Ghent - UP-AND-COMING - Lisa Ijeoma
CH Hi Lisa, nice to meet you and to get to know your work a little more. You follow an interesting approach. How did your career start in the city of Ghent and do you consider it a beneficial location to live in?
LI I studied in Ghent and continued to live here after I graduated. I firstly chose the city out of convenience and later found an art school that I really liked. It was just far enough and close enough from the town I grew up in. It gave me a sense of newness while also being a train ride away from my family. I was 17 at the time, and remember feeling super overwhelmed but ecstatic by moving out of my family home. Ghent is a relatively small city yet still very well connected to larger cities in Belgium. After graduating and during the pandemic I had a thought about moving to Brussels or Antwerp but housing prices skyrocketed. My partner and I found an affordable apartment in the midst of the crisis so we decided to stay here. I'm getting a bit over it though, I would love to live abroad in the upcoming years.
CH Please tell us some more about your objects. Why did you choose working with textiles?
LI After finishing my masters in fine arts I felt really lost. I just completed an intensive 4 year course of painting everyday without a single thought about life outside school walls. I felt ill prepared and young and wanted to postpone adult life for a little while. That's where a second master in textile design entered the chat. After impulsively applying and getting submerged in difficult techniques I was unfamiliar with, I fell in love with textile as a medium. Which caught me off guard a little bit. The lockdowns were equally stressful and a blessing in disguise during that period. I was confined to my bedroom and experimented with some materials I had on hand, bedsheets, old clothes etc. I made my first patchworks as a personal reaction to the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020. Hand sewing everything while the world was burning felt calming and healing. After that, I made a bunch of patchworks related to (police)violence against people of color. It helped me cope and kind of stay a bit grounded when we were all collectively lost. I now focus on my Afro-European experience as a queer woman of color. The topics that interest me change from week to week but are all connected to some form of oppression I experience.
CH So your start as an artist wasn´t to easy for you, too. A lot of artists describe this feeling of drifting off course for a while before artistically ending up in places unplanned, also in very positive ways. Orientation and financial support by special artists programs can be a good help sometimes. Are there any special programs in Ghent too?
LI There is a reputable postgraduate project in Ghent called HISK. It provides artists from all over the world with an atelier space and pedagogical guidance for a duration of 2 years. Lots of internationally renowned artists graduated there. It always played in the back of my mind to apply after I graduated. Earlier this year, our Minister of Education terminated their contract with HISK, so they have to find funding themselves. I don't know if they will continue their programming. Other than that, there are a few residencies in and around Ghent. I would recommend kunsten.be for open calls!
CH From your perspective: what are the best places in Ghent to experience art? Any special projects?
LI I would recommend 019 close to the harbor. It's a transdisciplinary platform hosting lots of exhibitions and projects all year round. I also like to go to a lot of smaller exhibitions organised by students or independent young artists. They are usually hosted in garages or smaller exhibition spaces like Parlor and Wijk8. For dance, performance and theater, I like Campo, Kopergietery and the Opera.
CH What are your wishes for the future when it comes to living and working in Ghent? Anything that should be changed?
LI I would love to see more diversity.
CH And your personal plans? Let's take a look back and ahead. What was good so far, what do you hope to achieve this and the upcoming years?
LI A lot has happened in 2022. I graduated again. I had my very first solo exhibition and got invited to a lot of shows. Even had my first international shows. Did two residencies in Leuven. Won two awards. Rented an atelier space with my best friend. All the while navigating a post-pandemic world. I'm super grateful. This year I want to slow down a bit. I feel like I didn't really take the chance to reflect and just be. I want to go for hikes more and maybe even travel. The artworld can often be a very overwhelming and disconnected place. This year is all about connecting to my loved ones, to myself, to my art practice and to my surroundings.