Bent Van Looy


Antwerp, BELGIUM


Photographed by Charlie de Keersmaeker



I do everything in my studio, painting (lately mainly large watercolours), songwriting, writing. These moments correspond to rehearsing new songs for my TV show Zingen is Goud, which is recorded in my studio, in which people drop by to talk about the song that changed their lives. We then sing the song at the Wurlitzer, an electronic piano from the 1960s. I'm also reading a lot for my weekly Culture Club show on the radio. I love the Cronopio bookstore for its adventurous selection. Other shots include the amazing Maeyer van den Bergh museum, 100 meters from my studio, where I hop in to get some inspiration from Pieter Brueghel. Then, a beer after work at the ancient Boer Van Tienen café down the road.












Where is your studio located in Antwerp ?




My studio is located in a derelict brutalist shopping centre in the middle of Antwerp’s fashionable shopping district. I think the city wants to tear down the building, the concrete is crumbling on all sides, but until that happens, artists get to use the space. It is a magical place for me, overlooking the equally brutalist police tower and a gigantic roof terrace, just for me.



How long have you been working 

there ?


I remember eating an ice cream near the fountain on the square of the shopping centre, back when that was still running in what must’ve been, the very early eighties, so when I heard they were renting out art studio’s here, I jumped at the occasion! I’ve been painting, writing and playing music here for over three years now…




What is the neighborhood like?



It’s really funny to have this crumbling seventies’ relic and its often eccentric inhabitants in the midst of the most expensive shopping streets of the city. When I get my sandwich at noon, I stumble over lines and lines of wealthy tourists queuing up at the Louis Vuitton and Chanel boutiques. It’s a funny contrast with my paint-streaked plastic floorboards!

Any daily creative routines or rituals you follow?


I usually get cracking as soon as I arrive. No preparations or rituals are needed. I find the best way to discover something is to dive straight into the deep end and see where you end up. 

The best work gets done when you resurface at the end of a day, almost unaware of what has happened. I love to lose myself in the process and to allow coincidence and chance to play a role. I am not a meticulous planner, even though I really admire artists who are, who can hone in on a detail for days. I’m just not that guy.



What is a song that changed your life ?


I grew up in a tiny cabin in the woods, North of Antwerp. It was an almost XIXth century style childhood : no hot water, no television or radio, just getting lost in the woods and long evenings by the petroleum stove. You can imagine how thrilled I was to find a couple of brothers my age who lived in an equally small hut, made out of currogated iron that was painted in a dull grey with bright yellow window panes. The difference was that they had a small black and white television set. My brother and I would sit there on Wednesday afternoons, absolutely transfixed by the thing. One day, after a long run of late eighties programmes (the A team, the Rambo cartoon,…) an alien being entered my world, as Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel video hit the screen. Imagine the shock, especially for someone who has grown up without pop music - the mechanical rhythm, the shiny production, the dancing - had on 11 year-old me. I knew then and there that my life was forever changed. It was a revelation, a promise of things to come, a loss of innocence.



A few recommendations from the bookstore?


I hugely enjoyed Ian Mc Evans Epic Lessons, this summer. I’m always prowling for interesting books to discuss in my weekly show on national radio, Culture Club. I often read two or three books a week, non-fiction and novels. I love re-reading books. Right now, I am revisiting a very obscure rollercoaster of a novel, Stone Junction by Jim Dodge. Each year I revisit my favorite book of all time. It has saved my life a couple of times: Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger. It’s like an onion of wisdom: each read peels another layer away and is, somehow, completely different. After each re-read, I give my copy away to someone who may need it.



Follow Bent on

Instagram: @Bentpaintings

 Spotify: Bent Van Looy