Peter H. Waterschoot.
Indecisive moments (*)
That need to carve out a space outside the world's conversion to a liquid fluid of events whose importance is diluted in the nothingness of a moment.
by Steve Bisson
I followed the work of Peter Waterschoot since when struck by the theme of gentrification in Europe, he wandered nostalgically for low-star hotels with the desire to grasp their essence. A formidable cross-section of an era at the end, the twentieth century. Those who have spent a significant portion of their existence in the "previous century" may feel some nostalgia. Things run over you while you observe them uncertainly. The impression for many is that this, nostalgia, has to do with time or that the transformations are happening rather quickly, affecting the same span of existence, and at times are unacceptable. It is hard to adapt.
We need to react to this feeling. Art is a possibility. Peter's work stems from this awareness. A sort of resistance, at least at the beginning, almost instinctive, with a short documentary aftertaste. But it is with the series "At The Skin of Time" (2012-2019), a fundamental work in his career, that the Belgian artist definitively marks his territory. He delimits his field of action and lays the foundations for the evolution of his language. Nostalgia therefore diminishes; melancholy remains a background soundtrack, an indispensable yeast for a discourse that no longer needs to be autobiographical because art itself is now the subject.
As I said, if time runs too fast, then it is necessary to get out of time. Art, through the creation of images, becomes the way to exercise this challenge. "I want to create a world that is satisfying first of all for me and then for others that wish to enter," he tells me. Escaping time and space goes through rigorous, obstinate, and severe aesthetic research. Peter wants to go to the core, carve his voice, reveal it to the public without compromise, without being confused with others. It's a dedication to details, a commitment to the process that is becoming more and more attentive and all-encompassing. It is no coincidence that the following work "Sunset Memory", 2019 - 2021, (recently exhibited at the Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi and soon in Hasselt, in Belgium, and at the Fototeca Siciliana, in Italy) follows a similar path to the previous one. Atmospheres that draw from the noir genre, barely whispered figurative, delicate shades of almost abstract color, and a dilated and suspended time. Again we return to the temporal matter, which translates into a sort of heterotopia, with all due respect to Foucault's neologism which now lends itself to something else. A free dimension to connect to the capacity of imagination and to develop meta narratives in a non-linear but reticular form. Photographs, therefore as indecisive moments.
The study of Japonism and Japanese culture play a significant role in Peter Waterschoot's practice. Literary references, Mishima, meditation as a practice to open to non-physical spaces, the fine line between beautiful and ugly, between past and future. Everything happens in our conversation. I dwell on the image of emptiness or of the negative space that becomes language—white among the artworks. The air we breathe around objects that exist even if we don't see it. Peter talks to me about his latest productions in which figurative subjects do not prevail but leave room for other images that are only apparently empty. It all comes back.
Yet this research is not without its pitfalls. "I can spend four days to make an image. As a painter approaches the canvas, so I approach my scene". I wonder if, after so many years of working to refine technique, style, nuances, Peter Waterschoot is not working on one big image. Or rather an idea of an image, through which to control time, master it, mold it almost to the point of touching it. Now I am perhaps carried away by my imagination. Peter brings me back to the present, here and now, quoting Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp." He talks to me about the importance of drawing the line between camp and kitsch. "I don't want my images to cross that threshold." Like other artists, Peter feeds the fascination of beauty, especially when it refuses to conform, but is well aware of the risk of slipping into the cliques and of relying on literary or cinematographic surplus. A work of precision, of subtle care, of aesthetic cleansing, is the remedy. On the other hand, slipping into cosmetics is a snap.
Adolescent anxieties, perhaps naive or scaled-down over time, are fundamental because they are often at the basis of a critical process or somewhat of the maturation of one's language. They, therefore, represent, for many artists of Peter Waterschoot's generation, a root of authenticity in the ephemeral virtuality of spectacularization. That need to carve out a space outside the world's conversion to a liquid fluid of events whose importance is diluted in the nothingness of a moment is the basis of those mental needs that Peter defines as "disappearing acts.”
Who knows, maybe these images will disappear as well to give oxygen to equally evocative words one day. Peter told me that he has decided to undertake a course of study on art criticism. "Too much hay on the pitchfork," he comments with a smile. I smile back. After all, life is a staging. Who knows better than him.
*from the URBANAUTICA web site page:
© Peter H Waterschoot - Intemporalità