Worn by

Bent Van Looy

Painter & musician

Photographed by Charlie de Keersmaeker

Could you introduce yourself?

I am a not quite middle aged artist from Antwerp who has a hard time focusing on one thing. Although I studied fine arts, not too long after having graduated in the painting department, I found myself touring the world with my band Das Pop. Since then I have made three solo records, gone on tour with Soulwax as a drummer, presented "The Culture Show" on Belgian radio and TV but most importantly: found my way back to where itt all began: painting. I am now living a quiet life.

When did you start painting and singing?

I graduated from Sint Lucas in Ghent ogen I was twenty two, ready to storm the art world. My band, Das Pop started to take off at the same time. We were a band of school buddies with big dreams, little fear and some decent songs. I soon had to choose: did I want to tour the world with my best friends or did I want to spend my days in the studio, facing the blank canvas, alone? I chose to hit the road but promised myself that one day, I’d come back to painting. I figured: you can still pass for a young painter at 45, but this is less of a plan if you want to make it in pop. When I came back to Belgium, after a ten year stint in Paris, I had a hard time adjusting to small town life. I struggled to transplant my Paris-self into a new decor…

Only when I started to think about the bonuses of Antwerp, things where it was actually better than Paris, did everything fall into place. I found a cheap studio (hard to find in Paris, right?), bought a set of brushes and some paint and set to work. It felt great to be back in the studio but finding out what I wanted to say was a different matter. It took a good year and a half before I had the courage to show some works to a good friend.

What are your inspirations? Do your artworks tell a story?

I would call myself an old school romantic. When it comes to music, even though I am a man of rhythm originally, it’s all about harmony, melody and swooping chord changes for me. In painting, too, I am prone to vibrant colours, ancient myths and lyrical gestures. I want to move, alienate and, yes: seduce with what I make, whilst trying to keep my balance as I walk the tightrope between light and dark. I am not someone who can spend months on minute details, even though I love artists who do that sort of work. I am too impatient and violent in my approach, both musically and in my painting.

Do the textures of your materials matter to you? How do you decide which colors & materials to apply to your paintings?

Absolutely. When I came back to painting I chose a material that was new to me, oil paint. As a young man I enjoyed the plastic quality of acrylics but I felt I needed something more substantial and alive this time around. Colour was the first thing that pointed out the direction I had to take when I returned to painting. By limiting the palette, I would choose one, two or three dominant colours per painting, I was able to paint more freely. By letting go of the realistic colours, my work became more pure and even more truthful.

What does a typical day look like for you in Antwerp?

I am a father, so my day starts early. I get up with my youngest daughter, who is almost two. We sit by the window and watch the street awaken. She is so excited by banal things like pigeons and cheers for a passing tram. I love seeing the world afresh through her eyes; Then I prepare breakfast for the rest of the family and get the two girls to school and daycare. My working day is mostly painting and takes place during office hours, quite a change for a musician, I can tell you. If I am not playing a concert or have a radio show, I go home and cook dinner. This quiet life feels like the right to me, somehow, even though I would’ve laughed at it ten years ago.

What do you look for in clothing? What are your style inspirations?

Clothing has always been very important to me. As I child I would attribute almost magical powers to pieces of clothing. I remember wanting to become a farmer when I was nine. I asked my mom to sew me a farmer’s suit and really felt the part as I wore it. I went to school in wooden shoes filled with straw and didn’t mind the ridicule and comments of fellow students and teachers, because the outfit was my shield. This magical charge garments can have is still very much a thing for me. A certain coat or shirt can completely shape the way I approach the day. Pieces of clothing really have a lot of meaning for me.

How is quality and craftsmanship important in your choice process?

That’s why I’ve come to curate and take care of my wardrobe. It has taken me a long time to refine my taste and find out exactly what it is I find important in the pieces that I wear. They have to have that magical charge. Sometimes that comes from the craftsmanship, fabric or details, sometimes from its historical context, for instance, I am an avid wearer of 1940 US army chinos. It’s possible to find ok reproductions, but for chino’s, I need to wear the real thing. Same thing when it comes to the collar of my shirts. It has to be just so. These are things I can think and daydream of at great length. They ground me in the world and are a great joy to play with. And what is more important than play? Perhaps work…