Ghent & Antwerp, Belgium
William Ludwig Lutgens (°1991) divides his time between Antwerp, where he lives, and Ghent, where he is a resident at the H.I.S.K. (Higher Institute for Fine Arts). There he fills his days with working in his atelier, going to several art exhibitions and networking. But he also likes eating out and reading. And he has just started a band in which he plays the bass guitar.
William sold a booklet of his collected drawings to Lieven Segers who afterwards asked William to be a participant of the exhibition ‘Un Voyage Autour de Ma Chambre’ at Het Bos in Antwerp. There William’s work was exhibited next to great, acknowledged artists such as Lieven Segers himself, Fred Bervoets, Guillaume Bijl, Luc Tuymans, Vaast Colson, among others. It was during that exhibition that William got to know Guillaume Bijl. They drank together, smoked a sigaret and started talking about art. It was Guillaume Bijl who then convinced William to submit his application for a residency at the H.I.S.K.
During our interview William says he is now in a phase of trial and error, a phase of experimenting and figuring out what it exactly is that is interesting him. “Being the humorist, the cartoonist is something I already know and know how to do well. But I want to avoid doing the same thing again and again, otherwise it gets boring. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony. I want to raise the bar.” However William has not lost his humor, he just has a different approach to it. He furthermore searches for the triviality of ordinary life and he also touches upon racial and political issues. Sometimes he makes a caricature of current issues, other times he addresses the pain points more directly. His hope is that people look at his work, laugh, and afterwards think “Shit, why I am laughing at this?”. “I think I want to tackle issues or situations directly, so people take a moment to stand still and reflect upon it. Actually, there are two sides to my work: tackle the situation by criticizing or making fun of it, and show that it has a deeper meaning to it.”
A project that fits in this picture perfectly is the project William is currently working on. “Het Geïllustreerd blad, Nr. 1, Jaargang 1” (“The Illustrated paper, No. 1, Volume 1”) is a series of 40 to 60 paintings (soon exhibited at Toegepast 21 at House for contemporary art Z33, Hasselt) and has the format of a paper or magazine of which the articles are painted to emphasize the satirical, humorous and painful side of its subjects. It is at the same time fake, serious and topical. As such there is an ‘article’ titled “If these Asians are already adopting us” accompanied by an illustration of toddlers with long beards harassing a goat. Another example is an ’article’ titled “African people die so fast they don’t have a history to look back on” and in the next ‘article’ we see the image of two monks turning their backs to the reader alongside the text “Optimist to the grave” and “Let the world disintegrate, I’m still fine”. Through the juxtaposition of text and image William’s work - which at first sight seems funny - encourages reflection.
William gets his inspiration from ordinary life, but also from the most strangest things, in conversations with people or coincidental. “For example, when I go to the dentist I will take a picture of a flyer that warns for bad teeth. In this way I collect all kinds of images, which results in having a camera and mobile phone full of such images.” Sometimes inspiration is evoked without intention. “Mostly ideas and thoughts involving my work pop into my head as I am engaged in other activities.” William also carefully observes language and images and how they are represented in our culture. He does this by having conversations in pubs, and recording what is shown and said in society. Of course he also engages in a dialogue with other artists from the H.I.S.K. and beyond. It can help to put things in new perspectives or lead to new insights, or even more to come out of your shell, which is the case for William.
Lately William gets inspired by - in his phrasing - the rich, hyperkitsch middle class that for instance watches culinary programs in order to copy the dishes. It is the middle class that participates in art and culture to show how sophisticated they are. It is the middle class that wears designer clothing bought in sale. It is the middle class that imitates the so-called elite. But it is also the middle class where William’s roots lie. First he stood up against this class, but now he sees the trivial beauty of it and it has even become a source of inspiration for his artistic work.
Speaking as a young artist William wants to emphasize that it takes time to grow, to find out your potential or talents, but also to reflect upon your work, your research and practice. Because it can result in totally new perspectives on your work as an artist or even in better work. “When you enter the spotlights too soon you get caught in a market that will ask you to do the same trick again and again, things you already know how to do well. It can lead to work that only touches the surface. As a young fellow you cannot stand up against that market and you get stuck in the creative process and progress. It can even go as far as you - as an artist - thinking you are creating genius stuff while the reality begs the differ. So take your time, it is a wonderful thing. But maybe I’ll change my opinion on the subject matter once I’m no longer a rookie. I’m only stating this view on matters from my short experiences as an artist from my 21 to 25 years of age (laughs).”