Castlemania: LESS IS BORE – Johan Vanderschelden

13 April 2024


23 June 2024
Sexyland World
This posthumous retrospective exhibition offers a glimpse into the work of Johan Vanderschelden: a collector pur sang who transformed his finds with pride and inexhaustible enthusiasm. A vibrant multitude from which the passion and genius of the artist speaks.

Introduction based on a conversation with Klaas de Baerem, written by Merel Nijhuis

Upholstered weapons, handmade books, a fabric horse to ride into battle with and a castle wall with floral curtains. In the universe of Johan Vanderschelden, set for this exhibition in a unique medieval no-man’s-land full of knights and castles, various characteristic historical elements emerge with a new artistic twist. Johan Vanderschelden (March 13, 1959 – May 10, 2023) had his studio at the art workshop De Zandberg. There he met Klaas de Baere, a mixed media storyteller who expresses himself through illustration, performance, writing, and playful objects. They embarked on an intensive collaboration for a year, eventually finding common ground in the theme of knights and castles.

Their days began with coffee and radio 2, with Johan loudly singing along. They worked on books, costumes, and masks in a manner Klaas describes as “production to the max”. Johan’s joy in creating was infectious, he was not deterred by external expectations or a broken needle. Setbacks didn’t exist; if something went wrong, Johan just continued in a way that made it work. This led to innovative ways of creating, even making use of a broken needle. This creativity is evident in his work, which encompasses a multitude of textures and materials. Klaas called it a “bomb of everything”, which made him feel like a child in a candy store.

Johan’s unique world began right where he lived, that Johan completely transformed with textiles and art objects. However, this world was not just physical. Klaas recognized recurring masks and figures in Johan’s work, leading him to suspect a narrative within the created world, as if characters had consciously or unconsciously formed in the colorful, patchwork universe. This universe didn’t start as “art” for Johan but as a kind of therapeutic activity. He worked on projects and compositions purely for pleasure. For him, De Zandberg helped him emotionally engage with art, to the point where he would point out with mild indignation to buyers that they couldn’t purchase clothing, but art!

Johan’s art speaks for itself, but Johan was an exceptional and authentic artist who inspired those around him, like Klaas, immensely with his boundless joy and unique vision of what art can be. Klaas also mentioned that he had rediscovered the joy of creating through Johan, which had somewhat faded.

Klaas sought equality in their collaboration, two artists working on something together, and found a new perspective in Johan. When he thought of something in Johan’s work as less appealing, he began to question why he felt that way – whether it was genuinely his opinion or a learned ‘rule’ from his background in art education. On the other hand, Johan found friendship and appreciation in Klaas, as well as the challenge to break free from textiles and create new, different work. Johan also found in the Netherlands a newfound, unprecedented interest in his work that brought him great joy. For him, the opportunity to showcase his work here was the “summit of happiness”.