Eleen Deprez — A fish, whale or dolphin

Eleen Deprez — My visit to the estate

Eleen Deprez — On collaboration, the studio and visual material



Eleen Deprez — Een vis, walvis of dolfijn

Eleen Deprez — Mijn bezoek aan het landgoed

Eleen Deprez — Huisbezoek

Eleen Deprez — Over samenwerken, het atelier en beeldmateriaal


On collaboration, the studio and visual material.

Even though I have been here several times before, as I slide open the door to Reniere&Depla’s studio and see the profusion of tools amidst an array of knickknacks and other curiosities, I am seized by an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. Alone in this place, which few have the privilege of entering, I absorb the space and, enraptured, lose myself in it. I allow my eyes to stray from a wad of rolled-up kitchen paper to a plate covered with aluminium foil, a stub of pencil and the remains of pulverized black charcoal trodden into the worn threads of an old carpet. The studio is a glass-covered space, a cube, in a large shed from where the landscape slopes away and the wind stirs its wispy poplars. Luxuriating in the artists’ permission to stay here for a while, I move a chair over to the stove and allow my eyes to travel from one object to another. As I browse, I hope to find something that will reveal the secrets of all this material. In the knowledge that nobody in the vicinity is watching, I open every box, every cupboard in turn. Overcome by an irrepressible curiosity, I scour every object in sight, even foraging around in the bottom of pen pots. In a strange house, in someone else’s rooms, the most ordinary items seem singular and noteworthy. I poke and rummage around in the studio, examining every object to see if it has an interesting story to tell. Hanging from little nails — pinheads almost — are several works I recognize from exhibitions. Under the feet of the drawing tables are swivel castors, as if it is sometimes necessary to empty the space very quickly and erase all trace of the studio.
What I find in the studio does not solve the question of how Reniere&Depla work together, of how it’s all done. In fact, I am even more perplexed as I stand there counting the easels. Whereas I was expecting to see one or two, I find three. So am I to imagine that they start off working alone before ceremoniously transferring the canvas to the joint easel, or are all the easels joint easels and does each artist in turn dash from one work to the next as in a sort of drunken musical chairs? Any hope I had that the mystery of their artistry would suddenly be apparent or reveal itself to me here in the studio, any hope I had of finding a significant clue as I raked through their belongings, a vestige of action, an object that as an artefact would clarify the artistic process - that hope is dashed. The studio is a space associated with some kind of magic, it bears the traces of industry and handiwork, but what is missing is the aureole of the artistry. I expected to discover a tangible remnant that would allow me to take the artistic genius home with me in my pocket: a brush whose hairs go in a different wind direction but which seems to have painted the whole oeuvre, a preparatory study in which I would recognize both inspiration and finished product, something that is both material and product. Those are the sort of things I expected to find, the sort of things I hoped to discover. As in every artist’s studio I have visited, I did find autobiographical evidence of its occupant, but the artist himself didn’t seem to be there. It is rather like only being allowed to see the visitors’ studio when you suspect that there must be another space somewhere where the work is really made. I am not assailed by a sort of artistic ability, I see the material lying there and it does seem to be used - if not passionately, then intensely. One always expects a studio to be not just a location where things happen but also a testimony to those occurrences. But places rarely diffuse the history they embody and objects are dumb, they lack the power of speech. I replace the spent brush, put the aluminium foil back over the plate of paint and close the sliding door behind me.

Reniere&Depla are two people who in a past that goes back to the mid-1980s for the one and the early 1990s for the other, felt the calling as individual artists. And yet two pairs of hands have now been making work together for the last fourteen years. This partnership intrigues me, but at the same time it raises questions which go unanswered in conversations with the artists. I could sum up the technical aspect of their work by talking about how they paint using acrylics, about the adherency of their canvas, the blending of their colours, the composition of their palette, the dry brush technique, but would that touch the essence of their cooperation? It is not exceptional for two people to work together: a duet is played by two soloists, you need two people for a basse danse and a portrait photograph shows the eye of the photographer and the body of the model. Art forms like theatre and film with a shared authorship appear to be an easy mental exercise. There are also numerous examples in painting whe