Hedwig Brouckaert

2024 Aim Fellow

Artist Statement

As a teenager, I fantasized about hijacking commercial billboards–erasing their distorted messages of desire and identity– by painting them over. As an artist, advertising, and mass media imagery have been a primary material in my drawings, sculpture, and installation projects. Out of what was commercial, ubiquitous photo-based material, I create highly tactile abstract works. I play with the tension between the functional, representational starting point and the illegible result of my extensive physical process.

‘Peel’ is my recent series of layered-paper collage on commercial tiles. I cut out imagery of models’ skin from mainstream magazines and layer it over and over with glue and acrylic paint to create a bas relief. I then sand, cut, and carve with sharp knives to reveal the deeper layers of paper and the shiny tiles beneath, uncovering strange patterns by breaking open the surface. I work with ceramic tiles for several reasons. They are part of my family’s history: my sister Elfriede was a mosaic artist, and my father collected a wide variety of tiles for her to work with. As an homage to them, I work with the collection of tiles they left behind after they both passed in 2015. Ceramic and marble tiles are also omnipresent as the architectural skin of public corridors and subway tunnels in New York City. On the old tunneled underground walls, over time complex images emerged by dirt and grime. They are repulsive and quite beautiful at once, suggestive of time passing and the complex layered society that is New York City. The title ‘Peel’ references my process of peeling away the surface in order to reveal what is underneath. In broader terms, to expose what is hidden includes openly acknowledging society’s injustices, examining our belief systems and biases, and as an individual peeling away the ego and the culturally conditioned mind. As in a memento mori, I reflect through my work on mortality and the vanity of life presented in the hyper-consumer world of today.

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