Nathalie Vanheule (1980, Belgium)

The explorations of life and death, light and darkness, love and melancholy, moments and eternity, and existence and fiction were the sources of creative inspiration for numerous romantic artists. Such tragedy exposed the young Nathalie Vanheule to the North European romanticism and tradition. She spent her childhood near a cemetery in honor of the victims of war, and, to her deep sorrow, of losing her mother to a tragic event. Her art is like a black hole, leading to an unknown world or an unreal space, where black and white intersect. 'Vanitas extended', released in 2015, shows a woman who resists darkness by partially revealing her white skin from black ash that sucks light, like a white butterfly caught and struggling in a spider web or like a victim of distress in the black sea. 'The Color of Water and Tears', released in 2015, presents a young female ballerina in a white dress dancing against a black background. As time goes by, her clothes, which were exposed to water and air, melt away, metaphorizing the fragile human figure and the fragility of life before the forces of nature. In Nathalie Vanheule's work, natural elements, such as water, fire/ash, air, and light/darkness, harmonize with the physical beauty of women. This can be linked to the sublime meaning of romanticism, striking a dramatic contrast between 'nature and humans'.

In this exhibition, the artist presents an installation art, 'The Starting Point', and the performances, 'Milk Medusa' and 'Embrace'. 'The Starting Point' projects images of illusion, and creates an occult atmosphere by installing mirrors surrounded by ash in the middle of a complex space with transparent veils, parrots, and recorded breaths of the artist. Here, the veil surrounding ash, which suggests annihilation, death, and reincarnation, emphasizes the mysterious image of space. The mirrors represent human vanity, beauty and weakness, and, at the same time, it serves as a tool to symbolize transcendence, such as resurrection and conception. 'Milk Medusa' represents love, harmony, exchange, and communication between humans. The work, which will be demonstrated with the artist's collaborator, actress Odessa Lissia, is shown as a two-in-one in a two-person white costume. Through the symmetrical relationship between the two and the image of the two women sympathizing in the composition, we will witness the impossibility of complete symbiosis in a mutually different desire and verbal sympathy. Embrace offers an opportunity for many people to experience 'Milk Medusa'. This work will not only induce unusual emotions through physical contact with other people, but also introduce harmonious images through performances. The work, which will be performed with the participation of students from the Fine art and Art management, Kyonggi University, will be presented through twelve costumes designed by Belgian fashion designer Lenny Leleu in collaboration with the artist.

- text by YUN Kusuk, curator at the Osan Museum of Art, South-Korea, 2020

This exhibition was temporarily shut down by the museum due to Covid-19, so the performance of Belgian artist Nathalie Vanheule scheduled for the fourth week of February could not continue as scheduled. Artist Nathalie Vanheule filmed the video of 'The New Embrace' with two Kyonggi University students. The exhibition has introduced 'Narcissus Game' as installation art, and has newly unveiled 'A Landscape of New Desires', featured more than 300 artificial eyelashes on the walls of the museum. Moreover, we have presented video works such as 'Burning Eyes', 'The Color of Water and Tears', and 'Infinity', as well as the photographic work, 'Milk Medusa'.


Nathalie Vanheule (1980-) explores the possibility of impossibility in 'two heads in one body', As two
different persons float in one specially made costume, they sense each
other's breath, gestures, and everything inside, and lead each other to a
world of communication and transcendence.

Shin Hye Kyung, Professor of Art Management, Kyonggi University, South-Korea, 2020


interview with ArtDependence Magazine
text by Kitty Jackson, London, 2020

Multimedia artist Nathalie Vanheule incorporates performance, sculpture and video installations into her work. In 2020, she has a series of exhibitions lined up, including a show at the Osan Museum of Contemporary Art in South-Korea. Curated by Kusuk Yon, the show features 4 contemporary performance artists and allows each artist to build upon the work left behind by the previous exhibitor. Nathalie is set to be the final artist in the series.

“The day I arrived in Seoul,” says Nathalie, “the government decided that all of the museums and Universities must close. I met Kusuk Yon 11 years ago when I had a studio in Paris and we started thinking about this show. Two years ago we began to put together the details.” Vanheule’s installation for the exhibit incorporates clay, water, fire and ashes. “It also includes four of my videos, one picture, three installations and two performances realised to fill a whole level of the museum.” The exhibition is titled WOMAN WOMAN WOMAN WOMAN. “It’s so refreshing as there is an exchange and interaction between the four female artists, nothing is fixed.”

As part of the show, Vanheule was preparing a performance with twenty Korean actors. This physical contact was quickly called into question in the light of corona, and was reduced down to two actors, before the show was postponed. In the two-actor version of a New Embrace, “two performers in a large tongue-like veil of twelve meters burn themselves away in an embrace. The fabric of the long veil is similar to the fabric of a wedding dress, but a closer look reveals that the holes are burnt. The performers are two women who hug each other in a costume designed by Lenny Leleu that can only be worn by two people. The identity fades. Embrace and human contact, helping each other and letting go of the ego is the answer we should start from. The hug burns the veil away.”

Vanheule was also planning to include a photograph of her work Milk Medusa. The photograph is taken by Louise Mae during a rehearsal. “It is about beauty and envy, but also about metamorphosis and transition within a person. In the photo we see my actress, Odessa Lissia, with a penetrating look and a huge tangle of rope and hair covering her face and head. Rope is used as a symbol of solidarity, but also captivity, rope that takes the place of snakes on the head of Medusa. The blonde hair is a self-portrait. Loose hair has only been allowed in the West since the sexual revolution. It means power, seduction and freedom. These elements, rope and hair, can be found in the sculpture I show in the Osan Museum of Art. A sculpture that only finds its full meaning with people - visitors or performers who can be in the sculpture.”

I wonder how Vanheule chooses her materials. “I work with deconstruction, transition, multi-layering and the natural elements such as wind, water and fire in my artwork. Fire is destruction and new energy. Ashes are a remnant of fire and symbolize transition. They are used as a technique in agriculture to make soil fertile again. At the moment we feel a major transition with the health crisis due to the corona virus. Ashes indicate a change and transition, both in the mind, the different phases in life and in society.”

For Nathalie, the corona pandemic has provided a chance to reflect on her work. “My work is like the opposite of corona. Human contact is a very important element.” And when I ask whether Nathalie believes that art has a role to play at this moment in history, she says yes. “People need more than food. Art gives realness and it gives us a way to reflect. Art can tell us things that cannot be spoken in words. Art can open our emotions and consciousness. It melts the frozen sea of our emotions to show us some elements of the truth – the truth that lives inside us.”

“When you become an artist, you choose a path that is quite insecure. It is not directly about earning money. Sometimes even now I wonder if I should have been a Doctor. But art is important, and it is also a fight. I believe that making art is about transporting your emotion through the body and onto the canvas somehow. I really believe that the work can catch an emotion and keep it there, for the viewers to experience.”

“Every work includes a self-portrait somewhere, says Picasso, whether you are painting an apple or a person. It is your hand and it is your reflections. But I always want to keep a certain distance between my own reality and the artwork. It should not be purely autobiographical. A work must be able to be read and felt by different people, so that it also becomes their story.”

Vanheule grew up in Ypres on the border of Belgium and France, a city most often known for it’s haunting role in the First World War when it became a front line between rival forces. It is thought that around 300,000 soldiers lost their lives in the region, leaving the city with a sombre atmosphere that remains to this day. she acknowledges that perhaps Ypres did leave an imprint on her psyche. “Ypres sharpens the presence of death and loss through its landscape of craters and monuments.


“I inhaled the symbolism of Ypres. The city carries a history of death and war. The first fiery kisses with my love took place here in one of the English or Canadian cemeteries. Love and death go together beautifully.”

