On 11 June, Geert De Weyer opened the Geert De Weyer Gallery near the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. Every eight or nine weeks, a comics artist will exhibit some artwork.
De Weyer is a comic strip specialist for the newspaper De Morgen. He’s also a travel journalist and has published in Humo magazine, Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper and LGBTQI medium ZIZO.
He wrote several books on the subject of comics. ‘100 Stripklassiekers‘ (2008, Atlas), ‘Loslopend Wild‘ (2009, Oogachtend) and ‘België Gestript‘ (2015, Dragonetti/Ballon Media).
“The last thirty years a frustration grew inside me. Belgium has incredibly talented illustrators, but we tend to see them as self-evident. I want to offer them this space.”
Comic strips, graphic novels, illustrations are arts and crafts on themselves. Geert is interested in what happens in between.
Now he opened his gallery in Blaumoezelstraat 2. It shares the space with vegetarian and vegan restaurant De Rosenobel. When the gallery closes, the restaurant opens.
I sat down with Geert to talk about LGBTQ activism, LGBTQ travel journalism and of course about the exhibition.
Sebastiaan Van Doninck
The first exhibition is called ‘A cosmonaut, hiding under the sink‘ by Sebastiaan Van Doninck. In August 2020, he had a severe accident in Gran Canaria. Nobody really knows what actually happened, but his face suffered thirteen fractures was badly damaged and he underwent many surgeries.
He stopped his illustration work and focused on other art forms. “It set de artist in me free”, Sebastiaan Van Doninck says. “I’ve always felt the artist inside me and now I’m less reserved.
The artworks he produced are part of the recovery process. A process of seven-eight months. Van Doninck exhibits portraits. “I suppose it’s linked to the physical metamorphosis I’m experiencing.”
“I’ve been hiding all my life”, Sebastiaan recounts on a presentation sheet. “I discovered this about myself while working on this series. I remember how as child I hid on the bottom of the Lilse Bergen lake as long as I could hold my breath. I felt serene and safe. Shouldn’t one be afraid underwater?”
“It was escapism. I wanted to hide. I’ve always had that feeling. You can see it in my illustrations. Turtlenecks, hats, masks, characters hiding behind clouds.”
Sebastiaan was an introvert and sometimes really hid under the sink. Or on the roof, where no-one could see him.
Just before the big accident of 2020, Sebastiaan received the Boekenpauw (Book peacock) for his illustrations in ‘De fantastische vliegwedstrijd‘. “The Bookenpauw is the Oscar of illustration. “You can’t do better”, Geert explains.
Then the accident happened. Sebastiaan had two options: keep on hiding or open up. He opened up. He held off illustration commissions to make art for himself.
An illustrator follows a brief of what the commissioner wants. Making art for himself, let him loose.
The evolution of his recovery and of his state of mind is visible in the artwork. Early works show some dispair and self-convincing. “It will be okay”, a painting says.
The exhibition stays until 22 August.
Geert De Weyer Gallery
Blaumoezelstraat 2, Antwerp.
Open on Thursdays and Fridays from 1PM to 6PM and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12PM to 6PM. Every first Friday of the month there’s a nocturne until 9PM.
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