Bruno Vergauwen is an enlightened Belgian artist that takes sincerity and candor to a very relatable place. Bruno’s art is haunting and surreally gorgeous. It is really moving when you are able to interact with an individual that so undeniably in touch with their gift. His images beckon a part of your psyche that has long been forgotten or out of touch. The gaze in many of his figures seem to be questioning your whole existence. Looking through Bruno’s catalogue implores the observer to attempt to create something – the work literally tells you to “explore life, try creating something to really experience existing”. We were captivated by Bruno’s description of the qualities of the ‘color black’ and ‘darkness’ in general – quite illuminating. It was also quite pleasing to find out that Bruno had collaborated with his anglophile wife on a cookbook of historical English cuisine – his images for the book tell a story before each recipe that blends allure and whimsy. It is soothing to the soul when two forms of pure expression and creativity collide. We are so thrilled to bring you the interview with this distinguishable artist.
We were also lucky enough to receive Bruno’s latest piece. See it directly below.
“I believe creative people are usually very happy people, as they don’t feel …”
Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?
I was born and raised in Belgium where I still live today. I come from a creative family, so you could say creativity is in my blood. I like to surround myself with stuff I find interesting, ranging from art, toys to curiosities and antiques. I’m not really someone who likes to go out and socialize, I’ve always been more of a loner, not that I don’t like people I just never found the urge to go to social gatherings, events or pubs because I find it boring very quickly and start thinking about what else I could do with that time. I’m lucky to have an amazing partner who’s just as creative as I am. I can’t imagine living with someone who doesn’t have that quality.
Next to creating art I’m an art director, so I spend a lot of time in the more commercial art world as well. I enjoy the balance between both, and I also believe they can help each other.
How do you describe your form of art and what tools do you primarily use?
I tend to like different tools. So I like the traditional pencil and paint, but I also enjoy working digitally. It usually ends up being a mix of all these things. I really like to control the outcome of the image I’m trying to create so usually end up altering bits digitally. Usually colors or contrasts.
In the end it’s all just tools. I really admire people who stick to one discipline and explore it to their fullest, but to me it’s about finding or using the right tool to create the image I have in my head.
Tell us a little more about your illustrations for your wife’s cookbook – this seems like a great twist and it opens up a whole new world of potential collaborations?
As an Anglophile my wife had a true passion for historical English cuisine so when she was writing her book she brought up the idea of incorporating illustrations before each chapter to tell part of the story. It’s been a lot of fun as I never thought about doing illustrations around food and/or history. It opened a whole new world of inspiration for me, using quirky antique cookery equipment as a starting point. Though it’s not been an easy process as my wife and I are both perfectionists. We’ll definitely do more in the future, she’s already researching a new book.
What does your art mean to you?
It’s mostly creativity that means a lot to me. I enjoy being creative in all kinds of different areas and I love creative people. I believe creative people are usually very happy people, as they don’t feel the need to occupy themselves with bitching about the mundane stuff. Not that that they don’t have their off days (it’s not always easy) but at least they enjoy what they do and without exception they always make the world a better place. You can’t always say that about politician, lawyers, bankers, etc.
What is your view/opinion on art world in general these days?
To be fair, some of the art world has always frustrated me. For some reason art has evolved into different categories. For example, you have what some people would consider ‘real art’ or as I like to call it posh art, the kind of art that needs to be talked about, has to chock and needs to be worth a lot of money. Now it’s not that I can’t appreciate some of that work, but to me art’s only true value is the way it can touch somebody personally. It that can be just about anything, sculptures, painting, digital work…. It’s not linked to the value or who made it or how important they are. That’s also the reason I tend to not be all that interested in who made it or why. It’s what it represents to me when I experience it.
Which artists do you look up to the most?
As you might expect art that has a bit of a darker or surreal twist to it. So If I have to pick a few contemporary artist working today, I tend to go for Joao Ruas, James Jean and Aryz. And as I’m also an avid comic book reader to this day, I can’t ignore the appreciation I have for what some of those artists can do in telling a story visually, Jae Lee, Gregg Capullo and Sean Gordon Murphy come to mind.
Your images seem to have some dark surrealist elements to them and they are all quite haunting – why are you pulled to create images of this manner?
The short answer would be is just to say that that is what I like myself. Whenever I make something it just comes out that way. I do believe a piece of art or illustration to me has to tell a story. And the best stories have a dark element. Just look at fairytales! Darkness just makes everything more open to interpretation, figuratively and literally. I prefer darkness over light, light strips down everything to what it is, while darkness creates shapes out of objects and the little light that is present can alter what you think you see. I believe most of my surreal elements have their roots there.
What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?
Hmm, that’s a difficult one, I’d like to say I’m not really bothered about bad critique, but like most artistic people, what I make is personal so it does affect you. So as I make more figurative art I had people dismissing it as kitsch. You always walk a fine line if you use a human figure in your work, but that’s what interests me and that’s what people like about it so in the end all art is subjective.
The best critique will always be the people are drawn to a particular image because it somehow affects them personally. Either because it reminds them of a memories or experience or they create a story in their head about what they see in the piece. That’s why I don’t like to explain my work to much.
Do you ever experience deja vu – where are you usually transported to when it happens?
I know it’s not really what you mean but:
Sadly, I get a lot of deja vu in my job as an art director. Whenever I hear the term ‘we like something out of the box’ in a meeting or briefing, I know what they really mean is ‘we want the same thing our successful competition has” haha
Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?
I’m a big fan of a well-tailored suit. Sadly, I’m a small and thin guy so it’s hard for me to find a fitting suit of the rack, but I really like what it does to your posture and how it makes you behave differently.
What is your personal life philosophy?
Be patient and follow your gut instinct (that’s how I found my wonderful wife)
What is your favorite color and why?
As you might expect…black. I just love how it can define shapes and how it can absorb the light. I believe there’s a lot of color in black.
Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two week road trip with and why?
I lost my dad at an age when I was trying to become independent and at a time where I did have less of a connection with him. Now I realize what a great gift he gave me as an artist himself, so it would be wonderful to show him what I made over the past 13 years and have him meet my wife, who I know he would love.
What type of music do you listen to (if at all) when working?
Depending on the mood (as with most people) I’d say it ranges from soundtracks to metal (especially Tool, I love how many layers they have in their sound), the last few years I also like to listen to podcasts. I like listening to people talking without me having to join in. I’m not really fond of talking myself.
How can people learn more about (or buy) your current and upcoming works?
I have a website (which I should update more) and the more recent stuff and progress shots you can find on instagram @brunovergauwen
The book I illustrated: ‘Pride and Pudding’ is out now in Australia, UK, Belgium, The Netherlands and New Zealand. The easiest is getting it from Amazon of the Book Depository who also ship worldwide. There’s also a limited edition which is only available through my wives website, it contains the book, a signed art print, postcard set and an amazing pudding bowl we created with a ceramicists. The bowl is printed with illustrations.
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