“Death, the end of striving, is something that catches up to us and that we can never prepare for. It is like a shadow. It is always there, but we do not dwell on it. Until the light shines so brightly in our eyes and dark shapes take over our vision.”

For Vanheule, there is a sense of power of being vulnerable and fragile.“My personality and authenticity are very intertwined in my work. I distill and process into a layering in visual language. I find authenticity and willfulness important when creating a work. During the creation process I isolate myself and I am sensitive and fragile. Fragility and transition in emotions are very important. While creating, as an artist we allow images and ideas, and we must allow that there is also a failure or a throwaway of an idea and design. Allowing failure, emotions and vulnerability is essential to achieve a powerful work.”

“There is fear. Fear is woven into our society and into our human being, which strives for success and perfection. Fear is not an end and not a beginning. The starting point is somewhere in the middle. I have fear and desires, fear of mental loneliness, not being free, fear of death. Topics that come back in my work are the isolated individual, deconstruction, congealed materiality of loneliness. The desire for mental connection and unity or the desire for freedom are recurring themes in my work and my life. The scars have given me at least one special drive, an urge. It will also have to do with sensitivity: artists have a great sensitivity. The creation process is necessary to channel this sensitivity, but also to be stable and happy.”

As Nathale speaks, I sense that she somehow feels that she was born an artist. I ask her when it was that she first thought of herself as an artist. “How does someone become an artist? How does someone choose art as their profession? How do you accept that you are an artist, and that this is your breath, regardless of what is expected?
"Accepting yourself as an artist is a struggle that you make, it is a form and acceptance, there is no doubt. There is no yes or no as an answer. There is art.”

Kitty Jackson, London 2020

text by Guy Malevez, 2017

Nathalie Vanheule (1980) est une artiste contemporaine belge dont le travail multimédia recouvre à la fois les performances, les sculptures et les installations vidéo. Née à Ypres, une ville située sur la ligne de front lors des deux guerres mondiales, elle a grandi entourée de cimetières canadiens et anglais. Cette confrontation précoce avec la mort et la dévastation a joué un rôle important dans les thèmes de son travail artistique.
Dans ses œuvres récentes, l'artiste utilise des cendres, symbole de ce qui reste après 'une attaque’ ou 'un incendie’. Les cendres nous confrontent à la fois à la puissance de la destruction, mais aussi à celui de l'énergie et de la passion.
Le feu détruit, dynamise et renouvelle. Les restes de cendres suggèrent la naissance d'une nouvelle vie. Comme lorsque les terres agricoles sont brûlées pour êtres fertilisées, la mort est une phase nécessaire dans le cycle de la nature. Les cendres sont un symbole présent dans de nombreuses cultures pour signifier la transformation. Ces moments de changement sont souvent accompagnés de sentiments à la fois d'angoisse et d'espoir, tant dans la société en général que dans la vie personnelle.
"Tous les mots que nous ne connaîtrons jamais" évoque l’inédit, la mort, le mystère. Nathalie Vanheule nous montre la beauté et la nécessité des erreurs. L'artiste crée une prise de conscience grâce au contact physique du corps et de l’œuvre. Les couleurs laiteuses se réfèrent au film blanc apaisant qui apparaît dans notre âme quand nous approchons de la mort, mais aussi lorsque nous ressentons une renaissance. Cela suppose la perte du contrôle de la vérité. C'est toujours un mystère pour l'homme de savoir comment on peut saisir la vérité.

L'effet miroir nous renvoie à l'histoire de Narcisse, il en va de même avec l'utilisation de différentes couches et de la lumière blanche. Le spectateur est invité à se tenir debout devant l’œuvre, à la regarder et à ressentir sa propre existence unique. La mort est comme une ombre qui est toujours présente. Nous connaissons l'existence. Nous ne connaissons pas l'inexistence. La vie est un cycle éternel plein de transformations. La peur de l'inconnu se résout à mesure que nous approchons de la déconstruction.
En apprenant des expériences sombres, nous pouvons sentir, sans peur, l'harmonie et la clarté dans ces moments de silence intérieur. La liberté d'esprit se base sur la maîtrise de soi, l'introspection et la conscience mentale de nos pensées et de nos opportunités. Nathalie Vanheule met en lumière les mots intérieurs et les sentiments d'espoir. « Tous les mots que nous ne connaîtrons jamais ».

COEVAL MAGAZINE, March 2016, about the work of Nathalie Vanheule

Nathalie Vanheule is a Belgian contemporary artist whose multimedia work encompasses performance, sculptures, and video installations. She was born on March 10th, 1980 in Ypres, or the “city of death”, as it served as Belgian’s frontline for two World Wars. This premature experience with death and devastation has played a significant thematic role in Vanheule’s work. Vanheule received her master’s degree in graphic design in 2002 and 3D Design in 2004 from Sint-Lucas Ghent in Belgium. In 2015, she was asked twice to curate for Belgium museums and presented “Burning Book Performance”, a creative book created along with other graphic designers that featured different burned book covers, at La Librairie de Palais de Tokyo in Paris and Berlinische Galerie in Berlin.

Her most recent Artist-in-Residence was “La Generale en Manufacture” in Paris (2009-2010). Many of her works have been displayed internationally at museums such as the National Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent (2004), Pulse Show New York (2008), and MUHKA Museum of Fine and Contemporary Art, Antwerp (2015).
Vanheule’s work demonstrates a powerful collision of forces that make permanent the momentary interactions between different textures and means. The collisions create a layering effect that, instead of masking, far more reveals what is underneath. The layering plays with notions of revealing, suppressing and hiding, especially when taking into account that the work is displayed in highly public settings.

The dramatic interactions reveal raw vulnerability and emotions in the midst of destruction and chaos. Illusions are unmasked in the Belgian artist’s work, but still play on fantasy and reality through the dream-like otherworldliness evoked from the variance of opacities she uses. There is a perverse sense of ideal beauty, in its imperfect perfection, that permeates many of her works’ highly fragmented and dark, gothic world.

Text by Perwana Nazif, Milano, 2016

Nathalie Vanheule is een Belgische hedendaagse kunstenaar wiens multimediawerk performances, sculpturen en video-installaties omvat. Ze werd geboren in1980 in Ieper, of de 'stad des doods', omdat de stad diende als een frontlinie voor de twee wereldoorlogen. De voortijdige ervaring met de dood en verwoesting in haar leven heeft een belangrijke rol gespeeld in het oeuvre van Vanheule.

Ze ontving haar masterdiploma’s in grafisch ontwerp en 3D Design op Sint-Lucas en het KASK in Gent. Tijdens haar laatste masterjaar stelde ze haar werk tentoon o.a. in het SMAK Gent, De Vooruit en MSK Gent, het STUK Leuven, Am Flutgraben Berlijn, Texture Museum Kortrijk, Museum d’Hondt Dhaenens, La Générale en Manufacture Parijs nodigden haar uit voor exposities en performances…In 2015 startte Vanheule met het werken met vuur en assen in haar video’s en ashpaintings voor een expo in samenwerking met 'In Flanders Fields Museum' Ieper en Het Perron. Vuur staat voor nieuwe energie en destructie. "The Burning Bookperformances "draaide uit in een bijzonder boek 'Vanitas Extended' gerealiseerd samen met 2 grafische ontwerpers. Dit boek met verbrande cover werd geëxposeerd in de Librairie Palais de Tokyo in Parijs en de Berlinische Galerie in Berlijn.
De aanwezigheid van haar werk en performances viel op. Vanheule werd uitgenodigd om een performance te geven met vuur en assen tijdens pressdays Documenta Kassel. Afgelopen jaren werden haar ashpaintings, video’s en performances getoond in verschillende musea waaronder Palazzo Ducale in Genova, museum Palazzo Costanzi in Trïeste en een residentie en belangrijke expo in het museum voor hedendaagse kunst Villa Manin, waarbij Tomàs Saraceno en Olafur Eliasson haar voorgingen, onder het programma en de steun van de Biënnale van Venetië dankzij curatrice Chiara Isadora Artico, iodeposito.
Galerie Yoko Uhoda exposeerde datzelfde jaar haar werken op de artfair in Luxemburg en in de galerie in Knokke.

