Peter De Graaff
In a first meeting, the patrons group investigated what is typical for Aalbeke. It soon became clear that Aalbeke is important as a transit route for many people. An idea that has also been confirmed with the installation of rest areas along the main road of the village. In order to best reflect this situation, the decision was to intervene in several places in the village centre rather than to opt for a static work of art.
Furthermore, the group decided to tell the story of Aalbeke through the artwork. About working and living in the village, in the past and now. Spectators could learn interesting anecdotes about the village and its inhabitants.
The artwork also had to refer to clay. Aalbeke as clay village.
The artist: Peter De Graaff
After examining the work of many artists in catalogues, it is finally the ceramics of Dutch artist Peter de Graaff that most appealed to the patrons. The artist was then invited to come meet them. He listened with enthusiasm to the multitude of exciting stories and immersed himself in the history of Aalbeke.
A search was made for useful traces from the history of Aalbeke: the fire of the church, the labor of the inhabitants in agriculture or in the textile factories, Aalbeke as a village of passage, the story of the pot factory, of St. Cornelius Parish ...
The artwork: Labeur
Peter de Graaff took all these aspects along with the artwork by presenting it as a walk through Aalbeke. A dozen ceramic tiles (1.5 m²) with drawings are incorporated in the pavement, as resting points in the landscape.
Each tile tells something about Aalbeke, about old and recent history. Certain stories are familiar to Aalbek residents, others much less. For the attentive viewer, each tile contains multiple layers of information. On one of the scenes you see a boy who is writing. It turns out to be Hugo Claus. The writer stayed for a while in the Aalbeke pension. Below him there is the map of Aalbeke, the street plan with roads, houses and fields. 'We gaan zien. Toch’ (‘We will see. Still.’) is written: the last sentence from his famous book The Sorrow of Belgium.
Technically, making tiles is quite complicated. The artist worked together with the master lithographers and screen printers Willem Moeselaar and Gertjan Forrer from Zaandam and Weesp. He did the ceramic research together with ceramic artist Pieter Kemink from Amsterdam.