Projet artistique associatif créé en 2013 et installé à Bruxelles dans un lieu dénommé le Sterput, l’asbl E² organise expositions, ateliers créatifs, focus sur la micro-édition, et autres manifestations culturelles tout au long de l’année. Espace de rencontre et de diffusion d’artistes émergents et confirmés venus de tous horizons, l’asbl E² promeut un art contemporain alternatif et hors normes, et propose une vision de l’art différente, brute et aiguisée, mais aussi populaire et accessible, en visant l’accès à la culture pour tous. Art figuratif non conforme et singulier, la galerie croit en la puissance émotionnelle des images.
‘E²/ Sterput gallery is located in the city of Brussels and, unlike other spaces dedicated to the exhibition oriented to the search for names or fashion trends, E²/ Sterput focuses on the elusive, complex but always stimulating underground or visionary art with the objective to give it a specific space for circulation and exhibition. Founded and directed by Emilie Ouvrard, the gallery began as a traveling project where different expressions were mixed : visual arts, music, publications etc. Aware of the need for a space, Emilie founded in 2013. E²/ Sterput develops the non-profit associative artistic space model, allowing various activities to take place in her space and for the community to get to know and actively participate of the project. In addition to the exhibitions that take place there, there are workshops given by different guest artists, talks and the edition of multiple originals and art publications. Many of the artists we love and admire have passed through E²/ Sterput: Pakito Bolino, Mavado Charon, Nils Bertho, Antoine Bernhart, Daisuke Ichiba and many more. We were able to talk to Emilie through email this past May, here we reproduce the conversation.’ – Leonardo Casas, Tinystar ‘zine
When and how your involvement in art begins; were you always been working in Belgium?
Emilie Ouvrard : As a child, as many children, I spent a lot of time with my mum making drawings and creating art. My mum was working half time for her children and she enjoyed doing creative workshops with us. Maybe my love for art starts with this, I don’t really know. I was in high school and I got interested in children books. I found some really nice publications featuring beautiful artists. And I met some friends in art courses with parents involved in the arts. Which was not at all where I came from. All this was new and interesting for me. After I graduate from high school, I left my parents place in the west of France to go to live in Montpellier, in the south of France. I went to the university to study anthropology and other stuff. In this city where Mattt Konture is living who is really a great artist. Also, I used to go to a bookshop close from my apartment to buy some comix, and there I saw some fanzines Mattt Konture was made with some of his friends. I had never saw something like that. I found it really wonderful, so I bought it. And I bought many other of his fanzines, too. I became quite a fan of his works. Right after that, I discovered Le Dernier Cri and their beautiful handmade books full of colors in a book fair in Montpellier. I found some bookshops selling them in Paris and one in Montpellier. So I started making a collection of the books and posters of the artists I liked. And I discovered many other publishers and artists in the bookshops I used to go in Montpellier and in Paris (when I went there to see some friends). After university, we decided to move to Brussels, where I still live and where I created the project E²/ Sterput. I created this project in 2013 because I couldn’t find all the underground art publishers and artistic works I liked. I thought it was a lack for a city like Brussels. I was missing all the art I liked. I wanted to bring it there in my city Brussels. So I created the association with a friend because we had the opportunity to get a small room for six months in a cultural art center called Recyclart. So we organized one exhibition each month with a lot of concerts. I don’t know how I survived. It was very intense. Because all this work I do with the project E²/ Sterput is as a volunteer and I work at a regular job in an office in public administration four days a week. After the first six months at Recyclart, we were a traveller gallery organizing exhibitions in different places in Brussels : studio printer, underground cinema and cafe. And during this travelling period we also organized two big festivals with exhibitions, concerts, workshops… until we started looking for, and finally, found a place to stay for a not too expensive rent.
Every artist is a different universe…
Could you tell me something about the first art show ever you worked on? The first show/ exhibition I worked on was in the room at Recyclart with the E2 / Sterput project (just called Gallery E² at that time). It was an exhibition of three artists: Elzo Durt, Mathieu Desjardins and FSTN. I didn’t know anything about organizing an exhibition. But I am a good organizer and I love art. Elzo Durt is a very famous artist in Brussels, so a lot of people attended for this first show and It was really fun.
Could you please explain us to the concept of ‘Gallery of art associative’? The project is associative. I don’t really know if the meaning in English is the same as in French. Associative means that it is non lucrative and non professional. It is a project you do with passion as a volunteer. Professional gallerists work in art sells. Their goal is to make money selling art. They also decide which art is main and recognized art. Our goal is to show underground and non conventional art and share it with the people. But artists need money to eat and live. So we take in charge all the fees of the exhibition and the exhibited work can be sell. For the money, we take 20% on the sell and we also ask for grant/ subvention from the city/ region/ state. With that money, we can pay the rent, pay train ticket for the artists, organize creative workshops (on donation for the people and paid for the artist). The public money goes back to the people and to the artists through our art project.