Curatrice Julie Senden-director Rodolphe Janssen Gallery- nodigde Vanheule uit in 2017 om samen met o.a. Belgische kunstenaars Gert Robyns, Helmut Stallaerts, en Kris Martin, kunstwerken te realiseren voor de expo en sothebys veiling re-Art 2 in Zaventem. Dankzij deze expo creëerde Vanheule meer dan levensgrote werken waarbij ze een statement maakt door met eigen waste make up en bewuste vlekken met het lichaam te tekenen op een machinale tekening waarbij het postemotionalisme zich introduceert in haar werk.

In het werk van Vanheule zien we krachtige botsingen van momentane interacties tussen verschillende texturen en materialen. De botsingen creëren een gelaagd effect dat, in plaats van maskeren, veel meer onthult wat eronder zit. De gelaagdheid speelt met noties van onthullen, onderdrukken en verbergen.
De dramatische interacties onthullen een ruwe kwetsbaarheid en emoties te midden van vernietiging en chaos. Illusies worden ontmaskerd in het werk van deze Belgische kunstenaar. Welk medium ze gebruikt, steeds wordt er gespeeld met de grens tussen fantasie en werkelijkheid door de droomachtige otherworldliness die opgeroepen wordt uit de variantie van transparantie en bedekking die Vanheule gebruikt. Er is een pervers gevoel van ideale schoonheid, in zijn onvolmaakte perfectie, dat veel van haar werken doordringt tot een gefragmenteerde en donkere wereld waaruit helder licht schijnt.

Tekst gebaseerd op tekst van Perwana Nazif, Milaan

Aller Anfang ist Schwer / Nathalie Vanheule
“the reveal of hidden truths under the very ego”

text by Susie Kahlich, Paris

In her newest installation, "Aller Anfang ist Schwer," Nathalie Vanheule manifests the intimate process of the transformation of memory and emotion with the passage of time, exploring notions of constructing the ego to define, whilst deconstructing identity to reveal deeper truths, and the role memory -- cherished, denied, or rewritten -- plays.

Copper and bronze have been used for hundreds of years as a link to honouring and preserving memory: solidifying a child's handprint in bronze, for example, or the copper castings of a baby's first shoes. The child grows into adulthood, but the memory is cast in time, giving it weight and substance in a way that cannot be ignored. The memory itself becomes an object. Vanheule's paintings and objects in copper invite the viewer to interact directly with the work, look deeper into the shiny surface of the copperplate to find his or her own reflection dominating the entire piece itself, introducing a new aspect of experience -- also to be transformed into memory -- to the work.

Selecting stills from her film "Color of Water and Tears" (2015), Vanheule has filtered images onto the copperplate to capture the performed memory of a memory. Her long-time muse, Skye -- Vanheule's personifcation of emotion -- appears as though cocooned, ghostly and ephemeral, her image penetrated here and there by images of a 100-year old fruit tree, so light they are a mere suggestion of deeper memory, of history itself. The tree, in fact, has survived on Vanheule's grandmother's farm just outside Ypres, Belgium for 100 years, and figures prominently in family history as a profound site where love and death played a dramatic role in the bloody battlefields of both World Wars. Planted by her grandfather, the tree has survived bombings and battles, the farm itself bordering the river Iron -- an important barrier in times of war, as the muddy land and the river itself could not be crossed. The farm has recently been sold out of the family.

Vanheule's own memories of childhood, stories told and imagined, have now become delicate morsels to form and reform as she both paints with fine brushes, as well as scratches with her nails and sharp objects, embedding memory directly into the copper she works with.
Vanheule's technique for the past several years has been to focus emotion directly into her work. Her abstract blue ink and black oil paintings, also a part of this current series, are direct expressions of her innermost emotions as she transmits the work through her naked hands and fingers to her canvas.

The installation "Aller Anfang ist Schwer" is, for the artist, about opening up to yourself; about hiding and transforming memory, both good and bad, as we all do. The title refers to how difficult emotional changes and new beginnings can be in our relationships, and in life itself. The reflective aspect of the copper used in this series is an important way for the viewer to enter each piece, and listen to his or her own reflection, inner voice and memories.

Vanheule thoughtfully plays with the endless Jacob's Ladder of memory and experience, the almost instinctive way we hold on to and define our existence by the memories we create, replace and suppress. Through her series of copper plates, sculpture, and ink and oil paintings, she traces our very basic process of evolution as we endeavor to build our identities, while at the same time strive to unpeel layer after layer of ourselves, revealing often fragile truths hidden under the very ego we have ourselves constructed.

Susie Kahlich, Paris, 2015


Nathalie Vanheule
Le naufrage de l'Espérance
text by Agnès Violeau

Nathalie Vanheule’s work subscribes to vast and rich traditions in postmodern art: Belgian symbolism with its romantic élan combined with Scandinavian Utopianism result in the elaboration of a quite singular universe. The artist offers us both pictorial and performance art. Installations, photos, sculptures, drawings and wall paintings are a few of the techniques used in her creations, which are always developed in close relation with the exhibition space. Roaming between a fairy-like representation of reality and a tragic world view in the likes of Lewis Carroll, Nathalie Vanheule’s works take us far beyond the looking-glass.

Born in Belgium, 1980, Nathalie Vanheule graduated in graphic design at Saint-Lucas Ghent in 2002 and then studied for two more years at the Royal Art Academy. Soon after graduation in 2004, her international career made a swift start. She has taken part in noteworthy exhibitions in Berlin (2003), Antwerp (2009) and has been on show in La Générale, Paris, in 2010 (“I want to be your animal”, followed by “Save your smile for the last hour”). She has also taken part in numerous group-shows : in 2003 in Berlin («Kindersurprise”), next at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam (“Warriors of Bellitz”); in 2004 at the SMAK and Vooruit in Ghent (“Pak mijn pony”); in 2007 at the Cluster Gallery in Berlin (Desolated angels); in 2009 at the Belgian consulate in Shanghai on the occasion of Europalia (“Belle époque”), in Antwerp at the Annie Gentils Gallery (“We fake beauty”) as well as at Art Cologne and Pulse NY in 2007 and finally in Leeds (“Floppergangers”) and Maastricht (“Fashionclash”) in 2010.

Invited to take part in « The Battlefield where the moon says I love you », an exhibition at the Broelmuseum in Courtrai(Belgium) from 25 June until 22 August, Vanheule has made up a selection of works – drawings, sculptures and installations – and two performances, “Save your smile” and “Army of angels”.
By putting to use melodrama and the symbolical restitution of misunderstandings, she stages in her multidisciplinary way the emotions that fascinate her: regression, doubt, aggression, melancholy, the quest for protection, creating in the meanwhile numerous situations that propagate a patho-panic world view.

« Save your smile » uses everyday materials found in the artist’s surroundings. Out of these man-made leftovers she creates a fragile allegory of the human condition. Paintings such as « cosa mentale » invite the spectator to cast a critical eye upon the world from a Brechtian perspective . Drenched in a melancholic mood reminiscent of James Ensor, Böcklin (themes such as isolation, protection, confinement, celebration), Nathalie Vanheule’s work is about lost hope and emotional loss. It unveils our suppressed and hidden desires and brings out our intimate fears into public space. Through a poetic an mysterious framework of various elements – scotch tape, drawings, weapons and tears, guns and young girls and flowers, festive attire and an ever-present blackness – Nathalie Vanheule lures us into the position of bystander at a pre-apocalyptic carnival. In her own way she illustrates Hal Foster’s quote: «The apotheosis of a subject resides in its disappearance.”

