A home for my thoughts, potlood en bladkoper, 45 x 65 cm.

As with most draftsmen, Gerrit Matthijnssens uses pencil and paper to create his drawings. But there is another protagonist: Gerrit uses sheet copper to create an ode to impermanence in his drawings.

Gerrit: 'I studied jewellery design, but I was not doing anything with that for a while. About seven years ago I felt like picking up the thread and studied drawing at the Academy of Deinze. I noticed that elements such as reflection, metal and small details still appeal to me. Here lies a - sometimes unconscious - link to my earlier studies.

The very first time I used sheet copper in an artwork was when I was looking for a way to represent supreme happiness, sublime beauty. In fine art, gold often represents the ultimate, a sign of wealth. Because of the glue I used to attach the copper foil, I obtained a kind of crackle that I found very interesting to work with. In the next pieces, I tried to integrate this texture more. It took a while until I found the right technique, but now I can hardly imagine my work without this technique.

Work by work, the sheet copper has become a kind of starting point. Before I start drawing, I stamp the thin crumpled pieces of sheet copper with a piece of paper and then check where it sticks to the sheet. Then I gently brush it off and see what remains. Depending on the structure of the sheet copper, I start drawing.'

Gerrit: 'Because of its specific structure, the sheet copper in my work symbolises the ephemerality of beauty, but at the same time the beauty of impermanence. I also see the structures of a weather-beaten mirror in it. Although the gold colour represents the beautiful and the shiny, sheet copper oxidises over time. It turns green, loses its shine, and it is precisely this impermanence that completely fits the essence of my work. That is why I prefer it to gold leaf to work with, because that material retains its beauty. I already noticed some discolouration in my first work that I made about seven years ago. It is a confirmation that even the most beautiful beauty decays one day. I am curious to see how this will evolve over the years.'

Dwalen door de stad in mijn hoofd, potlood en bladkoper, 40 x 60 cm.

Gerrit: 'Because sheet copper has become such a familiar element by now, I tried to drop the material in my latest works. But I immediately noticed that this made the creation process a lot more difficult. In the meantime, I also experimented with motor oil, but nothing intrigues me as much as sheet copper. Because of those detours, I feel the urge to reintroduce, though not in every work, sheet copper. It is too much fun and it is too inherent to my work to stop doing it at this point.

My work hovers somewhat between the abstract and the figurative. It often incorporates architectural or natural elements. For instance, a termite mound I photographed on a recent trip provided a lot of inspiration. I believe it is important that people have not seen my work in a few seconds, but take time to look at it and allow the work to trigger their thoughts.’

Gerrit Matthijnssens

Lives and works in Deinze.
Studied juwelry design in Sint-Lucas, Antwerp.

Zoë Hoornaert