Previously to Afterwards_Stuffed Birds Don’t Fly
In the master studio ‘Hoarders Anonymous’, each student had to select an artwork being part of the Cera-Collection. This private art collection, founded by the former Belgian Cera bank, contains approximately 400 works of Belgian artists of the second half of the 20th century. Through the definite choice of an artwork, an architectural project had to be achieved. My choice fell upon a miniature painting showing a small blue bird in a realistic style, seen from the back and gazing away from the viewer’s eyes. The art work intrigued me, not only because of its’ subtle homage to the miniature painters of the Flemish Renaissance, but specifically as a result of the estranged title. ‘Stuffed Bird’ by Robbert Devriendt contained many internal questions of a poetic nature.
Why a painting of a stuffed bird? Why painting it from the back? What happened to this fragile bird? How did it end up on this fragile portrait?
At first, the project focused on the imaginable last landscapes or scenes this bird had experienced, before its sudden death and process of stuffing. Soon the project evolved to a different attitude, not focusing on ‘previously’ but ‘afterwards’. I became interested by the possibilities of a narrative ‘afterlife’ for this bird, based upon an intensive study. By analyzing the ergonomics, character, lifestyle, etc. of the specific portrayed bird, my work evolved to a series of 80 drawings, diagrams and texts. The architectural language finds its origin in the returning presence of curves within the scientific diagrams. The architecture is solely devoted to the use by birds, with their legitimization found in the description within the drawings.
The project was named ‘Stuffed Birds Don’t Fly’ as a reference to the almost ironical aspect of the project. In the final review, the book was presented with the original painting, combining and treating them as equals in a handmade provided case. This poetic meeting lasted only a few hours, enabling just enough time to present the project to the artist Robbert Devriendt who was co-invited to review my results of the studio.
Who influences you graphically?
I started an immense archive of art and architecture that inspires me. I like to study references by Dutch-based architects and artists in an attempt to discover a regional style or tendency. However, I consider my archive very private.
How does the format influence the way the proposal is presented and perceived?
It is common for me to use a small format, mostly printed instead of digital. I feel very affectionate towards it, almost considering it my personal medium. The size is small, which forces me to organize diagrams and drawings in such a way so that they become understandable. The continuous process of redrawing until the true meaning of the diagram or drawing becomes clear, through the use of a smaller scale, make my projects easier comprehensible.
How could the medium of the book help you deliver the project?
The project was never intended to become a book. However, at a certain point in the process, questions were raised on how the project should be presented. When it had to become organized into a book, the different pages required an order. This structure could be a timeframe, starting for the first drawing until the last one, or by chapters. All drawings and diagrams were part of a specific topic, being scientifically, imaginary or architectural manifestations. However, I could not agree with the idea diminishing the drawings to mere pages of a book. The diagrams and drawings were all part of the project, but were autonomous enough to be perceived singularly. Thus, they were ordered by their chapters but not bound into a solid book. Instead they were presented page by page to a jury of artists, making it able to discuss them by two different approaches. A drawing could be reviewed independently or being part of the larger scaled project.
What is the effect of a monochromatic palette?
Since the project is dealing with an imaginary afterlife, textures were not defined. The use of black surfaces strengthens the abstraction of architecture.
The first stage of the project focused on the scenes the bird had experienced before being caught and stuffed. This included an enormous baroque garden, taking inspiration from the actual gardens of Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV, before being transformed and adapted by later sovereigns. For these scenes, numerous plants were cut out of digitalized drawings from authentic engraving plates. When the project main theme shifted to an abstract afterlife, the plants were kept both as a reference to this early stage of the project as for their effectiveness in representation.
To what extent do you agree with the idea of the axonometric as the most complete form of drawing?
I do not believe in an absolute drawing method. I consider myself pragmatic in choosing the most effective one. I take my current project as an example, as it involves historical courtyards that are perceived as open rooms. The final representations are drawings that show these intimate spaces as ‘folded open’ into a plan of facades. This states that there are many alternatives to the use of axonometric or perspective view, once you perceive the beauty inside the ‘accidents’ that happens through these drawing methods.