For the winter edition of Painting Nights, we moved in on Saturday, the 4th of December, among historic oak cabinets stacked with plaster molds and busts. We welcomed some 50 painters there to a place that sparks the imagination thanks to a collection of 19th-century molds of more than 4,000 busts, reliefs and statues from around the world.
A group of painters settled in for one evening among the cabinets full of curiosities, letting their eyes wander over casts of the Greek Parthenon, of Italian sculptures and reproductions of pieces from the French Musées Nationaux. An extraordinary dive into the layered art history of the 19th century.
Painter Eline De Clercq is familiar with painting busts and statues and accompanied the painters that evening. She talked in an introduction about the history of this workshop and its relevance today, especially in relation to the themes of LGBTQI+ and contemporary art.
Inspiration galore at the Plaster-cast workshop in Brussels: rooms full of molds, plaster sculptures and ornaments as well as a complete studio. In between the evening painting, we looked over the shoulder of some of the participants.
Charlotte: "I used to take drawing classes, but in the meantime it's been a long time since I've done it. A friend of mine had found Painting Nights online and the three of us came here tonight. I installed myself here by the statue of The Slave by Michelangelo, and thought to draw here all evening. Meanwhile, I have several sketches, but I am still most satisfied about my first version. I find this sculpture so interesting because it is so androgynous. From one angle it looks like a woman, then another like a man, which I find very interesting."
Nele Seys: "It's not the first time I attend Painting Nights. Together with my friend, we also went to the first edition at the Natural History Museum and I also drew on the online version around the play 'Leviathan'. Tonight I am drawing on the IPad. I find it very practical, because that way you always have everything at hand. We chose this spot in the back of the studio because from here you have a good overview: both the pictures and the people who are painting here tonight. I am more of a cartoonist, and therefore also look more for scenes and little stories in a space."
Jérôme Bartholomeus: "Unlike Nele, I did choose paint. As you can see, that causes a little more mess to clean up later (laughs). We are making a diptych tonight, where we each take care of a canvas in a color that we decided on in advance. I bought those two canvases especially for tonight."
Virginie Van Der Gucht: "My practice lays mainly within botanical painting, in which I look for the relationship between man and nature. Yet here in the studio of the Plaster-cast workshop, it was the image of Michelangelo's David that first caught my attention. I wanted to paint the space itself and the people in it. Now I picked a spot opposite a wall full of ornaments, which contains many botanical details. It's nice to see all displayed and make choices about what I put on paper."
Paul De Toytot: "During my education, I often went to draw in museums. Mainly to master some academic drawing. In the meantime, I left that observational drawing somewhat behind, and I try to draw more from my imagination and impressions. In my own work I prefer a more geometric and botanical approach. So tonight I choose to focus on some smaller ornaments that reflect that. After wandering through the different spaces, this one caught my attention the most: a funny little face surrounded by botanical elements. I chose to draw with pencil, even though it is Painting Nights, but that was mainly because I came here rushing and had little with me."
Johan Vandijstradt: "I'm a big fan of Giacometti's volatility and sharpness. In a similar style, I combine many different materials, such as thin pastels and bister. Although I don't like putting restrictions for myself, this evening outside the studio is very valuable. The little works I make tonight, I may elaborate further in my studio. I often paint on location. I am often on the road for my job, and sometimes I dare to stop at a beautiful place with a sketchbook - and there are many of those in Brussels. I paint almost every day. It works very therapeutically for me."