Six Belgian guys in their twenties enter an erotic fair. They walk around and nose about. Then, in full view of the crowd, they unfold their easels, attach large white sheets to them and start to draw. Dancing girls, visitors of the fair, dogs and donkeys. It’s one of those happy nights for DE KLUP, a well known art collective in Antwerp. Twice a month the group gathers round an attic or in the open air to make collective drawings. Photographer Pauline Niks and I invited ourselves to join them during one of those nighttime meetings.
How did DE KLUP come into being?
Melvin: Although all of us frequented art academies in Belgium, we didn’t meet that way. We went to different schools and graduated at different moments. It all started two years ago with two close friends, Gerard and Johan, who were drawing together. They met the others and me in a roundabout way, but as we all had a passion for drawing. We soon became a group of six.
In a couple of years DE KLUP will count 20 members?
Gerard: No, six is the absolute limit. It’s very hard to organize things right now, it will be impossible to find a free night to meet if we become seven. It happens now and then that another artist joins us for just one night, but most of the times the result is a deception. DE KLUP developed its own way to communicate in drawing, we are on the same wavelength. An outsider doesn’t easily level with that. The different styles of someone else can clash with ours, too. Or they choose a mismatching material to draw with, like a ballpoint!
Why do you make collective drawings?
Melvin: First of all, it’s fun! Furthermore, the result is more predictable if you work alone. Together, the drawings often become absurd and funny, because of the direct interaction. Besides, it’s quite unique to work as a collective, you get a lot of attention. Most collectives fall apart because the different egos are too big. We’ve been able to rule out our ego for a while, that’s why we still exist. We don’t focus on who contributed most to a drawing and we don’t use our individual names. All drawings are made by DE KLUP.
Does that approach have any disadvantages as well?
Melvin: We all have other jobs next to our collective, so it’s often difficult to meet. Another disadvantage is that we have to share the profit if we sell something. But most of us don’t really mind. We often share the same opinion, about which drawings to exhibit for example.
Where do all those images come from? What inspires you?
Johan: It’s a matter of using your imagination. We don’t choose a subject, we just invent new images. Some characters keep coming back, like Popeye and a guy with a big nose.. Sometimes stories that we tell each other are a starting point. Or just a funny word.
Do you draw after nature as well?
Melvin: Last year we started to work on location. We visited an erotic fair and a cowboy village. We weren’t invited or so, we just bought a ticket to get in and brought our drawing stuff with us. As you can imagine, those environments served as a source of inspiration. It was very refreshing and pleasant to have some new input from outside. But we will never exactly copy what we see, the interpretation is what makes an image interesting.
Do you sell regularly?
Gerard: We actually do sell quite regularly. The curator of our current exhibition bought some drawings, for example. But it’s not enough to survive.
What happens with the money you earn by selling work?
Gerard: We save the money for a collective trip to Paramaribo. One drawing costs between 200 and 500 euros or so. Still somehow, we have only about 1000 euros on our collective banc account. Our accounts are a little chaotic, I guess. Why Paramaribo? To draw and drink Paramaribeer! There’s no particular reason to go there. If I remember correctly, a friend of ours spoke about the place once. Somehow the idea didn’t leave our minds since then.
Do you keep all the drawings you make?
Larsen: Half of them end in the dustbin or in the wood-burning stove. Some because they’re not good enough, others are spoiled by a water leak, or a cat pissed on it. We don’t store them very carefully.
Hopefully some collectors will do that instead.
Follow the activities of DE KLUP on My Space
Text: Maria Groot
This article was published in Zoe magazine