Walking into opening night of the Accessible Art Fair 2017 in Brussels (October 5-8), visitors were introduced to a carefully curated explosion of complex, intricate, jarring, thought-provoking, and baffling materials. These included painted aluminum, white-washed dollar bills, metal coils from mattresses, pink woven cotton thread, pyrographed mirrors, and human blood on canvas (no, we aren’t kidding).
The 11th edition of the fair, held at the esteemed, centrally-located city arts venue called the BOZAR, houses 65 emerging and mid-career artists from Japan, Syria, Poland, Colombia and beyond. Many of the most interesting booths offered work by artists who are boldly experimenting with innovative materials.
To capture some of the eclectic media used by artists at the fair, we selected 5 inspiring innovators and their respective works.
Conor Collins (Booth 24a)
Media of choice: human blood, dollar bills
“I never thought of myself as a political person. I don’t know if I’ve changed or maybe the world around me has changed,” U.K. artist Conor Collins told Invaluable. “But I find it very hard to put into words how I feel about things. So the way I do it is through my paintings.”
To viewers, these particular works seem to be making blatant and, the artist admits, rather controversial political statements, in part through his choice of materials. Collins explains that “Allan Turing II” addresses the blood ban in the U.K., under which gay and bisexual men were prevented from donating blood. “To protest that, I took 24 different vials of blood from gay and bisexual men, all doctors, nurses, surgeons, and finger-painted it onto this canvas.” He first used paint and ink on the canvas, varnished it, then added layer upon layer of blood until it was the color he wanted. He then sealed and varnished it again. “I love the hypocrisy of the fact that you can trust a heart surgeon to hold your heart in his hands, but you can’t trust him to donate blood.”
Overhanging “Alan Turing II” is Collins’ “Fake News,” a portrait of Donald Trump crafted from hundreds of his controversial statements painted on a wall of white-washed U.S. dollar bills. “Everyday, when I woke up, Trump was on Twitter and all over the news… he was everywhere. And I thought, I have to paint what I see.” “Fake News” follows Collins’ “Trump 2016,” a similar work that received widespread media attention.
Alejandra Aristizabal (Booth 26)
Media of choice: fique fibers
With a desire to show the world extraordinary things from her native country of Colombia, Accessible Art Fair first-timer Alejandra Aristizabal crafts her strangely beautiful rope-like hangings with fibers from a plant only found in the country. “Artisans in the forest in Colombia are able to get this type of hair-like rope from this 3-meter tall plant. We call this material ‘cabuja’ in Spanish.”
Aristizabal says that the material is rarely used and largely unexplored, so she chose the material in her quest to showcase the uniqueness of her homeland. “There is a lot of negativity that you hear about the country, so this was a way to show the good side.”
Aristizabal says her rope works can take around two months to make (and that’s if she “really works hard everyday”), as the fragile material is subject to splay and a lot of patience is required.
Sauro Manetti, A.K.A. Sauromane (Booth 26)
Media of choice: pink cotton thread
Smack dab in the center of the BOZAR sits Italian artist Sauro Manetti’s (Sauromane) series of pink cotton thread sculptures titled “Ice-melting.” When asked what he had to say about these eye-popping works, he told Invaluable, “I really like pink.”
Manetti then admitted that he often experiments with a plethora of mixed media, including mirrors, which he has found the most difficult to use so far. These playful cotton-threaded wonders stand out as quirky yet lifelike depictions of sea creatures. A written description of the series reads: “When all the ice will be melted, where will the plants grow? On the creatures of the sea, naturally.”
Jean Marc Wullschleger, A.K.A. Double You (Booth 8a)
Media of choice: metal and paper
French artist and photographer Jean Marc Wullschleger, whose works you’ll often find credited to his moniker Double You, has discovered a new use for retired mattresses. His colossal hangings are created from metal coils, which he resourcefully collects from unwanted mattresses. Amidst the circular holes of the wire frame are crumpled paper balls covered with colored photos and words from old magazines. These two works are part of a series called “Sphères et fil de fer.”
Albert Fröling (Booth 7b)
Media of choice: “everything I can get my hands on”
Albert Fröhling of the Netherlands makes our list for drawing us into his complex, textured paintings made with several types of paint and “everything [he] can get his hands on” to create depth on the canvas. “Most drip artists create works in one day, but my works take about 2-3 weeks. If you look closely, you’ll see that the paint strokes don’t mix with other layers. That effect doesn’t happen if the canvas is wet.”
With a newfound creative passion inspired by his late father Herman, who loved to paint, and other artist members of his family, Fröhling carries forth the legacy in part by reinventing it. He uses not just a variety of media, but also of techniques.
“I use gripping and pouring techniques, but I also use my hands, rollers, and really any type of tool I can get.” While working, he considers music his muse – Miles Davis is a favorite – and often names his works after song titles.
Anuschka Bayens (Booth S5)
Media of choice: glass, sand castings