“I am lucky to have been born in Belgium, but I was unlucky to have been born in the family that I had. My creativity was my survival in the past, and it became my power. I understand how something feels, by being that myself. People, wherever you are in this world or in whatever circumstances you’re living, look out while feeling and thinking. Search for something that is important to you, something that makes you happy. And then, go for it.
Creativity is important to me and they couldn’t break it. Everyone is unique and every situation is different, but every day is a new opportunity. I am really grateful that I can turn my creativity into art at De Vinken. And that makes me really happy!
– Gwenn (letter)*”
“Those new opportunities are also in the artwork with the tree. All those figures are different, and every annual ring of the tree is different. Because every day is a different day. Your baggage decides who you are, of course, but you have to recharge yourself, now and then.”
Take care of yourself too, not only others
“I came here first, for a short period of time. Then I left for my children, especially for my daughter, and for my responsibilities with them. At that point, I would do everything for my children. Even now, they are my everything. I had given everything that I had, without thinking about my own wellbeing. I then discovered, that you have to take care of yourself, too. You can’t just take care of others, all the time.”
“At some point, you figure out what is important and, of course, there was a whole process to that for me, as well. I discovered that what used to be my survival in the past, became my power, like this painting.”
“Because I dive right into my work I can really feel and grow like a blade of grass, in a manner of speaking. By painting I can get fully into it, and I’m glad I discovered that. It’s something that happens automatically, but afterwards I think: yes, that’s how it actually works. And of course I am glad I can come here, at De Vinken, Because never have I had some art education. The people who work here are professionals, that’s a gift.”
You can find the best friends in places where you can be yourself
“That gift is not only for me, I see it with other people, too. Because there is no pressure that beautiful things can be formed. As if there is pressure, a block appears, and then the whole making of art doesn’t take place anymore.”
“I came here just for myself, but in the progress here, I have already made friends. Some really nice friendships did develop, because at De Vinken you can just be, who you are. No matter what I learn here, where I go and how I walk. You are welcome as yourself. We all have our loads of baggage. Yet, we have something in common, and that is our creativity. That is something that connects us all. I think that’s really nice.”
Use your art to go on a holiday
“The tree in the painting is here at De Vinken. I used a photo for reference. The other one, the one with the mountains, is from my own inspiration. I was really struggling to get the river in the painting. I started to paint the river and I didn’t get it quite right. I just couldn’t put my finger on the exact problem. It was quite an effort, “a search”.”
“I made the paintings last summer actually, over the holiday season. There were group projects then, and beside those projects, we had enough free time. I did not go on a holiday, so I took care of making myself a trip of another kind. I thought, I could create a holiday by myself, just for me. That’s what I find fantastic about the art. I work on it, and it becomes my holiday at the same time. I totally immerse myself in the painting, and that’s why it’s a holiday for me.”
My message to the young: it is not the destination, it is the journey
“Everyone has to search on their own, for what’s important to them and what makes them happy. When you find your thing, then go for it with a full force. For me it was the art, but someone else can hate it. If you don’t like the art, then look for something else to do.”
“I don’t like to advertise my work. The art makes my really happy, and that’s the most important. And if someone appreciates my work, that’s also nice to hear. Of course, I am happy someone likes it so much, but the happiness in my work is so much more important to me.”
“I am happy with the results of my art, but also with the experience of making it. The journey is more important than the destination.”
*The lead is a letter, written by the artist Gwenn, as a reply to part of the interview.
This article is part of a collection of interviews with people from Belgian organization Beschut Wonen.
“Here we don’t look at the person, but at their artistic abilities.”
Anja Vereecken, coordinator
Invisible Cities project at AP Hogeschool Antwerpen 2023:
Team: Noa Van Hoeydonck, Mariam Janiashvili, Annemiek Jongejan, Veera Kontula, Deniz Nalbantov, Răzvan George Tîmpescu
Coach: Kaijaleena Runsten
Thanks to Beschut Wonen Antwerpen