The graduates: Sint-Lukas' transitional generation

With personal statements ranging from the activistic to the artisanal, our selection of graduates at the LUCA School of Arts Campus Sint-Lukas get high marks both for social engagement and for emotional impact. “Nobody tells you what to do here, so you are forced to wrestle with that freedom until you find your own language.”

1668 LUCA Matti Verbanck
© Saskia Vanderstichele

Matti Verbanck

23, Brussels, Media & Information Design
Matti Verbanck admits that two years ago, she was still a shopaholic and that she would go to Zara almost every day. She studied Fashion at school in Aalst and enrolled in Graphic Design partly because she was looking for a broader programme but also because the fashion world seemed too cutthroat. “My first idea for my master’s project was to do something about the polluting meat industry, but one of my teachers, who knew that I was interested in ecology, suggested that I start looking into the sustainability of the fashion industry. That research was a genuine eye-opener. Everyone knows that Primark clothing is made by children, but did you know that the Aral Sea dried up due to cotton production, that thousands of farmers in India committed suicide under the pressure of their killer contracts with Monsanto, and that half of all clothing is thrown away?” Verbanck was shocked and that literally becomes clear in her master’s collection, for which she used recycled clothes to highlight data about the fast fashion industry. About the what? “People often just talk about slow fashion, but that sounds so naïve and well-meaning. I am campaigning for a change. Using the computer programme Photosounder, I transformed the wailing of an angora rabbit into images that I then lasered onto my collection. The skin of angora rabbits is not carefully shaved, it is usually just ripped off their bodies, skin and all.” Verbanck now only buys sustainable clothing and she hasn’t been to Zara for a year and a half. In July, she will release a joint collection with her brother Loan, who runs the activist fashion line Kérosène. While she works on her own new collection, she is also starting an Erasmus internship at a graphic design company in France. “In the future, I hope to combine a job as a graphic designer with activist fashion collections so that I can keep designing with a message and I don’t have to adapt to the demands of ‘the consumer’.”

1668 LUCA Ugo Woatzi
© Saskia Vanderstichele

Ugo Woatzi

28, Brussels, Photography
“When I arrived in Brussels, I was 23 but still a baby. I have grown so much,” Ugo Woatzi tells us. He grew up as Hugo Fraysse in the countryside in the south of France, where he found the traditional gender roles to be too restrictive. Since he quit his master’s in Political Science and settled here, he has felt liberated. “Perhaps that is because I didn’t know anybody, so I no longer had to hide, but mostly it’s because the local (LGBT) community was so welcoming. After studying photography in Johannesburg, where he has since also exhibited, he decided to continue developing his skills at Sint-Lukas. “My very thematic work around queer identity occasionally clashed with the school’s more conceptual approach, but this place taught me to be open, including to criticism, and to take what I need and leave what I don’t.” His master’s project is about masculinities and how space can affect identity and gender. “It is a mix of text, images, and video. The portraits are of my friends in my communities in Brussels and Johannesburg. The title Chameleon is metaphorical. I used to have to change colour a lot depending on my location. I wanted to reflect that in my work, especially because I am not the only person who wrestles with it. The personal thus becomes universal. It is really nice when people tell you that they understand what you are doing, and don’t just think it is pretty. We are a transitional generation and we want to change things in a world where everything goes incredibly fast.” His work – he calls it visual activism – has been shown in group exhibitions at Bozar, Recyclart, and DOK. Because he also wants to see the art world from the other side, he will start a six-month job at the Pi Artworks gallery at the Istanbul Biennial in September. “I can’t do the same thing every day, I have to be able to experience new places, but I will certainly return to Brussels, my new home.”

