Working from home has become a big part of daily life for lots of us. To visualise how daylight can transform a (work)space and improve creativity and productivity, home improvement brand VELUX launched their Artist Residency program. VELUX invited six international artists to visualise their take on the theme Transforming Spaces. Click ‘Explore’ to discover all artworks and artist interviews.
In the past, Max Kesteloot has been described as “an observer of the environment” – it isn’t far off. The Flemish visual artist does, after all, tend to quietly take in his surroundings from an outsider’s point of view. His compositional art combines images with drawings, prints, texts and even installations, to fully capture his perception of the world around him at a specific moment in time.
This vivid portrayal of a single perspective is precisely what Kesteloot has been working on lately in collaboration with VELUX. The home improvement brand has launched Artist Residency, a campaign in which different artists create works on the theme of “Transforming Spaces”. Kesteloot’s work focused on the elements that he felt were key to VELUX. By combining those separate elements into one cohesive yet fragmented artwork, he allows the viewer to imagine the connections and create their own interpretation.
In order to learn more about the stories and emotions that underpin Kesteloot’s work, we called him to talk about creativity, natural light, and the influence of space.
Hello Max. So, the theme for this work was “Transforming Spaces” – what did that first bring to mind?
Usually, I don't work on commission or within a certain theme, but this one triggered me, as my experience of a certain time and place is always at the core of what I create. As such, the work I created for VELUX is very much in line with what I do on a daily basis. Visualizing a certain place in a new composition is something I naturally gravitate to.
What role do space and natural light normally play in your work?
I happen to be standing in front of a window in my house and looking out, as we’re speaking. In a sense, light and framing are always present in my pieces. I'm clearly not a photographer, but I do use my camera to capture things. In photography, you look through the viewfinder of the camera as if it were a window. In that sense, I see windows as a frame for the outside world.
It's a bit weird, but I'm super sensitive to stimuli in my environment. That’s positive, but also negative, since I can't always deal with it too well. So, looking outside through a window or other frame from within a familiar environment offers a certain degree of safety. The inside is recognisable and controllable, unlike the outside world. A car is a good example of this; you know the dimensions of your car when driving it, you have control over the temperature and can decide whether or not you want to listen to music. That's safe. Through the windows, you can observe the outside world, and decide to explore it from within your safe space. That feeling is super relevant for me personally, as well as in my work.
How has working from home changed your creative practice?
I’ve always used compositions and different visual elements in my work, as if those images were blots of paint on my palette. However, some impressions simply can’t be caught within a photograph. That’s where actual paint enters my pieces. I feel like the pandemic allowed me to experiment with these painted elements a lot more. Most of my shows were canceled for a year or more, so I was able to create work for myself and discover how I could allow painted art in my practice in new ways. Working from home led me to create new compositions.
How does this translate into the work you created during your residency with VELUX?
For this work, I tried to provide the viewer with different elements that build a clear narrative when put together. Whilst in my usual work I’d let the viewer create their own story from the composition, this specific piece has a clear narrative. It all starts at a VELUX store, for which I used an image from a seventies VELUX catalogue. If you follow the route from there, you find a window, through which you can see the sky and its natural light – the reason we all need windows. Your eyes are then drawn to an actual VELUX roof window, which is then installed by one of their craftsmen. The result is a photo of my own home, where natural light enters the room from a tilted angle. The arrangement tells the story.
Your artworks have been exhibited in various types of spaces, from more sleek galleries to industrial sites. Where does your work sit best?
I like the fact that, as an artist, you have absolutely no control over where your work will eventually be shown. In my opinion, a good work of art should be able to work in any type of space – from a confrontational white box in which all the attention is focused on the work, to the living room in a family home, surrounded by photos and other paintings. Whenever an exhibition comes up, I figure out which of the things I've made go together. This often results in pretty cool coincidences, as a piece I made four years ago might suddenly be combined with something I just created, and tell a whole new story.
There are a lot of exhibition spaces in this area that are completely white. Sometimes I feel like the artworks are drowning in emptiness. In that sense, such a slick looking exhibition space might perhaps be even more difficult to work with than a domestic context. That said, I've seen expensive pieces of art hanging next to family photos in a bathroom, which is the other extreme [laughs].