Peggy Wauters is a Belgian artist whose multimedia works represent cultural narratives collected from events, social structures, and memories. She captures human nature in images and form that are translated across all cultures. Characters depicted in her works are composed of various aspects of history, involving the personal, shared, and strange inspired by mystic folklore.
Wauters recently debuted her work in her first solo exhibition in the United States with Ro2 Art in Tales from the Misty Fields. More than 170 small paintings are presented in narratives borrowed from lost photographs collected over time and presented in a new form. Just like passing down stories of folklore, Wauters passes down stories from these lost moments through these paintings.
Peggy, it’s great to welcome your work not only to the United States, but to Dallas as well! What were your thoughts before bringing your work to Dallas, Texas, to be exhibited at Ro2 Art?
Thank you, yes I was very excited. It is an honor to work with Susan and Jordan. My first thoughts were what I was going to show, writing a story with the works, and how to present them and make a combination with the works I already had and making new ones.
What influenced your decisions in choosing the works you presented?
I wanted the exhibition to be an introduction to my work, to the essence of it. Although it were small works in a small room, I could make an overview with these works, even when spectators will see new works in the future, they will see it is related, even when showing sculptures or other medium as they saw before.
What are your thoughts now having your works on exhibit with, what I’ve heard so far, are very positive feedback?
Oh yes, the feedback was very positive. I’m very happy with it. You never know what the reactions will be. The work is mostly about those European traditions, landscapes and rituals. It’s a different culture, but maybe that’s the part that is well received. It gives a sort of mysterious element.
You explained to me at the show that the images in the paintings existed before as old photographs left behind by unknown authors. Explain to me your motive behind recreating these moments captured from someone else’s memories in photography.
The images I find are images that I don’t know where they were taken or who it is. It gives me the chance to make my own story without influence of knowledge on the situation from the past.
Where do you typically find these photographs? Do you keep these photographs after they have recreated, or do they serve multiple purposes?
I find these photographs in second hand stores or flea markets, also a lot of people collect them for me when finding. Meanwhile, I have a collection I couldn’t even count anymore – tons of them – but I can’t get enough of them. I use them as an inspiration for paintings or drawings, but sometimes I re-photograph them to use that image in collages. I never use the original in collage.
Upon seeing your work in the gallery, I was surprised by their sizes. Can you explain the importance of size in your paintings?
Yes, this was a selection from my smaller works, but I have also large paintings. Actually I have all kinds of sizes. Sometimes a work is better to keep the size small, in that case you have an other interaction with the viewer than with a large work. They have to get real close to see it; it gets more personal and intimate.
What challenges do you face with creating works in such a limited size?
It’s not that hard to me. I’m kind of use to it, but I do use brushes that I have cut the hair, reduced them to 3 or 4 hairs, and of course the magnifying glass is needed.
What sort of cultural or societal influences do you explore in these works?
Most of the time cultural events like carnivals and rituals, Christian as well as pre-Christian. There are remains of these uses all over Europe, like telling these stories through parades, the costumes, dances.
What kind of stories are you most interested in sharing with viewers through your paintings?
Stories about carnival, these ancient stories are about nature, celebrating spring or harvest, chasing the winter away. It’s all theatrical, but in a way woven through our daily lives.
You also create sculptural works that reflect the same mystical folklore of your paintings. How do you use these sculptures to also explore these stories?
The same way as with the paintings. It’s only material. It’s the idea that counts most, some ideas are better working out as a sculpture and others I paint. I also make a lot of collages, in the larger paintings. I use them often as a start to make a painting. With the sculpture I also use often found things, like a bird cages or test tubes. With my paintings It’s often old photographs and old magazines.
What do you hope viewers take away from experiencing your works together in an exhibition setting?
I guess the beauty of nature and the importance of it. The mystic folklore has a message, this is what I present through my art.
How have your works allowed you to express your identity?
I think it’s just who I am – my background. That is what I translate into painting or sculpture. I’m born in a small carnival town, so it has its influence. I don’t need to travel a lot or suffer to have inspiration. My surroundings are enough, there is so much to see, you just have to take a good look and be open to so called boring or average daily things.
How have your works also allowed to express and explore the identities of others in society?
The mystic makes them mostly curious, but it is all right there before their nose.
Last modified: December 23, 2015