An artist with an unconventional background, Christophe Terlinden creates in a multitude of media. While strolling through the city or the countryside, his camera always at hand, his ideas begin to take shape. Perceiving the world around him, he captures it and makes it fit into his thought process, to later release his remastered version. 

When selecting the objects brought together in his work, he applies a method combining a profound study of society, politics and today’s world with a great deal of humour and poetry. Questioning his immediate environment, he produces apparently simple works, whose meaning however covers a multitude of perspectives. We could even say that what he shows us is the flaw or the limitations of what he is questioning, be it a place, an object, a building…

Let’s take the example of Jaune Minimum, the yellow dial that the artist placed in the clock of the gare du Luxembourg station, in the Leopold district of Brussels back in 1995. Decommissioned at the time, this forgotten station in the midst of the European Quarter was a testimonial to what was forever lost in the city. By placing this bright yellow dial on the listed façade, Terlinden pinpointed something he wanted us to notice. This clock became a temporal and luminous landmark. The artist recovered the pieces of the clock after it was shattered in 1997. Now presented like a jigsaw, it is part of the exhibition and displayed in the middle of the ISELP’s main hall. It can be viewed not only as the repository of the original installation created twenty years ago, but also as a beautiful metaphor for the passing of time.

In 1999, Terlinden decided to redesign the European flag. It is a little known fact that the twelve stars are inspired by the crown of 12 stars worn by Mary in an image evoked in Saint John’s Revelations and the blue background comes from the traditional colour of the Virgin’s cloak. The artist’s questioning of such Christian references seems justified. Instead of the stars, he proposed a flag featuring a full circle, symbolising the union. This flag was hoisted at a number of artistic events across Europe, including on the roof of WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, and is now on permanent display at deSingel in Antwerp. Here, we see an artist who has taken a strong symbol, deconstructed it and redesigned it, and in this self-explanatory process has questioned the very basis of Europe.

Born in 1969, Christophe Terlinden is a Belgian artist who studied at the ERG and La Cambre in Brussels. He received the ‘Prix de la Jeune Peinture Belge’ award in 2003. He has exhibited at the WIELS, KHA and Carré – Scène nationale et centre d’art contemporain in Château-Gontier, France. The current exhibition at ISELP is a must as it sheds light on 22 years of ideas, drawings, and creations. It has also led to ‘0123456789’, a book designed more like artwork than a mere catalogue. Browsing through this book, we suddenly realize that, with every project, the artist has dreamt of a better world and tried to suggest poetic solutions.

In 2002, Terlinden invited 13 composers to create music pieces to be played by the carillon bells of the Abbey of Grimbergen. So, that same year, the whole summer long, the everyday life of the inhabitants of Grimbergen was punctuated by this chime in a very traditional way, and yet very current as well, because of the tunes it played. Obviously, Terlinden seems to like the theme of time: the passing of time, but also, how it structures our life.

We should also mention a scale model in Lego bricks based on the plans of a house by Le Corbusier which was never built at Piacé Le Radieux (France). Or, this couple of tiny figurines made from orange peel. The first edition of Peau d’orange was shown in 2004 during the Love is in the air exhibition curated by Marie-Puck Broodthaers & Matrix Art Project and with the purpose of being exchanged for a meal. The characters were later cast in bronze and painted, and integrated into other projects. Made from “nothing”, i.e. scraps, these two shapes gained meaning because of the artist’s intention and the places where they were displayed.

L’équilibre dans le mensonge [Balancing the lie] (2008) is a delightful small bronze sculpture of a Pinocchio doll, dressed in tiny fabric clothes, and balancing on its nose. No need for explanations. It says it all, through the form, the symbols used and the story conveyed by the character of Pinocchio, the choice of materials, the posture!

One more for the road: let’s not forget to insert a € 2 coin into the “boîte à chiques” (the ‘tobacco chew’ vending machine) in a corner of the main room. In each of the small spheres it contains, you can get a drawing or a photograph signed by the artist… This is Terlinden’s way of questioning and poking fun at the art market or the value of works.

In his lecture entitled Art Beyond Spectatorship, the art philosopher Boris Groys argues that the artist’s fight against the dominant aesthetic rule, namely the control of a work by the viewer, lies in depriving the latter of an independent and safe frontal viewing spot, in deconstructing the aesthetic distance and placing the viewer within the work. As a result, the artwork has gradually ceased to be a stand-alone object to become an event, even more so a total event which encompasses the viewer and upon which the artist has regained control. Terlinden is among those contemporary artists who aim to create mental environments to ensure that objects or actions are catalysts for a process that creates the potential for imagination,” the artist’s bio explains. In his case, poetry will serve as the medium enabling him to build these environments, which are much more than installations. What we need to do is allow the artist’s thought process to guide us, his desire to turn everyday life into something wonderful and poetic. A very current, even urgent process!

As you enter the building, make sure to take a look at the installation created by Patrick Guns: No to contemporary art. A real treat!

No Sugar
Christophe Terlinden
31 bd de Waterloo
1000 Brussels
From Monday to Saturday, from 11:00 to 18:30
Until 29 November 2014

Jaune Minimum, 1995  © Bert De Leenheer
Jaune Minimum, 1995 © Bert De Leenheer


Peau d’orange, BruxL 2004 - Leuven 2011 © Christophe Terlinden
Peau d’orange, BruxL 2004 – Leuven 2011 © Christophe Terlinden
Musée du réverbère, détail, 2004 Christophe Terlinden en collaboration avec Nathalie Mertens © Bert De Leenheer
Musée du réverbère, détail, 2004 Christophe Terlinden en collaboration avec Nathalie Mertens © Bert De Leenheer
Christophe Terlinden Drapeau européen, 1999 © Alain Geronnez
Christophe Terlinden Drapeau européen, 1999 © Alain Geronnez

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