Camiel Van Breedam

Camiel Van Breedam is one of the most important representatives of assemblage art in Belgium. He has been creating his assemblages (environments, collages, boxes, sculptures, objects….. ) for almost 50 years now.

From the very beginning he constructs works with the help of miscellaneous discarded materials set against (encrusted into) a background of roughly applied and tainted filler.

Then his style moves slowly away from a rather abstract influence towards a gripping, crowded way of expressing his passionate preoccupation with the essential issues that begin to overwhelm society as well as the individual in the seventies and the eighties: pollution, bureaucracy, oppression of minorities, mediocrity, … In that period Camiel Van Breedam manifests his opinions artistically in an unbridled extrovert way. His works emanate a piercingly penetrating power. He lashes out at whatever abuse crosses his path. But in essence his art remains anthropomorphic and humanistic: the mysteries of the human condition in stressful situations hold him under a never-ending spell.

His choice of materials is constantly inspired by his desire to salvage all kinds of junk and throw away objects from the dumping mania of western society. This technique of bringing those lost and found items in a new meaningful context is his way of redeeming a disappointing reality. He offers these battered and shabby remains a new opportunity to communicate and with their help tries to liberate a new world within the containment of his boxes.

Gradually Camiel becomes more selective in the choice and placing of his material. He develops a tendency to let the objet trouvé speak almost for itself. His interest begins to focus on the auras and the purely poetic qualities of his material. By positioning elements in situations controlled by delicate balance he confronts the spectator with the theme of the limit. In the process of creation he now starts to follow the secret routes of the intermediate stages in growth and decay, genesis and mortality, past, present and future, …. He is fascinated by the interactions between the notions open/closed, finite/infinite, inside/outside. He cherishes the territory in between, the no man’s land on the threshold of the dichotomy.

Before long he is lured away by the hypnotising attraction of his own background material, mostly white filler. And thus in a sense he more or less meets up with his earliest works. But this fleeting enchantment sets off a new spiralling movement in the direction of the poésie pure. His exploration of the subtle connotations hidden in pieces of debris and waste now leads to musings about the fundamental cruxes of human life. In these recent works he expresses his existential anxieties in an atmosphere that is set off against sophisticated hues. Reality is no longer just recuperated, it is sublimated through a process of sensitisation.

Camiel Van Breedam has developed powers of empathy that involve the spectator in his obsession with the cyclic process of life, death and rebirth. He urges you to partake in his struggles to highlight the sparse moments of brittle beauty that persist in this world, confronting you at the same time with the sobering certainty of insecurity.

Etienne Wils
September 2003

**All the italicized text and images are from Camiel Van Breedam’s Website.

Found via Jessica Paulson


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