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Stijn ter Braak

18.09.2021 – 06.11.2021

Stijn ter Braak (1995, Groningen), who trained as a painter at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, uses painting as a means within a broader practice that includes sculptures, installations, assemblages and books. An attempt to unravel reality in the past year and a half led to a full-scale copy of the artist’s living room in his own studio, complete with a bookshelf, coffee table, lamp and sofa. After participating in the group exhibition Dear Art World,... earlier this year, Lichtekooi has invited Ter Braak to continue this sculptural experiment.

There is now a sort of hut in Lichtekooi – a box in a box, really – in which Ter Braak has conscientiously recreated his own bathroom (which he shares with his girlfriend). It is a modest, even cramped, space the very size a human body needs to wash or take care of itself. The traces of generations of residents shine through in carefully applied details, including stains, cracks and a caved-in ceiling. The artist spent the past months collecting all kinds of discarded material in the streets of Borgerhout, where his studio is also located. From wooden planks, paper and cardboard to plastic sheeting: every piece is junk that has been recycled into building blocks for this installation.

After carefully studying and observing textures, volumes and colours, Ter Braak manufactured each object from his own bathroom – a perfume bottle, a towel, old-fashioned patterned tiles, a toothbrush, glasses – in papier-mâché, plastic, metal and paint, using the so-called method of suggestion. A few well-placed and essential details make sure that the visitor will complete the image mentally, while other things remain unfinished. This same goes for the rough “skin” on the outside of the installation, which both emphasises its fictional and décor-like aspect and introduces an acceptable and realistic-looking universe – the intersection between art and reality.

Ter Braak draws our attention to the striking ergonomic and aesthetic qualities of banal objects and the – usually unconscious – arrangement of these utensils. Placing glasses next to an unopened condom on the windowsill seems as logical as it is absurd. The transient nature of the cardboard and the delicate handiwork evoke a feeling of poverty but also of fragility and authenticity. That seems to be a contradiction. After all, they are copies of original objects that were manufactured industrially and serially, by machines. The labour, time and attention typical of Ter Braak’s painstaking approach transform the copies – and mirrored copies – into art objects that transcend the originals. “My stuff” – that is what Ter Braak calls the replicas of the objects present in his home, which he considers to be “his own” and which he also offers for sale in an online webshop. Thus a reflection on property, not only in relation to himself but also to (art) collectors – and on the absurdity of this urge to possess.

A bathroom is the place where we are most fragile, where we undress and hide from the outside world. We wash our bodies and inspect them in the mirror. The mirror is the very core of this artwork, the installation’s blatantly missing centre. The unsuspecting visitor enters this staged, true-to-life bathroom only to find a completely mirrored version around the corner, without a physical mirror but with its most definite suggestion. The mirroring was carried out in rigorous detail: the logos, the folds in the towel, the stains in the shower. Through the gaping hole, we stare into the room we just found ourselves in. We feel watched in this extremely intimate room that is not ours but very well could have been. It is as if we are merging with the reflection itself, a space that is otherwise inaccessible and merely reflects a distortion.

Ter Braak’s actions and creations betray a highly personal logic; there are unwritten rules, interests and preferences, and no doubt also obsessions. He draws inspiration from his immediate living and working environment, turning the most banal things into metaphors in order to reflect on an incomprehensible reality, a society in decline and a global industry running amuck. For Ter Braak, every action – looking, registering, sketching, building, sculpting and painting – is part of a practice that flows seamlessly into everyday routines such as eating, cycling and sleeping. All objects and actions carry the potential to transform into a larger, all-encompassing entity in which art and life merge. As Claes Oldenburg once described the creation of his early paper sculptures: “Of course this is intended to be art, but on the way to art it passes through many other things.”

Melanie Deboutte, 2021

Raadpleeg de NL zaaltekst hier

Exh|bition views:

My bathroom, 2021

Paper, table top, port glasses, plastic bottles, planks, PVC pipes, masking tape, ball, spray paint, glue, aluminium foil, cement, acrylic paint, napkin, cardboard, screws, pizza box, staples, LED spotlights, duct tape , glue sticks, velcro, insulating foam, sheep wool, plastic, adhesive tape, nails, ink, transparent foil, nylon, wood, pallets, wallpaper, vinyl sail, styrofoam, slatted base, rainbow foil, plastic caps, long drink glasses, plexiglass, linoleum, iron wire, magnets, aluminium caps, sandblasted film, paint rollers, newspapers, pens, glue wires, steel wire, artificial grass mats, rags, bamboo, oil paint, copper, electrical wires, insulating pipes, tea lights, artificial straw, coloured pencil, toilet rolls, plastic bags

From November 28, Stijn ter Braak's installation will be exhibited at Galerie Mieke van Schaijk in 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands.

Thanks to the artist, Inès Collin, Kris Cuylits, Melanie Deboutte, Gwen De Groote, Bram Denkens, Midas Heuvinck, Leo Mandl, Sis Matthé, Ria Pacquée, Trevor Perri, Lina Suenaert, Tom Van Camp, Dirk van der Vijgh, Floris Van Look, Thor Vermin and all illegal dumpers of Antwerp

With support of Stad Antwerpen and Mondriaanfonds