As is the case for her performances and installations, the evocative titles of pictorial works such as “Kill, Save, Trust, Hurt”, “We will protect you” and “The search of the eternal language” clearly allude to the power of language. Black scotch tape replaces tears or speech, as if all has been said already, or as if words offer no refuge from corruption anyway. At times, Vanheule’s creations make you think of Matias Faldbakken, a prominent Scandinavian artist who unites individual hopes with collective Utopia’s in dark pictorial poems. In this sense, her work seems related as well to the plastic texts by Peter Downsbrough and Steven Parrino’s conceptual classicism. Furthermore, it is reminiscent of Banks Violette’s fantasies of youth going lost to outdated ideals and Terence Koh’s monochrome universe. The gothic vocabulary and iconography of doom approach Winckelmannian perfection. With Vanheule, however, the climax is taking place here and now. Our fears, suppressed for too long, finally break through the surface. As expressions and gestures become illusions, childishness turns to nihilism and fear.

With « renaissance pathos» Vanheule invites us to take part in a sensitive reformation of the world through an aesthetic that is both Dionysian and related to Barthés in its fragmentation and emotionality. Vanheule’s oeuvre announces from behind its masks the inevitable closing time, the Final Disaster.

Like a carnival turning bad and making use of artificial artefacts (monochrome costumes and accessories, gothic decors, complex frameworks calling upon psychoanalysis), Nathalie Vanheule is taking on negations with absence.

Agnès Violeau, Paris, 2010
(translation by Charlotte Steen)

1 Original title of the painting « The Sea of Ice » by Caspar David Friedrich
2 The Brechtian detachment or more precisely, Verfremdungseffekt, tries to keep the spectator from surrendering to the illusion inherent in the presentation of a work of art by alienating him from what is presented, i.e. by breaking the cathartic effect through the introduction of unexpected elements.
3 Term derived from « La revanche des émotions » by Catherine Grenier (2008, Seuil)
4 To Barthes, the notion fragmentation contests the classical definition of art, which includes criteria such as perfection, coherence and harmony. Questioning these criteria is one of the cornerstones of postmodernism.


Nathalie Vanheule
Le naufrage de l'Espérance
Agnès Violeau

Het werk van Nathalie Vanheule schrijft zich in in het postmodernisme en is beladen met een rijke erfenis van Belgisch symbolisme, romantisch elan en Scandinavisch geïnspireerde utopieën. Nathalie Vanheule verkent in haar kunst zowel het picturale als het performatieve: installaties, foto’s, beeldhouwwerken, tekeningen, wallpaintings bewonen haar universum. Daarbij gaat het werk steeds een nauwe relatie aan met de ruimte. Feeërieke representatie van de werkelijkheid en een tragische visie à la Lewis Caroll creëren een spanning die ons tot ver achter de spiegel van de werkelijkheid voert.

Nathalie Vanheule werd geboren in 1980 in Poperinge, België. Ze behaalde een diploma in grafisch en 3Ddesign aan Sint Lucas in Gent in 2002 en aan de Academie voor Schone Kunsten in 2004. Al snel ontwikkelde ze een internationale carrière: in 2003 exposeerde ze in Berlijn (E.E.A, Beelitz- Heilstätten), in 2004 in de Gerrit Rietveldacademie van Amsterdam (“Warriors of Beelitz”), soloshows volgden in 2004 in de Vooruit Gent ( Pak mijn Pony), 2007 bij Annie Gentils galerij in Antwerpen (“We fake beauty”) en In-Between gallery Antwerpen ( Does the Unicorn exist?), in 2009 en 2010 in La Générale in Parijs (“I want to be your animal” en dan “Save your smile for the last hour”). Ze nam eveneens deel aan talrijke groepstentoonstellingen, in 2004 in het Smak( Coming People),2005 in het STUK Leuven (Ithaka, eau revoir), in 2007 in de Clustergalerij in Berlijn (“Desolated angels”), eveneens ook op Art Cologne en Pulse NY in 2007, in het Belgisch consulaat van Shanghai in 2009 (“Belle époque”), , in Leeds ( “Floppergangers”) en Maastricht op Fashionclash in 2010.

Vanuit een theatrale aanpak en een symbolische benadering van misverstanden geeft Nathalie Vanheule op pluridisciplinaire wijze uitdrukking aan emoties die haar bekend zijn: twijfel, regressie, agressie, melancholie en de zoektocht naar bescherming. Emoties die zich lenen tot een pathofanische interpretatie van de wereld.
In “Save your smile” gebruikt Nathalie Vanheule alledaags materiaal uit haar directe omgeving. Een menselijke puinhoop wordt getransformeerd in een fragiele allegorie van het menselijk lot. Het schilderij nodigt als “cosa mentale” (mentaal object) de kijker uit om, op Brechtiaanse wijze, de wereld met een kritische te bekijken. Het werk van Nathalie Vanheule gaat over verloren hoop en emotioneel verlies, gedrenkt in een melancholie die doet denken aan de wereld van James Ensor, Böcklin (gelijkaardige thema’s van isolement, bescherming, opsluiting, feest) of Friedrich (terugkeer naar de natuur, verval, ruïne), Het ontmaskert onze onderdrukte en verborgen verlangens en brengt onze intiemste angsten in het publieke daglicht. Door op poëtische en mysterieuze wijze gebruik te maken van heterocliete elementen – plakband, tekeningen, wapens, tranen, ontluikende jonge meisjes, feestelijke kostuums en het bijna alomtegenwoordige zwart, duwt Nathalie Vanheule ons in de positie van voyeur in een preapocalyptisch carnaval. Ze illustreert op haar manier de benadrukkende woorden van Hal Foster: “De apotheose van het onderwerp ligt in de verdwijning ervan.”

Haar performances en ook haar werken hebben beeldende, evocatieve titels: “Kill, Save, Trust, Hurt”, “We will protect you”, of “The search of the eternal language”. Ze speelt met de kracht van de taal. Zwarte plakband vervangt tranen of woorden, alsof alles al eens gezegd is geweest en woorden het lijden niet kunnen verlichten. We denken soms aan het werk van Matias Faldbakken, een kunstenaar uit de Scandinavische scène die individuele verzuchtingen en collectieve utopieën verenigt in sombere picturale poëzie, aan de plastische teksten van Peter Downsbrough, of aan het conceptuele classicisme van Steven Parrino. Aan de werken van Banks Violette – die de fantasieën van een verloren en gedesillusioneerde jeugd in scène brengt en sublimeert – of het monochrome universum van Terence Koh waarin een gothisch vocabularium en een doom iconografie raken aan een bijna Winckelmanniaanse perfectie. Maar bij Vanheule vindt de climax hier en nu plaats. Onze angsten, te lang onderdrukt en verdrongen, slaan als een zweep terug. Kinderlijke en illusoire gebaren en mimiek worden nihilistisch en beangstigend.

In een soort van “pathetische wedergeboorte” nodigt Vanheule ons uit om de wereld op een empathische manier her uit te vinden, via een esthetica die zowel dionysisch als, door het fragmentarische en emotionele karakter ervan, Barthesiaans aandoet. Haar werk, achter het masker en het vertoon, kondigt de onafwendbare val, de Grote Ramp aan. Zoals bij een uit de hand lopend carnaval en door veelvuldige kunstgrepen (monochrome kostuums en cotillons, gothisch decor en verwijzingen naar de psychoanalyse), onderhandelt Nathalie Vanheule met de afwezigheid.

