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Volckeryck, Nicolaas, Van den Bulck, Walter, and Samuel Saelemakers. "Figure of Color: Beeld van kunstenares Tramaine de Senna op het Munthof." Gazet van Sint-Andries, November 2021. p. 3 - 4. Print.
NL to EN translation:
Inauguration of the statue 'Figure of Color' at the Munthof with from left to right. Samuel Saelemakers (Curator of the Art Collection in the City), Miss Tramaine de Senna (artist) and Paul Struyf (vice-chairman of the Sint-Andries Steering Committee).
"Figure of Color: Statue of artist Tramaine de Senna on the Munthof"
The fact that the statue is given a place in this prominent public space in our district is simply symbolic, because the residents of Sint-Andries have fought for decades and generations to keep the square. After all, it had been sold to a project developer and was to be built over, but sustained protest by the Munthof Committee and the Sint-Andries Steering Group vzw prevented this. We can therefore only see this image as the icing on the cake of a long struggle to preserve the Munthof.
The artist, Miss Tramaine de Senna, (MTdS) accepted an interview with the Gazet van Sint-Andries (GVSA). The editors would like to thank Samuel Saelemaekers, Curator of the Art Collection in the City, and Paul Struyf, Vice-Chairman of the Sint-Andries Steering Group, for their valued help in realizing it. Due to the current CoVid-19 situation, the interview was done in writing.
GVSA Miss de Sienna, thank you very much for agreeing to answer the questions below. The interview will be published in the November edition of the 'Gazet van Sint-Andries'.
MISS TRAMAINE de SENNA I want to thank you, Nico and Walter, for starting the dialogue and the residents of Sint-Andries for accepting my artwork in their neighbourhood. So it is with great pleasure that I answer your questions.
GVSA Can you briefly introduce yourself to the readers of the 'Gazet van Sint-Andries' and explain to them why you have decided to live and work in Belgium?
MTDS Of course. I am from California. My parents named me after Tramaine Hawkins, a gospel singer from the San Francisco Bay Area who was originally known for singing on the group's single "Oh Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers Choir.
I came to Belgium through the HISK (Higher Institute of Fine Arts) in Ghent. Before that I had studied in the Netherlands for two years to obtain my MFA (Master in Fine Arts). Before that I had also obtained two degrees, one in architecture and one in art practice, and I used them during the seven years I worked to save $50,000, money with which I completed my education in the Netherlands and Belgium.
I have always dreamed of being a professional artist and I consider myself fortunate that Belgium has given me the opportunity to make my dream come true. To be honest, I never thought that would be possible. I continued to live in Belgium because of an ongoing project after HISK and so the ball started rolling.
GVSA Did you know Sint-Andries and the Munthof before the inauguration of your statue?
MTdS I only knew Sint-Andries and the Munthof before flat, but not in their historically valuable meaning, because I don't go out much: I work six days a week in my studio. I was superficially familiar with the area, including the laundromat on the Oever (next to the large statue by the Baroque painter Jacob Jordaens), the touristic antique neighborhood around Kloosterstraat and the terraces on Vrijdagmarkt.
"I like the dialogue about the artwork is positive, because it shows that the residents of Sint-Andries feel involved in the place where they live."
I got to know the Sint-Andries better the day my artwork was installed, thanks to Paul Struyf, one of the residents of the neighbourhood. Paul took a walk through the neighborhood with Samuel Saelemakers (Curator of the Art Collection in the City) and me. We visited St Andrew's Church (with its original wood-carved pulpit) and a pretty brick enclave of social housing from 1980.
Paul also drew my attention to the nearby home of cartographer Abraham Ortelius (the inventor of the modern atlas). That piqued my interest. So I immediately paid a two-hour visit to the Plantin-Moretus Museum after the statue was installed, rather than returning straight to my studio. I was impressed by the many generations of the Plantin and Moretus families who practiced printing during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, as well as by human ingenuity without the use of modern computers and technology! The skill in making the lead movable type, the variety of languages published, and the fact that no superfluous ink drops were visible on any printed matter, was amazing.
I also learned that Thomas Jefferson (third president of the US) referred to the decimal descriptions in Simon Stevin's book 'De Thiende' (born in Bruges in 1548) in 1792, when he converted the US dollar using the decimal system. - divided: 1 dollar is 100 cents, 1/4 dollar is 0.25 cents (or one quarter dollar).
Without the openness of the inhabitants of Sint-Andries, who have given my artwork the chance to 'live' on the Munthof, and without Samuel Saelemakers I could not have coped like this delve into the compact and versatile number of historical facts about the Sint-Andries district.
GVSA Your image has been the subject of many discussions and, as befits a valuable work of art, people have different opinions about it. Many find it beautiful, others look at it with incomprehension. What is your personal view of the image?
MTdS First of all, I think the dialogue about the artwork is positive, because it shows that the residents of Sint-Andries feel involved and concerned about the place where they live.
My personal view on the image?
Well, I got to know the specific context of art in public space through Samuel Saelemakers, who specializes in public art in the city.
Originally, the sculpture 'Figure of Color' was the first assignment for the 'Public Figure' initiative of Kunst in de Stad and it stood in the Antwerp City Park for one year. There is now a second statue in the series 'Public Figure' by the hand of Goshka Macuga.
