I've just done an interesting trip to Belgium, spending time in Brussels and Antwerp. Although only 2 hours away by train the visual vibe is very different from England which is refreshing and interesting. As usual, it's architecture, sculpture and interiors which grab my attention - along with cool graphics - and anything which reminds me of abstract painting!
The first half of the post features Brussels and the second, Antwerp.
These sculptures represent all the various trades involved in building the city. I love the representation of everyday objects and costume in sculptural form
Brussels underwent huge expansion at the end of the 19th century and much of the architecture is in this European version of Art Nouveau style. This building houses the apartment of my friend Andrew and below are interior shots - he has a great way of combining colour, antiques and modern art.
Typically, Brussels houses have flattened bay windows on the first or second floor and slim balconies.
Andrew is an art collector and has two of my concrete Urn Sculptures - as well as a significant collection of paintings by my partner Justin Mortimer (I did a post on his studio)
Classic European turn-of-the-century style.
The train to Antwerp - why oh why can't we have cool pink and orange trains like this in England?????
I shudder when I think of the standard of design in British trains, whereas these fantastic, hi-speed European trains are in a different league design-wise.
Antwerp station has platforms stacked on 3 levels and we arrived at the underground level. I loved the use of concrete in the clean, minimalist space and the strange atmosphere created by coloured light.
British station platforms seem scruffy and ill designed in comparison. Where is the rule which says that public spaces like these can't be conceived in an interesting design-led way?
This is what I mean by looking for shots which make me think of 1950s abstract painting
It's an absolute shock to rise up in the lift from the minimalist platform zone and be confronted by this splendid Baroque station concourse. The Belgians aren't at all afraid of mixing historical and contemporary architecture - and they demonstrate how well this works.
I came across these crazy dolls in an exhibition of the work of Victor and Wolf , fashion designers who had the cool idea of showing their collections on a mini scale. I thought some of them were extremely sculptural and they reminded me of my Plaster Busts which also have elaborate costumes.
Juxtaposing architecture from two different centuries like this very rarely happens in Britain. I started to think we live a bit too much in a heritage theme park.
Traditional Flemmish architecture - beautiful and wonky.
Traditional 20th century Flemmish architecture !
I have no idea why someone created an installation of purple chairs on a piece of waste land - but I'm very glad they did - this was actually my favourite discovery of the trip. By putting them on concrete plinths - themselves beautiful and minimal - these random chairs become iconic pieces of sculpture.
I managed to get a shot of this unbelieveably cool house from the train - black and white, my favourite. I was absolutely impressed by the way Belgians build interesting contemporary one-off houses everywhere - suburbs, villages, town centres. I don't even know where to go to find houses like this in England.
I like high-level horses and chariots (my last post featured the horses on the Wellington Arch, London)
The wild garden setting is beautiful - I have really gone off over-designed and planted gardens.
While waiting for the tram, check out the great 60s-style graphics!
When we turned the corner and saw this new building I couldn't believe my eyes!
Contemporary architecture incorporating a frieze of indented motifs? That's what I do!!
And I'm going to hunt down that architect - maybe Belgium is my artistic spiritual home!
A large scale motif indented in concrete next to the entrance.
It really was a weird experience to find that there are other architects and designers who've been thinking on similar lines as me - and it was a definite first.
Here's one of my friezes (more on my website) - and see the post on them in architectural settings.
Trips to other places are fascinating - you never know what you will come across and what new directions your work may take as a consequence. I never expected Belgium to be such a hip design destination and interesting mix of old and new - right up my street it turns out!
Don't keep your thoughts to yourself - comment is free!!