Agnès Violeau, Parijs, 2010

1 Originele titel van het schilderij “De ijszee” van Caspar David Friedrich.
2 Het Brechtiaanse vervreemdingseffect wil de kijker behoeden voor het wegglijden in de illusie die inherent is aan de voorstelling, door hem afstand te doen nemen van het voorgestelde of, met andere woorden, door het catharsiseffect te doorbreken met behulp van verrassingselementen.
3 Deze term is door Catherine Grenier gedefinieerd in haar werk “La revanche des émotions”, in 2008.
4 Barthes’ idee van het fragmentarische is een aantasting van de klassieke idee van kunst gebaseerd op perfectie, coherentie en volmaaktheid. Één van de fundamentele kenmerken van het postmoderne aanvoelen is het in vraag stellen van de noties van éénheid, homogeniteit en harmonie.

Nathalie Vanheule
Le naufrage de l'Espérance
texte Agnès Violeau

La pratique de Nathalie Vanheule s'inscrit dans une histoire de l'art postmoderne à l'héritage riche: symbolisme belge, élan romantique et utopies d'obédiences nordiques ont contribué à l'élaboration d'un univers singulier. Nathalie Vanheule propose une praxis tant picturale que performative: installation, photo, sculpture, dessin ou wallpainting sont autant de techniques d'une production toujours élaborée en lien avec l’espace d’exposition. Aux frottements entre représentation féérique du réel et vision tragique d’un monde lewiscarolléen, l’œuvre de Nathalie Vanheule nous emmène loin derrière le miroir.

Née en 1980 en Belgique, diplômée en design à Saint Lucas de Gand en 2002 puis en 2004 à l'Académie des Beaux-Arts, Nathalie Vanheule entame vite une carrière internationale. Elle expose notamment en 2003 à Berlin, en 2006 à Anvers, en 2009 et 2010 à la Générale à Paris (« I want to be your animal », puis Save your smile for the last hour »). Elle participe également à de nombreux group-shows : en 2003 à Berlin (« Kindersurprise ») puis à la Gerrit Rietveld Academy d'Amsterdam (« Warriors of Bellitz »), en 2004 au SMAK et au Vooruit de Gand (« Pak mijn pony ») ; en 2007 à la Cluster Gallery de Berlin (« Desolation angels »),au consulat belge de Shanghai en 2009 pour Europalia (« Belle époque »), à Anvers chez Annie Gentils Gallery (« We fake beauty ») ainsi qu'à Art Cologne et Pulse NY en 2007 ; à Leeds (« Floppergangers » ) et Maastricht (« Fashionclash ») en 2010.

Invitée dans le cadre de l’exposition « The Battlefield where the moon says I love you » qui se tient au Musée du Broel de Courtrai du 25 juin au 22 août 2010, Vanheule propose une série de pièces - dessins, sculptures et installations - et deux performances, « Save your smile » et « Army of angels ». Par la théâtralité et la restitution symbolique du malentendu elle active, en un modus operandi pluridisciplinaire, la mise en scène d’émotions qui lui sont familières : la régression, le doute, l'agression, la mélancolie, la quête de protection, créant autant de situations propices à une lecture pathophanique du monde.

« Save your smile » use des matériaux du quotidien, de l’entourage immédiat de l’artiste, construisant sur les débris de l'homme une allégorie fragile de sa condition. La peinture comme « cosa mentale » invite le regardeur, par un processus Brechtien , à poser un œil critique sur le monde. Emprunt d'une mélancolie rappelant l'univers de James Ensor, de Böcklin (thèmes similaires de l'isolement, la protection, l'enfermement, la fête) ou de Friedrich (l'élan vers la nature, le déclin, la ruine), le travail de Nathalie Vanheule traite de nos espoirs perdus et pertes affectives. Il démasque nos désirs refoulés et cachés, conduisant nos peurs intimes sur le domaine public. Via un agencement poétique et mystérieux d'éléments hétéroclites – scotch, dessin, armes et larmes, guns et jeunes filles en fleurs, costumes festifs et présence quasi-systématique du noir) Nathalie Vanheule nous retranche dans un poste de voyeur au sein d'un carnaval préapocalytique. Elle illustre à sa manière les mots d’Hal Foster quand il affirme que « l’apothéose du sujet réside dans sa disparition ».

Comme pour ses performances et œuvres processuelles, ses pièces aux titres évocateurs « Kill, Save, Trust, Hurt », We will protect you », ou « The search of the eternal language » font clairement allusion au pouvoir langagier. Du scotch noir remplace les larmes ou la parole, comme si tout avait déjà été dit, ou que les mots n'étaient d'aucun recours aux maux. On pense parfois à l'œuvre de Matias Faldbakken, figure de la scène nordique qui marie espoirs individuels et utopies collectives en de sombres poésies picturales ; aux texte plastiques d'un Peter Downsbrough, au classicisme conceptuel de Steven Parrino. On peut évoquer la production de Banks Violette qui met en scène et sublime les fantasmes d'une jeunesse perdue aux idéaux déchus, encore l'univers monochrome de Terence Koh où vocabulaire gothique et iconographie doom frôlent une perfection quasi - winckelmannienne. Chez Vanheule en revanche, le climax a lieu ici et maintenant. Trop longtemps refoulées nos peurs surgissent de plein fouet. Mimiques et gestes illusoires, enfantins deviennent alors nihilistes et angoissants.

En une forme de « renaissance pathétique » Vanheule nous invite à une refondation empathique du monde, via une esthétique tant dionysiaque que barthésienne en son corpus de fragments, son émotivité. L'œuvre de Vanheule derrière masques et apparats annonce la chute inévitable, le Grand Désastre. À l’image d'un carnaval qui tournerait mal, faisant un usage récursif de l’artifice, (costumes et cotillons monochromes, décor gothique, dispositifs complexes se référant volontiers à la psychanalyse), Nathalie Vanheule négocie avec l’absence.

Agnès Violeau, Paris,2010

1 Titre original du tableau « La mer de glace » de Caspar David Friedrich
2 La distanciation brechtienne ou plus précisément Verfremdungseffekt tente d'empêcher le regardeur de succomber à l'illusion inhérente dans la présentation d'une pièce, en le distanciant le de ce qui est présenté, c'est à dire, en rompant l'effet de catharsis par l’intrusion d’éléments de surprise.
3 Terme défini par Catherine Grenier dans son ouvrage « La revanche des émotions » en 2008 (Seuil)
4 Chez Barthes la notion de fragmentarité porte atteinte à l'exigence classique de l'oeuvre fondée sur la perfection, la cohérence et l'achèvement. Un trait fondamental de la sensibilité postmoderne consiste à remettre en question les notions d'unité, d'homogénéité et d'harmonie.


The mystique work of the Belgium artist Nathalie Vanheule is fascinating. As a viewer, we need to touch her inner world. It leads us to see the bizarre, how it grows and lives in our life.
At the first sight you see a nice and beautiful world, but if you look some longer, you see there are strange actions, things that happen in a hidden corner of the smile. How we try to make ourselves better and brighter... how we keep up appearances...
This theme returns in all her sculptures, drawings, performances or installations.

Beautiful images are subcutaneous and underhand shattered. Recognizable figures are deformed and reformed. Apparently unimportant objects like scissors, raspberries or straws get a special attention. Vanheule makes her own symbolic. For example raspberries stands for relationships. This piece of fruit is really vulnerable, sweet and bleeding like love...
In her attempt to write a symbolic, a phrasing of human thoughts and relations, Nathalie Vanheule shows the isolation and the strangeness of this human being and his relationships.
She creates a world in an world. A twisted, strange world, with own meanings and values. What you don't see is the most frightened, the most anxious... Her performances and movies have the elusive logic of a bizarre dream and the fevered mood of a suppressed memory that reemerges in nightmare form. But one with a smile on your face... She shows a slice of the world we like to make ourselves…

Between the figurative we feel a high fevered threat. The threat of a violent physique and mental isolation is searched in the absurdness of her honey sweetened, excessive suggestions.
That’s why her work looks light and shiny, but inside it tastes sour and sticky.
The red thread in her work is the isolated individual that doesn’t find a place in his environment. On one hand we see a physic and psychic defect, on the other hand we feel a maladjusted behaviour or mentality.

