always bring my memories back to his atelier. It was like entering a sanctuary, showing progress in paintings, oil paint tubes, colours, objects and shadows. I was quite puzzled when I saw him paint turquoise skies, purple hay and blue fading mountains. I expected colours that I had seen in real. He tought me that he painted what he saw, not what was there. Light breaks, he said. On top of that, he would paint an old farm from one context or place in another scenery. Again, it was a suggestion, not a reality.

My mother was an outstanding talent in drawing and painting. She started to attend drawing lessons when she was about 50 and made an exceptional progress. Her paintings show large hands and feet, very expressive and reassured. She got lethally ill at the age of 60 and forced herself to make one painting per week in an urge to fight her fait. The joy and unique atmosphere she put down with brushes, is unlike any other. One can hardly imagine the mental force of this ill person producing such vitality and optimism. She left a visible and optimistic legacy.

A friend of mine, the late painter Theo Pensaert, made me aware of the absolute sheer beauty of function, with design as a derivate, not a goal at all. Paralysed in his wheelchair, he took birch wooden sticks with taped brushes or spoons between his teeth. He created what I would describe as “magic reality”. His wife, Noëlla, told me he had mentally gone to the bottom of the deepest ocean and found the force to rise up. Theo stopped to look at a glove, left behind on the street. What story was to be found behind this glove? What about the person that wore this glove? Why was it left behind? Fascinating. He looked at the sun, appearing between clouds. “Another wonderful day…..” he said.

These people influenced me and made me aware of exploring my journey.

My quest…

My quest to express myself artwise is a process that is unpredictable, turning me excited, patient, satisfied….. Often, my hands are taken over, independent of my head, resulting in unpredictable shapes. Creating is a quest, it’s impossible to order. It comes. Or not. After its first steps, it asks for a certain distance to think about its result.

The mechanical aspect of a statue is also important to me. The way it is connected to its pedestal. Like a foot that nearly touches the ground, by a fraction. It can have stretched legs or a skinny belly, or one arm or leg different in size.

I’m attracted to rust, being the natural process or its beautiful colours. A container on a truck, showing its unique rust, is a feast for my eyes. After painting at random but rare moments, between 2007 up to 2017, I felt the urge to make statues. In 2018, it burst open and I found my way to an amazing bronze caster who has become a partner both technically and artwise.

The bronze statues are one of my many trials, looking for authenticity, sometimes escaping time. They can be dramatic with asymmetric shapes, rough and expressive.

Project “Antarctica 2048”: aluminium prototypes, objects and installations”

Allow me to take you into my imaginary universe and show models of polar rescue gear and recycled objects to explore.

My interviews with the Belgian polar explorer Dixie Dansercoer (1962-2021) formed the basis of the “Pusher” project in 2022 and currently continues in the new project “Antarctica 2048”.

I only work with recycled materials and want to draw attention to the importance of protecting Antarctica against the reality of the industrial exploitation planned after 2048.

Many “layers” can be observed in my prototypes:
– nostalgia and at the same time futurism
– a tribute to functional design and consequential beauty
– a tribute to the Belgian Air Force, Belgian explorers and our presence in Antarctica
– irony, philosophy and Belgian surrealism

But most of all, it’s ….FUN.

Thank you very much, sincerely, for reading and looking at my work and I am looking forward to your comment!

Jack Berben