from the collection of Mario De Brabandere - NAIVE PAINTINGS
14.05.22 – 05.06.22
KIOSK presents a selection of naive paintings from the collection of Mario De Brabandere in the space of Social Harmony in Ghent (Onderbergen 52).
- Open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm
- Free entrance
- Onderbergen 52, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
- Opening on Saturday 14.05.2022, from 2 pm to 6 pm
Incomplete Lexicon for a Double Exhibition
Even though many works in the collection of naive paintings belonging to Mario De Brabandere bear a signature in a corner on the front or on the back of the canvas, their authors will remain anonymous forever. The signature is rather a pictorial element that says more about the mentality of the maker claiming authorship than about their identity.
In 1985 Mario De Brabandere graduated as a painter from Sint-Lukas Gent and three years later as a sculptor at the same institute. During the last year of his studies, he bought a painting for the first time at a flea market for 2000 Belgian francs, a small but not unimportant amount for him at the time. That first work is still in his possession but not visible in the exhibition. Since then, Mario De Brabandere has continued to collect works of art. Not really due to an obsession, but rather guided by chance: with the available budget of the moment, he comes across works that catch his attention because of their beauty.
In addition to his collections of ex-votos and naive paintings, Mario De Brabandere has a third collection of works by modern and contemporary artists. A fourth collection is perhaps the series of works that he himself creates on the birth and death dates of his father and which, unlike the rest of his production, will never be offered for sale.
Collector (the artist as)
Together with the help of Myrna D'Ambrosio, KIOSK started researching artists’ collections in 2021–22. The focus is on everything that is collected by living artists, usually living in Belgium and the Netherlands—not only works of art but also stamps, drawing books, scarves ...
Mario De Brabandere refuses to explain the works in his possession. The fact that he owns a painting says enough about its quality.
An ex voto is an object placed in a place of pilgrimage, a church, or another sacred place as a plea or thanksgiving to God or a saint for a favor to be obtained or obtained. In the past, thousands of ex votos could be seen in Christian churches in Belgium and Europe, in the form of paintings of sculptures. Ex votos in the form of boats were often visible in villages and towns on the coast, because many lives were lost at sea. In the countryside, painted ex votos often showed a sick man, woman, or child in bed. Mario De Brabandere started buying painted ex votos only recently, because he had never found any in antique shops or flea markets in Belgium. It has been through fellow artist Willem Cole that he has been able to find and buy them online in recent years.
Except when the frame was made by the maker of the painting, Mario De Brabandere removes it while it is on display. This is in order not to detract from the pictorial qualities of the work.
At times Mario De Brabandere has found inspiration in certain ex votos and naive paintings present in his studio to create new abstract compositions. Although he himself does not consider it important that the viewer is informed of this, he mentions his source of inspiration on the back of the new works, as anecdotes for the future.
Mario De Brabandere does not keep an inventory of his own works, or of the works in his collections. More than half of his collection of ex votos is currently on display in KIOSK. We are unable to say this about his collection of naive paintings.
KIOSK is a center for contemporary art on Campus Bijloke in Ghent. Strarting in 2022, KIOSK is trying to make its exhibition space available to other organizations or individuals to organize projects. The double exhibition EX VOTO/NAIVE PAINTINGS from the Mario De Brabandere Collection is the result of the collaboration between KIOSK and Social Harmony, an artist-run space created in 2013 and currently run by Dieter Durinck and Dieter Ravyts, who already planned to display these works.
The landscape is by far the most represented genre in Mario De Brabandere’s collection of naive paintings. Sometimes some buildings can be identified, such as the Rabot in Ghent. Often the painted places seem imaginary but no less recognizable as typical local or exotic locations. The absence of titles on the back of the works offers no help to the viewer in search of confirmation or information.
Between October 10 and November 4, 2000, Mario De Brabandere exhibited several works from his collection of naive paintings in the White Hall in Ghent, along with works in the possession of his painter colleague Bart Baele. The title of the exhibition, OverForkGallery, refers to the name of the curio shop that Earl Cunningham (1893–1977) opened in 1949 in St. Augustine, Florida. Mario De Brabandere got to know the work of this US-American self-taught artist in a publication about naive painting. For the catalog of the exhibition in the White Hall, a text on naive painting, folk art, and outsider art was written by the Belgian critic Eric Bracke and the exhibited works were reproduced in color. The booklet is very hard to come by today.
Because it is impossible to know what they originally looked like, Mario De Brabandere does not try to clean the works in his possession. The fire on November 24, 2021, in the NUCLEO studios in the Lange Violettestraat, where a large part of his collections was stored, has nevertheless obliged him in recent months to restore works that were damaged by the smoke or the extinguishing water.
Mario De Brabandere himself made the selection of the paintings to be seen in the two exhibitions in KIOSK and Social Harmony. He also took care of hanging the exhibitions. In his view, showing the works from his collections requires the same care as exhibiting his own works and is an integral part of his practice as an artist.
To all the artists we will never know who painted the works, to Mario De Brabandere and his love for beauty, to Dieter Durinck and Dieter Ravyts for their commitment to art and critical insight, to Sara Plantefève-Castryck for her positive energy and cheerfulness, and to all KIOSK Saviours without whom the exhibitions would never be kept open.
The title of the exhibition at KIOSK was easy to find. More thought was given to the title of the exhibition in Social Harmony. During a studio visit with Dieter Durinck, Dieter Ravyts, and Simon Delobel, several other options were discussed. Trash Paintings: Mario De Brabandere once received boxes full of paintings his brother had found in the recycling center in Tielt, but most of the paintings in his possession have been purchased. Thrift Store Paintings: a name used by the US artist Jim Shaw for a project in 1990, but the English name doesn't make sense in the Belgian context and most of the works don't come from thrift shops. Amateur Paintings or Sunday Paintings: these descriptions were not considered respectful enough.