The metaphors that Nathalie Vanheule shows are sharp and brutal, the human weakness, the emotional blockade , the departed concept of physical and mental beauty.
Her apparently naïve, beautiful world is one big mask for a brutal statement with the hypocrisy, appearance and fake truth and feelings. It all happens in a hidden corner of every smile.

Nathalie Vanheule(1980, Poperinge) shows us her touching inner world.She uses beauty and human relations like a strong candy chain reaction. In her work we see under the intensively use of soft colours, shine fashionable materials, swords and costumes a subtle hidden message of own nature, or own desires and fears for death. It reflects the secret treason sheltering: there is terror and pain in this work of beauty. This is a human scene of isolation, mental and physical.
Vanheule blinds the viewer with beauty, to cover up our own darkness, in which we almost always fail as a human. There exist no beauty without a dark message of lost...Just by avoiding your fears, you will become a victim of it...


Nathalie Vanheule (Poperinge, Belgium 1980) studied graphic and 3dimensional design. She creates drawings, sculptures, paintings, performances and installations. Her work is international seen and appreciated in several museums, exhibitions and art fairs like SMAK Ghent, art Cologne and Pulse Show New York. One of her new future projects is the ARMY OF ANGELS shown in Leeds (UK).

The mystique work of the Belgium artist Nathalie Vanheule is fascinating.
As a viewer, we need to touch her inner world. It leads us to see the bizarre, how it grows and lives in our life. At the first sight you see a nice and beautiful world, but if you look some longer, you see there are strange actions, things that happen in a hidden corner of the smile. How we try to make ourselves better and brighter... how we keep up appearances...This theme returns in all her sculptures, drawings, performances or installations. Beautiful images are subcutaneous and underhand shattered. Recognizable figures are deformed and reformed. Apparently unimportant objects like scissors, raspberries or straws get a special attention. Vanheule makes her own symbolic. For example raspberries stands for relationships. This piece of fruit is really vulnerable, sweet and bleeding like love...

In her attempt to write a symbolic, a phrasing of human thoughts and relations, Nathalie Vanheule shows the isolation and the strangeness of this human being and his relationships. She creates a world in an world. A twisted, strange world, with own meanings and values. What you don't see is the most frightened, the most anxious...

Her performances and movies have the elusive logic of a bizarre dream and the fevered mood of a suppressed memory that reemerges in nightmare form. But one with a smile on your face... She shows a slice of the world we like to make ourselves…
Between the figurative we feel a high fevered threat. The threat of a violent physique and mental isolation is searched in the absurdness of her honey sweetened, excessive suggestions.
That’s why her work looks light and shiny, but inside it tastes dark and sticky.

The red thread in her work is the isolated individual that doesn’t find a place in his environment. On one hand we see a physic and psychic defect, on the other hand we feel a maladjusted behavior or mentality.

Vanheule succeeds in misleading the viewer. Presenting stunning shades of colours, black protective leather materials, white silk exciting fabrics, black dressed up birds…it is all done to blind the viewer with the beauty, to cover our own darkness in which we almost always fail as a human.
The white silk tissue is the same tissue used for as a death coffin and a robe de marriage…Marriage can be a prison.
There exist no beauty without a dark message of lost. The work tells us stories of our own fears, our desire for protection, our slowly death by choosing for this state of protection.
Because just by avoiding your own fears you become a victim of it.
Nathalie Vanheule drawings-sculptures-installations reveals a strong message behind
the beauty of her work: something has always been alone, lost or broken…

The metaphors that Nathalie Vanheule shows are sharp and brutal, the human weakness, the emotional blockade, the departed concept of physical and mental beauty.
Her apparently naïve, beautiful world is one big mask for a brutal statement with the hypocrisy, appearance and fake truth and feelings.
It all happens in a hidden corner of every smile.

Stijn de Boeck, Ghent, 2010
Between the forbidden, the real and the imaginary-Nathalie Vanheule

Nathalie Vanheule is an artist from the Belgium contemporary art scene today
Her multidisciplinary works places the viewer at the heart of a dizzying interplay of forces, reflections and emotions. In her latest works fire and water plays a predominant role, taking the form of an underlying protagonist that is forgotten and vents its fury. We witness the silent power or the ravages of a form of devastation whose consequences can be seen in Vanheules video’s, metal or copperplate paintings and fragile sculptures. The sensitive power she shows is a right to transform the world, against our own often hidden destruction in life.

We experience in her video ’Infinity’ a return to an origin we can never quite grasp. This effect would be incomplete if the image, with its ability to “swallow us up”, did not appear alongside a column of a Cathedral. because it intensifies the petrifying effect of the video. The blackness of the forms and the chaotic way they are arranged recall the residue produced by the fire faces.; the viewer finds himself facing not only the power of a free spirit and the force of fire, but also the darker side of his own being. Her work takes us inside ourselves, as if we were endlessly swallowing all our inner shadows and deepening their impenetrable density. This interplay lies in between.
In a sense the work of Nathalie Vanheule involves an exploration of consciousness on the ruined terrain of its own suppressed anxieties. We feel a complex hybridization between fear, desire and a lost past. The forbidden zone of our inner thoughts and power becomes paradigmatic.
This great artist pushes the boundaries between the forbidden, the real and the imaginary. Emotional desire and loss, the longing for paradise, beauty and perfection are evocated through her multiple performance, sculptures and video installations.

Stijn De Boeck, Ghent, 2015

Dutch text by Sam Steverlynck

Galerie Annie Gentils lijkt voor We Fake Beauty, de eerste solotentoonstelling van Nathalie Vanheule, even omgetoverd in een meisjeskamer met bijhorende boudoirsfeer. Een paar kussentjes liggen achteloos in een hoek en de muren van de galerie zijn speciaal voor de gelegenheid herschilderd in pastelachtige tinten. Op de grond staat een zelf ontworpen spel dat bestaat uit een rad met nummertjes om mensen samen te brengen en vriendschapsbanden te smeden. De romantische meisjessfeer is echter illusoir, zoals de meeste werken van Nathalie Vanheule dat zijn.

