Untitled (De Kaai)
Peter De Graaf
De Kaai, a new social assistance centre located in the Anderlecht district in Brussels, was bound as a new building to include a work of art in its premises, given the subsidies received prior to its implementation by the Flemish Infrastructure Fund. But this requirement soon turned into profound consideration of the relations there could be between the artistic creation and the identity of the place. The De Kaai premises are designed to make daily life easier for the elderly and enhance its quality by offering a wide range of activities: IT courses, household services, meals, organization of leisure activities... It is a place of exchange and meetings. The patrons wished to involve the elderly in the scheme to avoid imposing a work on them, but also to encourage them to decide what contemporary art could represent in their lives – something of which most of them had a very limited knowledge. A working party was set up. After several meetings it seemed clear that the artistic project should be integrated into the actual architecture of the place, be capable of conveying a sense of time combining past, present and future, but also of allowing physical perception of the completed work. A visit to museums of contemporary art (MUHKA in Antwerp and SMAK in Ghent) heightened the old people's awareness of creativity, while at the same time allowing them to express the criteria on which their aesthetic interests were based. The works of the Cobra group – Karel Appel in particular – as well as those of Günther Förg or Anselm Kiefer especially engaged their attention. Therefore the medium of painting, expressivity and powerful colours constituted the determining factors that should characterise the future work for De Kaai. That meant it would contribute towards identifying the social structure as a cohesive group while at the same time allowing each individual to feel personally involved.
Taking account of the architecture of the premises, the artist suggested designing a work for the inner courtyard. A set of four large ceramic panels was placed on the blind wall. Each of them is determined by one of the four emblems of the suits in playing cards (spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds) to designate the exchange inherent in meetings. The iconography conjures up various temporal factors. Thus, in a mode evoking collage, images of a past memorial to the town are confronted with the drum of a washing machine, or else with dream landscapes that have not yet been discovered. This results in a rich, fluid, shifting perception of the work, which can also suggest the opportunities afforded by electron flow. Moreover the reduction of the images creates a dynamism that is reinforced by the expressive force of the chromatic range, dominated by warm colours.
Peter De Graaf
The mediator, who was involved in the working party right from the start, suggested bringing in the artist Peter de Graaff. The choice of a young artist had in fact quickly become an essential requirement. De Graaff who has been active since the early 1990s belongs to a pictural tradition transposed into a large number of graphic materials. His creative work is also characterised by an obvious interest in figuration apprehended in an interplay of multiple references to the image.