Phew! After spending a lovely sunset first evening across the Channel in Blankenberge Belgium, eating tasty seafood and sipping wine beside the sea, we spent a scary night braving a major storm at our beachside campsite – I actually believed at one point that we might spin off into the night along with the ‘pop up’ roof! Piko on the other hand was delighted that we had to join him ‘downstairs’ on the fold out bed all huddled together, him stretched out and us squashed against the side walls!
We head into Belgium mainland, it feels surreal to be finally on the road. From what seemed like a far fetched idea just a few years before, here we are actually doing it! Part of the excitement is not knowing exactly how this adventure will turn out, what kinds of places we’ll visit , the people we’ll meet and the part I’m most excited about, discovering new and exciting makers and some amazing products.
We visit Bruges ( a place we’ve always wanted to see) and its as lovely as described with little cobbled streets, humpbacked bridges and busy street markets. After weaving our way through the crowds and tasting some local produce, we wander out of the buzz and find ourselves in a small quiet square and there in front of us is an artwork I am familiar with but not in this context. Its a giant steel frame with the words ‘A Place Beyond Belief’ which will light up in small 1950’s style fairground style bulbs later that evening. Its by the Scottish artist Nathan Coley – whose text based poignant public artworks are a favourite of mine.
We wander some more and I pop into a tiny little print Gallery – Koen Broes, named after the husband and wife owners Koen and Carine Broes who have lived in seven different countries before settling in Bruges, their favourite of all.
Some prints in the window catch my eye ( raw, inky printed textures and hand drawn details, unframed on thick high quality paper with rough edges) and I go inside. I am interested to hear that they only sell work that they love meaning that less known and young promising artists have a chance to show work with them. The work on display is fresh and the framing ( where used ) is simple and understated but shows off the work perfectly.
Koen kindly shows me more of the work of some young artists he is excited about. One in particular, Ronald Ceuppens has a heart warming story behind his work. His family holds a strong lineage of tailors and perhaps understandably, they didn’t want him to break away to be an artist. He managed to persuade them to let him go and he is now pursuing his chosen career. Thankfully he has also decided to bring with him the long family tradition of sewing skills and incorporate them into his beautiful mixed media prints. He joins thick textured pieces of watercolour paper by machine stitching along crisp seams with glistening white thread. Above these seams are bold colourful strokes of colour, book pages and exquisite little squares with imprinted grainy etched images of birds. These are gentle, thoughtful pieces of work with the added attractiveness of something that is handmade.
Finally I’m drawn to a group of small prints -maybe postcard size- each has an animal head in fun ink sploshed settings. Koen is a little apologetic in tone when he reveals that these are in fact the work of his daughter who is an arts graduate but was ‘just messing around’ – I love them.
This gallery is a little treasure trove of fresh talent and well worth the visit!