Vanheule maakt tekeningen van jonge, mooie verschijningen. Ze lijkt daarbij te appelleren aan het schoonheidsideaal zoals dat wordt uitgedragen in modetijdschriften. De tekeningen, doorgaans uitgevoerd in roze en paarse tinten, roepen aanvankelijk een sprookjesachtige sfeer op zoals in de rimpelloze wereld van Barbie. Maar al gauw stapt men binnen in een unheimliche wereld, een soort van Alice in Wonderland. De schoolmeisjes die in Vanheules werk figureren, zijn niet zo onschuldig als ze op het eerste zicht lijken. Het zijn Lolita’s die maar al te goed beseffen over welke dodelijke aantrekkingskracht ze beschikken. Onder hun kinderlijke nachtkleedjes dragen ze sexy jarretelles en met hun vampallures brengen ze het hoofd van elke man op hol. Hun felle lipstick contrasteert sterk met hun bleke huid. Ze staren levenloos en ongeïnteresseerd voor zich uit, zoals alleen modellen dat kunnen. Het lijken wel sfinxen die hun mysterie niet onmiddellijk prijsgeven. Als toeschouwer ben je zo geabsorbeerd door de blik van deze betoverende wezens, dat je het gewelddadige karakter van de werken niet onmiddellijk opmerkt. Zo kijkt het prinsesje in We Fake Beauty met een vertederende glimlach naar de toeschouwer terwijl ze een revolver op zich gericht houdt. Even emotieloos als de zelfmoord van de Lisbon-zusjes in de film The Virgin Suicides. Of heeft het meisje in ‘I can take you out’ een mes in haar onderbuik gepland, nog steeds met een gelukzalige glimlach op de mond. Een rode bloedplek breidt zich ondertussen uit op haar wit kleedje, maar ze blijft glimlachen. Het dictaat ‘lachen en mooi zijn’ , dat vaak nog steeds van vrouwen vereist wordt, krijgt hier wel een zeer wrange invulling. Het werk is kenmerkend voor de manier waarop het klassieke schoonheidsideaal en de notie van onschuld bij Nathalie Vanheule wordt geschonden. De discrepantie tussen de zeemzoete portrettering van de droommeisjes en de wellust en het geweld dat uit het werk spreekt, doet dat denken aan de meidengroep Babes in Toyland en de manier waarop zangeres Courtney Love haar hartverscheurende teksten schreeuwde, gehuld in een maagdelijk wit kleed.

De meeste van de tekeningen zijn uitgevoerd op papier of doek, maar voor de reeks ‘I can close your eyes’ heeft Vanheule geopteerd voor houten paneeltjes als drager. Met deze werken, waarin een soort van extatische symbiose wordt afgebeeld tussen mens en dier, lijkt Vanheule te knipogen naar de beeldtaal van tatoeages. De personages worden als het ware verslonden door de dieren en balanceren daarbij tussen genot en pijn. Ook de bloemenkransen en slogans die in het overige werk van Vanheule voorkomen, zouden niet misstaan op de bovenarm of het schouderblad van een potige truckchauffeur.

Vanheules tekeningen verwijzen naar de manier waarop het ideaalbeeld van schoonheid wordt geconstrueerd, of het nu volgens de voorschriften van een vrouwenmagazine is of volgens de smaak van een slonzige tatoeëerder. De schoonheid in de werken is echter verraderlijk. Onder de kitscherige eerste laag van rozengeur en maneschijn schuilt een venijnige angel. Het is juist dit samengaan van verleidelijke schoonheid en het onmiddellijk doorprikken ervan, dat de charme en aantrekkingskracht van Vanheules werk verklaart.

Sam Steverlynck, Maart 2007

Interview with Nathalie Vanheule
by Ann-Christin Epping, august 2009
for the German fashion and Culture Magazine: MOIRE

Nathalie Vanheule kommt aus Belgien. Sie
hält sich mit Farben zurück, aber ihre Bilder
sind unglaublich intensiv.
Ein Künstlerin unter der Lupe

Modeillustration und ich…

Mit drei Jahren bin ich auf einen Stuhl geklettert, um an den Spiegel zu kommen. Ich fiel fast herunter, als ich sah, dass ein Mund Lippen hat. Die anderen Kinder malten nur einen Strich als Mund.
Ich fing an, dass zu zeichnen, was ich sah. Ich studierte die Gesichter von Menschen und zeichnete jeden Tag. Mit 16 hatte ich meine ersten Ausstellungen. Trotzdem habe ich dann Grafikdesign studiert, weil ich mir meines Talents nicht sicher war. Eines Tages sagte ein Lehrer: „Du bist Künstlerin und keine Grafikerin!“ Ich war endgültig überzeugt und beendete meinen inneren Kampf.
Ich brauche keinen Text als Erklärung für meine Werke, ich verpacke meine eigenen Geschichten in meine Zeichnungen.

Mich inspiriert…

Die Idee entsteht, während man einfach sein Leben lebt. Beim Skizzieren. Beim Schreiben. Zwischendurch.
Ein hohes Level an Sensibilität und eine bewusste Aufmerksamkeit führen oft zu einer
Idee und einem Thema. Und alles wird zu Kunst. Egal, welches Medium ich dafür nutze. Meine Inspiration ist das Leben. Mich inspiriert, wie Leute wirklich sind, unter dem Lächeln und den netten Worten. Dieses Jahr arbeite ich mit dem Perfektionsstreben der Leute, ihrer Suche nach perfekter Liebe in einer perfekten Beziehung. Aber wenn man sie hat, verformt sie und frisst dich. Perfektion hat eine grausame Seite. Sie ist nicht direkt und geradlinig, sondern das Gegenteil.

Meine Illustrationen sind…

Ich mache Geschichten. Ich illustriere nicht, ich denke mir Themen und Ereignisse aus. Es gibt immer eine versteckte Story in meinen Bildern; das was man nicht sieht, besorgt am Meisten. Es steckt eine dunkle und gruselige Atmosphäre in meinen Zeichnungen, man kann sie nicht benennen, aber man spürt sie. Die Sprache der Bilder ist stärker, intensiver als die der Wörter. Worte sind zu wenig um die Geschichten hinter der Kunst zu erzählen. Ich zeige eine verdrehte, merkwürdige Welt, mit unterschwelligen Bedeutungen und Werten. Man findet sie in versteckten Winkeln in jedem Lächeln.
Ich habe diesen persönlichen Stil nur, weil ich im Studium sehr stur war und nicht darauf gehört habe, welcher Stil angesagt war. Nach dem Kampf darum, bekomme ich nun Applaus dafür. Mein Rat: Seid stur!

Meine Lieblingsmaterialien…

Bleistifte und Acrylfarbe. Damit mische ich mädchenhafte Farben. Sie sind immer pastellig und
fröhlich. Auf den ersten Blick wirken meine Bilder sehr süß und lieblich. Aber dahinter stecken
merkwürdige Szenen und eine dunkle Intention; Ich mag es das Publikum in die Irre zu führen, indem ich heitere Girliefarben benutze um eine verdrehte Welt zu zeigen. Auch wenn dem Betrachter das Thema nicht gefällt, kann er immer noch die Schönheit der Farben und Formen bewundern.
Ich finde es interessant, die Regeln zu brechen und verschiedene Materialien zu mischen: Stoff,
Holz, Papier, Canvas, Hüte, alles worauf man malen kann. Wenn es zum Konzept passt, dann passt es zu mir.

Mode bedeutet…

Meine Kleidung ist immer ein Ausdruck von mir. Mit meiner besten Freundin organisiere ich Modenschauen, um jungen Designern zu helfen. Mit neun Jahren habe ich angefangen meine eigenen Sachen zu zeichnen und zu entwerfen. Meine Mutter war Modedesignerin und hat die Kleider dann für mich umgesetzt. Als ich fünf Jahre alt war, habe ich ein Kleid zerrissen. Mit den Zähnen. Einfach, weil es mir nicht gefiel. So wichtig war und ist mir Mode. Nach diesem Zwischenfall durfte ich dann selbst aussuchen, was ich anziehen wollte.

pag. 11
„Eine Frau, die nach einer perfekten Beziehung strebt. Eine Beziehung wie die Himbeere um ihren Hals: zart und zerbrechlich, aber auch bitter. Schlechte Erinnerungen wie dunkle Fruchtflecken.
Die Frau bekommt keine Luft, keine Freiheit mehr. Einerseits genießt sie die Begierde, andererseits fühlt sie sich wie in Ketten. Beziehung und Himbeere sind zu stark, bringen sie um, weil sie ihr nicht genug Raum lassen. Schmerz und Freude zur selben Zeit, eine grausame Absicht, ein Love Hero.“

article for PAMFLET, a Belgium-Chinese magazine, november 2009

Nathalie Vanheule (Poperinge, Belgium 1980) studied graphic and 3dimensional design. She creates drawings, sculptures, paintings, performances and installations. Her work is internationally appreciated in several museums, exhibitions and art fairs like art Cologne and Pulse Show New York. One of her future projects is an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou Paris.