When 'Figure of Color' was in the Antwerp City Park, there was an interaction with the other statues in the park: painters and poets, monarchs and soldiers. If there were statues of women, they were allegorical, anonymous nudes or revealed after their death (ie Queen Astrid). There were no images that resembled individual women.
In terms of form, part of my art practice is aimed at redefining skill or expertise, and that is exactly what I do with this work differently from other (historical) artists.
Figure of Color has been treated with non-traditional bronze colors: the statue is coated with a magenta, salmon pink and purple colored wax layer. I see color as a symbolic carrier of meaning and emotion.
This is very different from other statues you see in the city that are made of stone, cast concrete, light shades of marble or bronze with fine patina layers in 'greenish' blue tones, or that are darkened.
Because the image is in the public space, it is intended for those who use this space, 24 hours a day. It is not intended for personal use in a private garden or behind closed doors.
Art in the public space therefore establishes a dialogue between those who use the space and what is displayed publicly, who or what we put on a pedestal. Even graffiti artists play a part in the dialogue, although I know that graffiti worries residents around the Munthof.
It is exceptional that the various Sint-Andrieswijk and those who use the Munthof can host a public work of art. Residents of social housing, natives of Antwerp, elderly women in bikinis on cloudy days or with black nails walking their dogs, a couple smoking a cigarette and playing music with their smartphones, graffiti artists in the late night, they are examples of the mixed population that inhabits or visits this central space of a metropolis. In the US I would never find a neighborhood with a demographic diversity of people from different economic classes, ages and backgrounds who live in the center of a metropolis and have access to public art.
"Even graffiti artists play a role in the dialogue, although I know that graffiti worries residents around the Munthof."
"Figure of Color" is also a play on words. In the US, it refers to people who are non-white, historically implying that they belong to a lower economic class that lacks access to decent housing, education, health care, extensive mobility . .. and certainly not to public art. The economy has changed and all walks of life, regardless of their race, are facing financial difficulties and a reduction in their quality of life. Of course it is not the intention to burden the inhabitants of Antwerp with problems of the US. The aim of the artwork is to be part of the public dialogue. So the place and placement of art, the people in the public space, the stories of the past and present, the formal qualities of a work of art, all form the impulse for this dialogue to exchange thoughts and form a kind of understanding. This interview for the Gazet van Sint-Andries does just that.
GVSA Artists often say that a work of art is the personal expression of a personal emotion. End of the story! Do you agree or do you also have a message?
MTdS An art critic, Roberta Smith, once wrote, “Artists don't have a monopoly on the meaning of their work.” I agree with that.
GVSA Personally, we are big fans and we think that in your work of art in the heart of the city of Antwerp, where the Flemish Baroque once flourished, certain Baroque influences are undeniable. Do you agree with that? Can we speak of a 'new Baroque'?
MTdS I appreciate the historical comparison, because you hit the nail on the head! The statue's baroque, wavy strands of hair, the billowing skirt, the movement of a viewer around the image to find a face that isn't there, are certainly Baroque quirks, starting from the old to make it yet new! Figure of Color also plays with the construction of an appearance, a facade, such as cosmetics (e.g. lipstick, eyeshadow) as a camouflage to fit in or to blend in with the crowd. It is no coincidence that the metallic salmon pink and purple colored wax covers the outside. It will disappear over time, thus allowing the chemical reaction of that copper-colored patina layer to emerge. When I was first asked to participate in this public art project, a painting by Jacob Jordaens was brought to my attention. This painting, 'Moses and his Ethiopian wife Zipporah' (1645–1650), hangs in the Rubens House. I was struck by how modern and metropolitan this painting of an interracial couple is and it reminded me of the rich and diverse history of a city like Antwerp.
I must of course also mention Rubens. As a teenager in California, I remember reading about him in Vogue Magazine in an article about the new "Rubensian" (healthy) body type.
GVSA Where do you find your creative inspiration?
MTdS I marvel at the achievements of humanity and what people create: we stand on the shoulders of giants. Indoor plumbing, heating, infrastructure – people build it with their own hands. Perhaps it's because my father was an escalator mechanic and my mother exudes an exuberant perseverance. I find people's stories and histories very interesting and moving, because we have to fight every day to preserve our humanity, while we are trying to accomplish something. Man has evolved from painting animals in caves to making amulets to protect himself in times of war and now he is programming AI robots that can paint. Material culture intrigues me.
GVSA Can we admire other works of art in Antwerp that youKgIeNmDaaEkRtBheObEt?KENHOEKJE
MTdS In Antwerp, the M HKA has also purchased a large work of mine for its collection. I am also currently working on five colorful ceramic landscapes of a total of 20 meters for a new building for outpatients for children with psychological disorders under the wings of AZ Alma in Eeklo. The new building will be called AZ Alma Timanti. “Timanti” means diamond in Finnish. In the landscapes, the main character is looking for a diamond, a metaphor for the personal journey towards self-discovery. This should be completed in December.
You can also view my work at www.tramainedesenna.com. I also have an account on Instagram, but it's not that extensive.
GVSA Kind regards
Nico Volckeryck and Walter Van den Bulck
(Translation: Walter Van den Bulck, thanks to Samuel Saelemakers for his help and support)