Selected by neither origin nor religion, Frans Aerts, Eric Ubben, 2005
Until recently it would have been taboo for the two art schools in Ghent, each from a different socio-political grouping, to work together in public on such an initiative as Young Artists (selected by)
In times gone by there was indeed a polarisation between the two artistic educational ideologies. Let's call it the 'neo-gothic' idiom versus the 'secular' expression of art and architecture. In the sixties and seventies these two respectable art schools operated in parallel, one of which had a somewhat rowdy, anarchistic image, while the other fostered a more structured and civilised aspect.
Very recently we have witnessed the association of two major universities, those of Leuven and Ghent, which has further rearranged the higher education scene in Ghent as if it were the Baarle Hertog/Baarle Nassau enclave. Ideological or not, contemporary art has never wanted any part of political games - and young artists even less so. Jan Hoet for example - the first curator of Young Artists - had no trouble combining his membership of the department board of the Royal Academy with his commitment to St Luke's and the White Hall.
It's not that we are proposing a complete merger, but we cannot deny that when it comes to the results they produce, the two colleges are worthy rivals. Both of them train young artists, but each with its own accents and points of focus. Its as simple as that. And does it make any difference whether Michael Borremans studied at the Academy and Wim Delvoye at St Luke's? As far as the public is concerned we think this is purely incidental. What is more important is that they are international artists who are in part the product of a higher education in art. The fact that they studied in Ghent, like a number of other major artists, is something to be proud of. So let's say a cordial 'eat your heart out' to all those fault-finders who question the usefulness of art education.
So, we do not want to invite you to come and play 'the who comes from where' quiz, but to persuade you of the high quality of the works selected by Philippe van Cauteren, curator and artistic head of the S.M.A.K. The fact that he has focused on the last three years' graduates from both St Luke's and the Academy is a major step in the right direction
Frans Aerts / Eric Ubben, 2005
Young Artists selected by Philippe Van Cauteren, 2005
About a year ago, a German artist asked me to write an article for his artistic publication entitled The artist as a young man. My contribution to this piece of work comprised a long list of artists who in my opinion had died young or to young. What at first sight seems to be a glorifying enumeration of young heroes is in fact a cryptic statement on the myth of artisthood and genius, and on the cult of young promise and talent. Perhaps this is too morbid a way of starting a piece on 'young artists'. And perhaps none of the artists selected for this exhibition will ever achieve what those in my in memoriam achieved in their short lives. Yet it is important to reflect on this for a moment. Young! The only way I wish to and can give substance to this notion is by counting the number of years from the moment the artists no longer take part in any official artistic education. A young artist can be recognized by the length of the time between his stay in an institutional-academic environment and his integration into (or rejection of) the constraints of social and artistic reality. Only in this sense (meaning young graduates) are we dealing with young artists. young in experience, not so much with regard to their own work and artistic attitude, but with regard to an increasingly complex art world governed by a set of unspoken codes, transactions and expectations. As an artist it is not exceptional to reach a state of artistic (and biological) maturity, while yet remaining 'young' by the clumsy use and poor understanding of artistic etiquette. And it is precisely here that 'Young artists (selected by)' plays an important part, by 'ageing' young artists in social and artistic terms. This is an allusion not so much to the mythical idyll of artistic youth and youthful work, but more to the societal and social acceleration and positioning of the artist. In the case of certain consumers, artistic quality is nowadays very often honoured only on the basis of such parameters as visibility and frequency, monetary growth and valorisation, selection and being selected. By making a selection from the young graduates I can myself now contribute to this 'ageing process'. but in fact I am concerned with a lot more than just that. Artists! From the very beginning - even before I had seen any artist's file - I was thinking of a well-articulated specific exhibition, one with artists who explicitly took the risk of not being selected. All these artists - and therefore the non-selected ones too - display both a strength and fragility, an independence and a dependence, but above all the desire to be judged. Although 'selected by' is written in lowercase and between brackets in the title of this exhibition project, its significance at several levels (operational, social, artistic, economic, etc.) should not be underestimated. And yet by means of a generous selection I am trying to shift the accent clearly towards the exhibition as the ultimate purpose of this project. It is not by chance that an empathically poetic location has been selected for this exhibition: the palm house at Ghent University's Botanical Gardens. this building, which in the cold months of the year provides shelter for palms and other plants and trees sensitive to low temperatures, will this summer become orangery for a whole spectrum of artistic proposals and media: photography, video, sculpture, painting, photomontage and others. It may be that this palm house generates more heat than the works can bear during this exhibition. But the metaphorical temperature of this glass box is plainly suited to the nature of the exhibition: an environment for preservation, protection, growth and experiment. The most perfect environment young artists could wish for. Selected by!
Philippe Van Cauteren
Ghent, april 2005