I’ve been attracted to drawing since the time I was crawling on my knees. My sister learned me how to draw… and I was very eager. I looked into the mirror, but it was too high for me. I was only 3 years old… so I took a chair. And I was wondering why all the other kids drew a simple line for the mouth, while a mouth has lips… This came as such a shock to me that I fell off the high chair. Sometimes you have to climb a tree without knowing how you’ll get out of it.
I started my own way of drawing by observing people, faces, relationships. Since that time I wonder how strange the world is, and how difficult it is to see the truth without being cross-eyed… I like to show how beautiful things, are only beautiful on the surface, while they might actually be dark on the inside, with a hidden message. I create a world within the world you see at first sight: the most frightening thing is actually what you don’t see. It’s about the inner human relations and how twisted they can be. I show a slice of the world we make ourselves...It is strange how the wheel of life turns, because we turn the wheel ourselves.
At first sight you see a world all nice and pretty, but If you look closer you see the things that are hidden in the corner of a smile. It’s about how we fake beauty and perfection. How we try to show a better and brighter image of ourselves... how we keep up appearances...

The master/servant role and how it works in relationships is another thing that inspires me. This year I did a performance about the quest for perfect love in a relationship. You want it, but once you have it, it deforms you and eats you from the inside. It truly has a cruel side. Perfection is not straight, it is the opposite. So, I start from one of these ideas and then I try to take them as far as I can into images or performances.

My shiny and colorful paintings are rooted in this kind of dark and scary water. You can’t tell what it is, but you can feel it. The language of images is stronger than the languages of words. Words are too shy, to incomplete to tell the story of art…


Interview EEA, European Exchange Academy Berlin,2008

EEA What are the themes you are working with, what is
your work about?

My theme is the appearance of bright and shiny things,
while they are actually bad and dark things, things
with a hidden story, message. I create a world in an
world you see at the first time. But it is a twisted,
strange world, with own meanings and values.
What you don't see is the most frightened, the most
Its about inner human relations and how twisted they
can be.
I show a slice of the world we like to make
In my work you see light and happy colours. At the
first sight you see a nice and beautiful world, but
if you look some longer, you see there are strange
actions, things that happens in a hidden corner of the
My work is about how we fake beauty. How we try to
make ourselves better and brighter... how we keep up
You see that in my sculptures, drawings and
performances or installations.
I always start from a theme and than I go further to
realise my thougths in images or actions.
The theme of fake
beauty or perfection is something that fascinates me and returns into all my work.
For example a theme was, why we give to people that
was shown in actions of making cake for people ( ik
noem je taart), and later in an theaterplay( Pak mijn
Pony), where I tried to answer when the time is to
give to yourself. You saw inner human relations, and
the theme of how we make ourselves beautifull, and how
we all have hidden stories.

EEA What media and techniques are you generally using?

I make drawings, paintings, installations, sculptures
and performances. I always start from a theme that I
find in a drawing that I make...
I make a total installation of a space when I have an
exhibition, with objects, sculptures and drawings or
paintings that refer to eachother and build their own

EEA Can you describe a couple of your recent works
and illustrate this with pictures

Oh, I made a performance about fake
intimicy.' Don't call me cake' in september 2007 in
the Vooruit in Ghent. People could eat cake I made
myself, but they couldn't eat the cake they wanted,
and there was also bad cake. It was like they where
chopped of their hands...It was in a nice environment,
with a nice drawing (with naked woman hanging dead in
trees, but in pink colours drawned) and nice cream
colour costumes, lovely sweet fifties musik and
beautifull blond girls. But you couldn't put the cake
in your mouth. The girls did that for you. They served
the spoon with the cake in your mouth directly.
Sometimes in a brutal way. But always smiling,
eventhough that felt strange...

I made an solo exhibition' Does the unicorn exist'
in the In-Between gallery in Antwerp with sculptures
and drawings this year about when the moment aarives
that adults take advantage of you as a naief kid,
when values and dreams change and be replaces be other
How your life looks now is totally different from how
you thought it would be...
How you are formed, how you form yourself and how you
disform at a moment, an important point in something
you don't want to be...
I tried to trace this point in life with my drawings,
objects and sculptures in this exhibitions...
You could see for example 25 sculptures of a married
wedding cake couple, dripped in light blue
the paint made scarves on them...and disformed the
sculpture and the meaning...and so the dream of a
little girl who wants to marry a prince on a white
Colours are very important and full of meaning in my
In this exhibition you could find the pink and light
blue colours, because the truth of a child is always
pink or light blue...

Another soloexhibition was WE FAKE BEAUTY in the Annie
gentils Gallery in Antwerp.
For this exhibition I made a wheel where people could
turn at and play a game to talk with eachother, they
also got a drawing as a present and a sentence...
It was a kind of dating game-performance for
vernissages in chic galleries such as this gallery. So
you could brake out your small circle of people you
knew before...
On the walls you saw drawings and large paintings of
nice looking girls stearing at you while they could
plant a knife between their legs or hanging
themselves. The exhibitions was full of pink,
lightblue and lightgreen, also the walls where painted
in this girlish colours..
The exhibition was how we fake to be nice and
beautifull, how we handle with the beauty idols in
magazines and fashion, how we make ourselves prisoned
in our own structures of honour and beauty.

EEA Are there any colleague-eea participants you would
like to collaborate with in an exhibition?

Janneke Raaphorst and Nuno, the little Portugese boy with the crazy ideas.;)
They both became good friends.
I like their ideas and work. I feel very good
and comfortable when they are in my surroundings. I
like them a lot!


Sugar Crash Part I is een performance die gaat over de verwrongenheid van de mens en de imperfectie van de perfecte relatie.

De performance handelt over de mens die zichzelf maakt en op een gegeven moment ook wordt gemaakt door zijn eigen systemen. Hoe hij zijn idealen creëert in een relatie, hoe we elkaar liefhebben en spiegelen, maar ook transformeren door de haast eetbare lust naar het bezit, genot en harmonie. Van gulzigheid krijg je een dikke buik en een dikke kop. We snijden, vlakken af en vreten elkaar op en transformeren. Het perfecte koppel is niet wat het is. Idealen veranderen in andere idealen en nieuwe waarden en betekenissen. Systemen die ons als mens geblokt zetten in het geliefd willen zijn door anderen, het verwachtingspatroon van de omgeving, de vraag naar het onvoorwaardelijk geven of de vraag naar het schone, de belofte van het zoete...
We zitten soms geharnast in een zelfgemaakt schijnbaar zoet patroon, een eigen wereld die gemaakt wordt door jezelf met je eigen betekenissen en waarden...
Hoe word je iemand die je misschien niet wou worden? Op welk moment worden je idealen vervangen door andere nieuwe idealen? Hoe kunnen we de waarheid zien zonder hierbij scheel te kijken?

Deze performance gaat over angstig zijn en tegelijk verlangen naar puurheid en echte schoonheid in een samenzijn tussen twee personen die niet bestaat zonder die wreedheid van onze gedachten... Meester en tegelijk slachtoffer zijn…
Een sugar crash wereld is een fake zoete wereld van rozerode frambozen, taartjes, strikjes, mooie mensen en andere fake zoete gebruiken. Een wereld die Vanheule niet alleen toont, maar ook laat voelen en smaken door het publiek... Een genot, een glimlach die zo lang blijft plakken dat het haast zeer doet…
Kunst heeft af en toe een sugar crash nodig of een beetje barbarisme om goede kunst te zijn.
Want perfectie is niet recht, maar scheef.