A studio visit at Lien Anckaert’s
21.01 – 19.03
On large sheets of white drawing paper, Lien Anckaert makes her drawings. At the time of my visit, a morning in December, she is working on drawings based on a book titled Women and Sex: From Mother's Love to Sex Robots. I write “drawings,” but it is the text that interests Lien in this book that doesn't have pictures. When I visit she is working on the chapter "Women about Men," meticulously drawing letters over her sheet of paper. Lien can't read, so she draws text, and from time to time someone reads it to her: Ruben, Lara, or Peter. For about ten years, Lien Anckaert has been staying a few days a week at De Zandberg, an art workplace for people with disabilities. She shares a studio there with several other artists. Lien Anckaert carries Down’s syndrome.
Lately, Lien has been fascinated by love between women. With a companion she visited the local library, where she found this book about women and sex. She had actually wanted a handbook on sex between women, but she didn't find one. “Women's bodies are beautiful,” says Lien. "Women are good.” Sexuality in general is important in her life, at least at this stage.
Lien likes drawing text, she likes the movement, the repetition, the rhythm. She never uses color now, although she used to do so occasionally. The work looks sober. Sometimes she draws numbers instead of letters, sometimes she draws people—deceased musicians—or animals or famous paintings. Sometimes she draws monsters, zombies, skeletons, or skulls, sometimes pig cheeks, pig feet, or a cow’s head. Muscles she likes, too. All her material she finds on the internet or from books she finds in the studio.
She signs the works on the back of the sheet. Sometimes the works are also dated, which someone does for her. On rare occasions that person makes a mistake, especially when the date is added later. Lien has been working at De Zandberg since 2011, and she has come a long way. Sometimes the work is exhibited, and very occasionally a work is sold. For her exhibition at KIOSK, mainly the recent work with overdrawn texts about love between women have been selected. I ask what attracts her to this subject matter. She says: “Women and sexuality, making love, feeling, your body, future, age, fleshiness of things at the butcher’s, monsters, sex and monsters on weird websites—the more bizarre the more interesting.”
As a child, she sometimes drew when people asked her to. She still has a work from her childhood hanging above her bed. At De Zandberg she works a full day, taking a break for lunch or to do the dishes. She enjoys being involved in the studio. Sometimes she collaborates with an illustration artist and goes to a museum with her. But she prefers to get inspiration from books, in the studio or at home. She wants to be able to intuitively choose what she will draw. Over the years, the intensity and density of her drawing has changed, going from very objective rendering to a slightly more poetic rendering with some interpretation. What ties all the work together is the process of meticulously copying existing texts or images, to which she simultaneously adds a twist so that the work still forms a whole. All of Lien’s drawings clearly bear her signature style.
She does know women who love women. Her friend Laura, for example. I ask, “What is that to you, sexuality?” “Difficult,” she says. “It's two women, making love, having sex maybe, a beautiful body, young women.” “I can't have a baby,” she tells me. “First you have to get married and then you can have a baby. Laura can have a baby. I would love to have a baby. The two of us are going to stay home and take care of that baby. I have wanted a baby for a long time. Sexuality is important and having a baby is equally important.” At her suggestion, the title of the exhibition becomes From Ovaries to Uterus. “In a work of art you can ask difficult questions and deal with things that are difficult to discuss otherwise,” I say. She nods. “Yes,” she replies.