Indie gallery owner
Idris Sevenans (°1991, Merksem, Belgium) has a gallery in the centre of Antwerp, called Troebel Neyntje. He studied Webdesign and once started Philosophy studies which he never finished because he liked discussions a bit too much. Luckily for us Idris does not engage in a philosophical dialogue with us, however it is clear he has his own opinions and views and he knows what is important to him.
Troebel Neyntje started on the one hand from wanting to present own artwork and on the other hand from being involved in art actively and passively. Idris met with different people in the art world among whom Bert Lezy, his twenty years older business partner. “I saw a lot of possibilities in art, things to do and things to make. It broadened my horizon.” A few years after Idris had met Bert they both agreed they wanted to provide a place where people could experiment with, search for and create art and everything involving art. That is how Troebel Neyntje came into being. Idris mostly presents the work of others, but always within a self-created concept. He furthermore prefers to work with good friends of his to stay away from the professional working environment as far as possible. He wants Troebel Neyntje to be easily accessible to everyone. “Of course I also try to offer quality, but I let things take their course.”
When we think of Idris and Troebel Neyntje the notions of humor and parody immediately come to mind, or even more the ability to put himself into perspective. These notions become clear as soon as we walk into the gallery and open the door with the sign “Do not push/pull un-hard”. And the gallery’s name is a wordplay on Troubleyn - Jan Fabre’s theater - and the cartoon character Miffy (in Dutch its name is Nijntje). “As a child I lived in the Pastorijstraat, which is also where Troubleyn is located. I always have the feeling that Jan Fabre brings together the boring and the farfetched. I agree with his ideas but I feel his execution could do with less pretension. I aim to present art without pretension, that is why I parodied his name and turned it into a diminutive. We would go and try something artistic as well, maybe with a false unpretentiousness or maybe not. However I do want to emphasize that parody is never without recognition of the other.” Idris is further attracted to text and figuration, like comic strips, as long as they are humorous and have a certain naivety about them. “Childlike naivety, as you can find in the character of Miffy, enables you to keep an open mind.” It is important for Idris to not be fixed on one thing. He wants to keep an open mind and to still be able to go in different directions with his work. He wants to reinvent himself over and over again and he wants to keep trying out new things.
Idris and Bert started up Troebel Neyntje under the slogan: “Bullshit will never die”. So we cannot be surprised that also their work method is based on humor. “When we try to decide whether or not setting up a new project, the first and main indicator is always that it has to be funny. We have to have fits of laughter for at least five minutes straight, we then use our “inside joke filter” and finally decide whether to go through with the project. We could ask ourselves if it always needs to be funny, but for me it’s mostly about self-reflection, putting myself into perspective and to present art without pretension.” After his internship Robby Blondbaard too occupies an important role in the bullshit section of Troebel Neyntje.
One example of humor in Idris’ projects is the Flauwekulender (we could translate this as a Bullshit Calendar, but in Dutch it is actually a pun and a clever portmanteau word of ‘flauwekul’ which translates as bullshit and ‘kalender’ which translates as calendar, as you may notice this pun makes absolutely no sense in English, but I’m digressing…), simply said it is a calendar with silly jokes. Another example is a project with t-shirts with the slogan “Lokeren forbidden” (again, this makes sense in Dutch - I promise - where verbs often end in -en, thus Lokeren could be used as a made-up verb here, however Lokeren is also a city in Belgium, changing the slogan’s entire meaning). “The slogan is something completely absurd and it makes no sense whatsoever. We see Lokeren as a verb or maybe not, it’s the reader’s choice.” They also made stickers in the same style as the t-shirts. These stickers read “Bond tegen veiligheid” (“Union against Safety”) to challenge the recent safety measurements in Belgium. “Everyone immediately gets it. The slogans we make up don’t come out of the blue, but I don’t explain them or explicitly tell where they come from. I think their messages are clear enough.” Idris furthermore organized the exhibition “Biënnale van de Banale Dragers” (“Biennale of the Banale Carriers”) which had forty-five participants. “All the participants had made artwork on bags, from photographs to paintings, collages, etc. The bag they made was of course the Banale Carrier. This project is also a great example of our aim to be easily accessible to a larger audience and to bring something without pretension. Plus it contained the necessary joke, such as the title of the exhibition in itself by combining the words biennale and banale, two words that barely differ in characters yet their meanings are miles apart.”
Idris is planning to put up a “Lokeren Forbidden” pop-up store at the 100th anniversary of Dada festival in december. He would also like to put up a pop-up store in Lokeren in the near future. However, for the moment he is busy with a “shop of remarkable products”, which fits his views on humor, parody and unpretentiously exhibiting perfectly. “The only thing you have to do is to present the artwork of a group of artists and calling it a shop, or in this case a shop of remarkable products. It serves as a parody on sale items but at the same time people can actually buy the artwork or “products”. And of course we can also make jokes on what is remarkable.”
Idris’ own work often consists of unraveled figures accompanied of text. “For example, I’m now making cut-ups of pictures of food. I unravel dishes completely so they get a totally different meaning. My drawings emerge spontaneously and they acquire meaning intuitively. From the hundreds of pages I draw however only five may turn out great.”
Next to the gallery and his own artwork Idris creates and administers some websites for friends in his spare time. “Actually I think everything I do is in my spare time. For me it is all one big playground. Of course there are practicalities I have to take care of, but other than that my life is a chaos of everything and nothing.”
Antwerp is not only Idris’ home, but also his workplace, his meeting place, his playground. As such Antwerp plays a central role in his life. “I could never leave this place now, but I don’t mind much. Everything is stuck in this place, but I don’t mean that in a negative way, I like being stuck in here. There is just too much going on here. Furthermore the Dutch language is very important to me. It is not a matter of principle, it is just that everything I do happens to be in Dutch. So it is indispensable.” (You may have noticed the importance of a good understanding of the Dutch language throughout this story.)