STIEN BEKAERT is a Ghent based visual artist who combines photography and found imagery with printmaking techniques. She zooms into fragments, changes them and brings them back together within a new context. Where Stien used to focus on figurative aspects in the beginning, her current work evolved to a more abstract way of representing her world. The result always reflects a glance of fragility and sensitivity. Just like her.
Heritage of footage
Stien’s interest and love for Arts, and more specific printmaking, was present ever since she was a kid. Her father had always been occupied with printmaking, drawing and painting in his spare time. Inspired by what she saw, Stien wanted to acquire the knowledge and skills. She obtained a master in graphic design & illustration at KASK, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent and a professional bachelor in fine arts, (non-toxic) printmaking. Stien doesn’t apply the classic way of doing graphics. “I see printmaking as a true form of craftsmanship that you have to learn and understand. And then afterwards, you can start experimenting. That’s what I do through my work. I still learn every day : I want to practice my own skills, explore new or different techniques.”
“Sometimes I long for a quiet moment, but somehow I always end up back at something.” Stien is a busy person living a busy life. She is fully occupied with and dedicated to a combination of her freelance assignments, her personal (free) work and her other label studio kan/o.
Whether you’re talking to Stien about her work, personal life or quest : she is always in motion. Also literally. “As a kid, I’ve never been a calm child’, she laughs. “I was quite energetic, sensitive, and very intuitive.” Even now talking to Stien in a cosy bar, it’s striking to see how nothing escapes her eye. “Yes, I know, I get easily distracted and it only gets much worse when I’m tired”, she smiles. Her continuous drive to learn, to evolve, to get better at what she does is inherently present and is what keeps her going.
Opposite to what you might expect, Stien always carries a booklet around with words and phrases.
I collect words and phrases and I translate these words into my collage-world.
I’m not sure if it’s modesty or uncertainty that speaks, but Stien finds it hard to call herself an artist as she doesn’t see herself that way. “I think that ‘illustrator’ covers what I do, meaning manipulating images”. Defining what art means to her is difficult, she says, but she tries : “It’s about having a strong vision or an idea, a certain outlook on life that you express by means of images. Art moves!”
I note that it is a deep respect and admiration for people who are a great source of inspiration to Stien, that is preventing her from seeing herself as an artist. “I’m still searching, investigating too much and I have the feeling that I still have a lot to learn”.
Stien plays with found footage, impressions, self-made images and photographs. She (re)uses them by means of a collage technique. By decomposing an image and applying manual and digital processes, the origin of the original image is completely lost and gets a new signification. The basis of every work still remains figurative, but fades away into the background. Her ‘layered’ collage technique tells a story, but it’s up to you to give meaning to her work. “People don’t literally have to know what the work tells, means, or where it comes from, they do need to feel it”.
My goal? Keep on doing what I do : expressing myself through images while creating my own world, images and techniques. And getting better, every day. I am a perfectionist.
Close to the atelier
After graduation, most people of her age bought a car. Stien invested in her own etching machine (“my monster”, it’s quite bigger than usual) and an atelier. “I often work with deadlines. What I do, takes time : it needs a creative process but also investigation and the execution of the technical process to get everything done.” Having her atelier so close to home is of great importance. “I really don’t like commuting. It’s a waste of time and it would cripple my creativity”. She dreams about having her own studio and a home at one location in order to obtain the ultimate creativity.
Hey, it’s OK!
Exhibitions, openings, music, … a lot of things, creative friends and artists that surround her inspire Stien in what she does. John Stezaker for instance. This collage-maker easily combines humour, color, composition and images. But it’s not only the work itself that fascinates and inspires Stien. She explains : “he was never satisfied with his own work, was always searching and exploring his work to the ultimate & perfect composition Just when he decided to accept that what he does, the simplicity of it, was good enough, his work was also accepted and soon known by the rest of the world.” Stien loves this story about ‘accepting and being accepted’ (most of all by ourselves) because she likes the idea of ‘nothing needs to be done’, it’s you making your own choices, making your own imagery mostly as an own language. Being your own guide and especially knowing that it is all OK. “It’s really stimulating in a way that I need to let go of the side things more and just go with what I feel & believe in my imagery language.” There’s also Sigmar Polke, whose multitude of images inspire her the most. Or Dieter Roth whose endless work and knowledge in graphic art, stimulates Stien in her own work…
Sometimes it feels good to know that there’s someone out there that says ‘everything will be OK’, you know.
She was 19 years old when Ghent became her haven : “to me, Ghent has become like a village in a way. I know lots of people here.” Hanging out with friends, enjoying good food, having a good conversation with friends, …It’s her definition of ultimate relaxation. Once in a while Stien loves to escape, to Italy for example, one of her favourites : the architecture, culture, food, wine and the weather are a perfect mix to forget the daily hassle. “I’m also very good at immersing myself in someone else’s cocoon”, she laughs. “I love spending time with the kids of my best friends. It gives me peace of mind.”
Stien Bekaert. She doesn’t have concrete refined plans, she told me, there are places to go & exciting projects to finish. But she definitely has dreams, creativity and the guts to create her own visual world. The future awaits her.