Ghent - UP-AND-COMING - Sybren Vanoverberghe

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CH Hey Sybren, thanks for taking your time to tell us a little bit about you, your city and the art scene here. We are curious to get to know you, so first things first: Are you originally from Ghent and what made you choose this city for your life and work?

SV Originally I’m from West-Flanders, that’s about 30 minutes driving from Ghent. Everything in Belgium is very close to each other as we’re such a small country. Three years ago I graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent and that’s one of the reasons why I’m still living in Ghent - I’ve stayed here after studying. However, in the future I’d be happy to explore different cities in Belgium or Europe. I think Ghent is a nice social hub where lots of artists live and we have good academies which attract lots of young artists. However, as it’s such a small city things tend to get limited after a while which makes me think about moving to a different place in the future. My studio is located in the West Flanders, Otegem. It is located on the site of the former Deweer Gallery. For me it’s the perfect balance between being in the countryside to work and in the city to live and see people.

CH How did you start with photography and why?

SV I started photographing my friends when going out to skate and a few years later I decided to apply for my entrance exam at the academy in Ghent. After a while I noticed that my photography had certain things in common with how archeologists are always in a search of the interaction between time and place. For me photography is a very hybrid medium that doesn’t necessarily has to have the outcome of a printed image on photographic paper. I think there’s a lot of ways of dealing with the medium and combining it with other disciplines makes it interesting for me to work with. Another aspect is that the medium is very connected to time and space, which I think has been one of my main subject matters over the last few years.

CH If you think of inspiration, what drives you? Are there any certain influences that can be recognized in your work?

SV I have a lot of different artists that inspire me, I think it’s interesting to see how certain individual works I’ve seen from different artists can somehow blend together and make up an imaginative artist in my head I look up to. Influences always come from different types of disciplines and ages. Not only from the visual arts but also from music for example.

CH Speaking of other artists, who was a big inspiration if you take a look back on your start and your ongoing work process, can you name some persons you really admire for their approach?

SV I’m a big fan of the German photographer Michael Schmidt for his exhibitions or John Gossage for his books. Recently I’ve seen the Reinhard Mucha show in K20 K21 in Düsseldorf and I was blown away by it. I really like Meusers work and in the past I’ve read a lot of Sebald. In March I’ll have the chance to curate a group exhibition with ten artists at the Keteleer Gallery space in Otegem, the idea is to select ten artists you like and combine their work in a show. Up until now we have six artists confirmed I love: Paul Kooiker, Gabriele Beveridge, Michel François, Luca Monterastelli, Sebastien Reuzé and Bram Vanderbeke. There’s four more pending that I’m currently in contact with. So this exhibition might be quite a good visual answer to this question.

CH Why is Ghent a good city for photographers? If you weren't based in Ghent, where would you stay instead?

SV I think Ghent is a good city for photographers mostly because one is surrounded by a lot of good artists. However I’d also love to go and live in several other places. I look at my studio as my home base which I can leave for longer periods to live somewhere else. I’d definitely would like to live in Athens for a while but also certain cities in Germany or the Middle East attract me. I enjoyed my time in Istanbul a lot a few years back.

CH If people interested in photography ask you what to see in Ghent, what do you recommend? Any specific spots we should not miss?

SV Specifically for photography it is quite hard in Ghent. I think there’s a lot of contemporary art but there’s not really a fixed spot for photography. A few years ago I used to run a small project space called ‘NO/ Gallery’ with Thomas Vandenberghe and we strictly organised photography based exhibitions, I guess we did like ten to twelve shows in total. It was really nice to see the photo community in Ghent come together, however it’s been almost two years ago. There’s a lot of contemporary art in Ghent, Barbé Urbain and Kristof Declercq are galleries worth seeing, as is Kunsthal and 019. And perhaps one of my favourite places in Ghent is the Herbert Foundation with an incredible and consistent collection of art from end ’60’s till end ’80’s. I think definitely the SMAK Museum in Ghent is a Must See and if you get the chance to go a little further away from Ghent you should visit Museum Dhondt Dhaenens and the Raveel Museum. A little unknown for book lovers is De Blinde Reiziger and the more known Copyright Bookstore is also worth paying a visit.

CH Let's get a little critical: If Ghent has a clear disadvantage for artists, what would it be? What should change in the future?

SV I think Ghent is small, cosy and safe. Almost everybody knows each other within the art scene in Ghent, which is great. However I think the capacity of the city doesn’t always allow people to explore a lot of new, unknown things. Lately I have the feeling Ghent is becoming the new Bruges for tourists and this is not always nice. Nothing has been too problematic - however I think I’m in the need for some new energy sooner or later.

CH 2022 is done and 2023 is ahead of us - can you name some highlights of the last year and maybe something you are really looking forward to this year? Any specific projects coming up?

SV I had lots of fun in 2022. I did two duo exhibitions with Manor Grunewald: one at Barbé Urbain Gallery another at Ontsteking Ghent. I participated a Biennale curated by Ante Timmermans in Ninove and I went on my first trip to Morocco to prepare my second solo exhibition at Keteleer Gallery in September 2023. Then there will also be the show mentioned I’m curating in March and Art Brussels in April. There are several other projects coming up in summer as well. For the show in March I will work together with Bram Vanderbeke on new aluminium works which I really look forward to. In a week I’m going back to Morocco to work on the new solo together with Theo De Meyer who will do the scenography of the show.