1668 LUCA Janne Jannsens
© Saskia Vanderstichele

Janne Janssens

21, Zoersel, Audio-visual Arts – Animation
Having completed the general secondary school programme in Latin and Languages, Sint-Lukas was not the obvious choice for Janne Janssens. “I had never been taught fine arts so I had never developed my own style, but I have always been a passionate reader and writer.” She discovered the Animated Film programme at a higher education fair, and she realized that she could also express the stories in her head through imagery. “Despite my initial aversion to it, stop-motion has really become my thing because it allows me to work with my hands. I have loved that since I was a child and my favourite part of the process is still working on my sets and my dolls.” This traditional approach has become her trademark and it is catching on. Her endearing bachelor’s film My Label has been picked up by no fewer than 24 film festivals. “Due to financing and because stop-motion is very time-consuming, it was impossible for us to go everywhere, but it definitely boosted my confidence.” Expectations for her master’s project are thus very high, even though the script for Ada & Odile was rewritten countless times. “At first I was somewhat intimidated by the feedback I received. It was only when I started daring to listen to myself that everything fell into place,” she says, describing her learning curve. The theme of her graduation film remained unchanged throughout the process, however, and centres on the communications breakdown between a painter with a creative block and his wife, who gradually becomes literally invisible to him. “This enabled me to take something physically invisible and make it tangible, and to use the stop-motion technique to its full potential.” She is convinced that there will be more job opportunities if she takes a one-year Syntra programme in 3D, so for the time being she is staying a student, but interested animation studios are always welcome to contact her about the job of her dreams.

1668 LUCA Sarah Lauwers
© Saskia Vanderstichele

Sarah Lauwers

22, Brussels, Free Arts
Sarah Lauwers started studying free arts because she needed some free space to think after getting her secondary school diploma in Leuven. “I was also immensely attracted by the buzz of living in Brussels. It is just like being on holiday, which for me is all the more reason to really be myself. During the first year I felt somewhat lost in the wilderness because I had never studied fine arts before. It took time to explore all the different disciplines. Nobody tells you what to do here, so you are forced to wrestle with that freedom until you find your own language.”
Lauwers eventually found hers: video. She was especially intrigued by the possibilities of cutting and pasting footage and of exploring digital space. She is now graduating with two films. “The first is a 17-minute single screen projection for which I made a series of illustrations and collected a lot of footage during a residency with an artist friend of mine in Iceland. The second is an installation with two 12-minute projections.” The link is that they keep one another in balance, and share the same composer. “The first video is about our relationship with outdoor landscapes and how we mark it to make it a controllable place where people can perform. For the second film, which I shot in the studio, I created an interior landscape with characters who each magnified an aspect of our mood. The aesthetic is much more tinkered compared to the raw Icelandic landscapes of the first film. By asking the same composer to work on both films, I realized that I like to exchange ideas with people who are in my vibe. This programme has thus not only made me more independent, but I have also learned to collaborate with people.”
Lauwers intends to enroll in the new education-based master’s programme next year. That will give her enough time to find a studio, and perhaps even to do a residency and to submit her master’s project to some festivals.

1668 LUCA Colm Mac Athloaich
© Saskia Vanderstichele

Colm Mac Athlaoich

38, Brussels, Free Arts
Because he always wanted to do a master’s but life kept getting in the way, the Irishman Colm Mac Athlaoich only enrolled when he was 35. “I would recommend it to anyone,” he says on the eve of his defence. “It’s interesting to live in the real world for a few years before studying something new. I’ve done many things: I ran a gallery and a studio back in Dublin, where I was also a teacher, and I had my own painting studio in Madrid, where I exhibited as well. Being in Brussels enabled me to bring my theoretical game up to scratch and to expand beyond painting. I was certainly never made to feel old here.” (Smiles) His master’s project is called Index and Origins, and it focuses on systems and methodologies that can regenerate work. It consists of eight works, many paintings, and a small sculpture. Most of them turn audio recordings that describe a work of art into a new piece of art. “The result may or may not look like the original work. It often gets lost in translation. I also collaborated with the archivist of the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp and I created a new piece based on a description of looted art from the Nazi era that I found online. I’m interested in the idea that I can tap into resources that will constantly generate new work for me. It’s the first time that I worked outside of my own comfort zone, involving other people’s participation, but it challenged me in a good way.” As a result, Mac Athlaoich now wants to invite other artists to make works based on descriptions and “maybe see what happens when different people work from the same text.” There will be a show in Dublin in February 2020, and maybe a new collaboration with the Plantin-Moretus Museum, since they will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of Christophe Plantin next year. “One thing is for sure: I will be based in Brussels for a little longer, entering the vivid community of artists. The city is still a hidden gem with a very vibrant scene.”

Graduation Show, 27 > 29/06, LUCA School of Arts, Campus Sint-Lukas, Schaerbeek

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