Artist Feature ://
Posted November 2019
Clearly inspired by 20th century surrealism and dadaism, Antwerp based artist William Fort (b. 1987, Le Chesnay) tries to explore the often playful relationship between words and and their images in a post-internet age.
Most of his work consists of incredibly detailed, figurative drawings which are paired with a more abstract drawing of their respective title. This way of working does not only create an instant recognisability or highlight the importance of titles in his work, but it also forces the audience to do a double-take. Be it the humorous title, an oddity in the composition or both; the viewer is always compelled to re-calibrate what he or she is looking at.
‘02 Fin’, William fort. Pastel on paper, 2017-2019
Q. Tell us about your studio space, how do you most enjoy your time there? Why do you feel it is important to have a studio?
The lack of space at home was a large part of the reason why I moved into my studio earlier this year. Having a larger space makes it possible for me to work on multiple pieces at the same time, and it also allows me to display the finished works just as I would in a gallery. Lately, I’ve also really enjoyed having people over for studio visits: something which wasn’t really possible before. Having a studio with very few distractions also forces you to be more focused and work more rigorously. It’s a place where time often seems to stop and where I’m completely free to create without any boundaries: something which I think is essential to my creative process.
‘Studio’, William Fort. 2019
For me, a perfect day at the studio would probably start at around 9am. In the morning, when concentration levels are highest, I usually work on drawings that need to be finished. After some light reading or web browsing in the early afternoon, I often try to work out new ideas for upcoming drawings. And depending on the schedule I’ll usually switch back to finishing ongoing drawings later in the afternoon or evening.
Q. Humour appears to be an important vehicle within your work, when did you start implementing this and what made you begin to play with humour?
Comedy has been a part of my work form the very beginning. Mainly as a reaction to an art world that often tends to take itself way too serious. Reading a six-page explanatory text or a way too long artist biography, before being able to enjoy art, has never really been my thing. I’ve always gravitated towards truly funny and intelligent art, so it comes as no surprise that it’s essential to my work. I also think that humour-based work tends to be more accessible and less intimidating to people. This however, does not mean that I shy away from serious subject matter. It’s often in the telling of a joke, that I’m trying to tell an underlying truth.
‘Ménage à trois’, William fort. Pencil and pastel on paper, 2018
Q. There is a strong and co-dependent relationship between the titles of the work and the imagery, how do you compose and balance this relationship and how do you curate the physical space between the two frames when on display?
For me, the titles of my works have always been just as important as the figurative drawings themselves. But by presenting them on a little piece of museum board next to a drawing, they tended to disappear. So that’s why I recently also started drawing and framing them. Before starting on a new piece, I usually have the imagery and title ready so I can start working on the composition as a whole. Determining the physical space between the frames is really important as it contributes to the overall feeling of the work. Before hanging I usually have a good idea of what the final composition should be. Other times I’ll play around and rehang the frames about 2 or 3 times until it feels just right.
‘Brace yourself’, William fort. Pencil & pastel on paper, 2017-2019
Q. Making the audience take a second look and contemplate over your work is an important factor, to you what is the ideal reaction you would like from a viewer?
I love it when my work puts a smile on people's faces: it’s a very immediate and gratifying response for me as an artist. After that initial reaction, it’s completely up to the viewer. They can look for a deeper meaning if there is one, or they can soak in the huge amount of detail that’s in most of my drawings.
Q. How do you balance the dialogue between figuration and abstraction and how does it affect your compositions?
The figurative imagery and their respective more abstract title drawings reinforce one another, I think. The blackness and almost straight lines of the title drawings accentuate the complexity of the figurative drawing. The figurative drawings in return, give meaning to the words in the title drawings. For me, it’s a dialogue in which they are both equally important: they cannot exist without each other. Their size and placement, relative to each other, depends on the subject matter and desired effect I want to achieve with the work.
‘Work in progress’, William fort. Pencil on paper, 2019
Q. Which artists work do you relate to most and why?
There are a lot of artists who inspire me. Maurizio Cattelan, Eric Yahnker or even John Baldessari make great humour-based work which I love. Robert Longo and Karl Haendel are also two amazing artists that take the art of drawing to a whole new level. But the artist I relate to most would probably have to be René Magritte. As a fellow Belgian he also first started out in advertisement design before becoming a fulltime artist at the age of 28. His rich but instantly recognizable visual vocabulary, his playful exploration of the relationship between words and images & his ability to mystify the mundane, blows me away every single time.
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