Were you, by that time, looking to display a specific art movement/ art style? Tell us about the E² curatorial activity and how were the artists started to display at the space. For the curatorial work, I just display the artists I like. It is just my tastes. Tastes that have been built by all the publishers, books, artists I met in all the book shops and galleries I’ve attended to, and now, also, with internet. I don’t hide all my influences. For now it is just me organizing and deciding the gallery’s calendar of the exhibitions. But I will change the running of our project to go to something more collective. Because we are now twenty volunteers at E². Some of them are just happy to be here, to open the gallery to the public once a month or to spend a nice time with the friends, but others are great artists or great collectors and they want to get more involved in the gallery’s calendar design. And I want the project to live after and without me. I want the project to be able stand on its own.
What kind of experience is to open artists like Daisuke Ichiba, Gea and Stu Mead to public ? Daisuke Ichiba is quite general public; almost everybody likes his work and find it very beautiful. And Japan is on fashion in Europe. Gea also, her work please a lot of people and she is a girl, so she can treat subjects that some people won’t allow from men. Stu Mead it is more complicated. Because of the subject, and also because of the style (and because he is a man). The public is sometimes really closed and far from art. They are more in illustration and graphic design, which is not the same as art; and they mix them. And sometimes they don’t understand the complexity of the human being, its fears, its craziness, its our own demons… They think they know what is GOOD and BAD and if they see BAD in art, they don’t understand. They want to throw the artist in jail. But they don’t even try to understand or know the artist. They think they are the great avengers of the perfect moral philosophy of the world. Every artist is a different universe and art is not reality. And they are not perfect moral philosophy, life is complicated and human beings are very complex.
Le projet E² s’exprime également à travers l’édition de livres d’artistes imprimés et façonnés à la main à Bruxelles en série limitée. Un ouvrage est publié à l’occasion de chaque exposition. La distro E², zone de distribution de micro-édition, présente une fine sélection de créations artistiques variées : fanzines, livres, affiches, et autres productions issues du DIY et de ses acteurs.
For each art show the gallery publishes an edition, today is very rare for art galleries – at least around here to do so – what it means to you to use this printing language? Yes, we do publish a book and some cards/ posters for each exhibition. We started at the end of the first six months at Recyclart because we had some money left and we love books and we met a nice screen-print printer. So we thought it was a nice souvenir to make a book of all those exhibitions. – The artist gets some copies, so he can sell them or do what he wants. It is a way to thanks the artist and to give him a souvenir and a retribution.
The people who can’t afford an unique artwork can buy a signed book. It is like an artwork. We love books as many people and this is a big pleasure to make a book and share it with other book lovers. It is like a souvenir of the exhibitions. In Brussels we’re working with some printers we know. We always work with the same printers. One of the volunteer at the gallery is a great graphic artist and he works on all the books. The printers print the books and we get at the print studio to make the final work (binding, cutting…). It is a local work with nice people we know. We also sell them in few bookshops and galleries in Belgium, France, USA and Japan.
Is there any art show displayed at E² that had raised some controversy / scandal? Three times we got some messages telling us that this art is BAD, that we “should remove the paintings”, that is not “acceptable”. But is not something that happens very often and we can’t say it is a scandal. It just happened three times with Antoine Bernhart, Anne Van Der Linden and Stu Mead.
Many people are afraid and not interested in buying a book or an artwork as the same price as they consume cell phones like crazies ?!
Do you consider important the creation of a network of like-minded artist/ galleries today? Yes I think so but i am not sure. It depends of the size of the network and how it is created? I enjoy meeting new artists and galleries and publishers. But most of the time, in our days, I meet them on facebook and instagram but I hate facebook and instagram.
In some realms of the art world, the future of an artwork depends on having a good agent. What is the reality for an artist working on a more underground level? I think artists in underground level have many different ways to approach their works. Do they want/ need to make money with their art? Do they want to get famous or do they want to stay in the underground? I think it is sad that there is almost no galleries among the associative, non lucrative underground project like us (impossible to make money) and the very rich art dealer/ gallerist. I think this is a historical fact, sad but true : art is for the riches. We should think again about the place of art in the society and we have to change it at all levels, politics and people. Why many people are so afraid and not interested in buying a book or an artwork as the same price as they consume cell phones like crazies ?! And why cultural politics don’t give more space to the art for the society?
resource : Tinystar 2020
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