Joke Raes is an artist living and working in Belgium. Raes received her BFA from the Department of Fine Arts at Ghent University, in 2010, and her MFA at Ghent University Sint-Lucas. Furthermore, between 2015-2016 she attended a post-graduate program at HISK, the Higher Institute for Fine Arts, in Ghent. Joke Raes worked for several years as a designer and performer in theatres, and she gradually found her place in the visual arts following an under-water exhibition in the Red Sea and a residency among indigenous people living deep inside the Peruvian Amazon.
In 2017, Joke Raes realized her first large public art commission for the Alma General Hospital in Eeklo. In the summer of 2017, she developed her ceramic artwork as an artist in residence at Sundaymorning@EKWC, The Netherlands, and one year later, she participated in an artist residency in Arita, Saga, Japan. Her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally in multiple exhibitions.
Duo exhibition with Jonas Vansteenkiste
Duo exhibition with Joke Raes & Jonas Vansteenkiste Poortersloge Brugge Belgium
Synergia (Greek synergy, cooperation) is the additional yield that arises from the combination of parts compared to the sum of those parts. This is how both artists approach their friendship and the visual dialogue they develop here. Both have already developed a layered and substantive visual oeuvre and exhibit both in Flanders and abroad. Joke Raes is known for her eye for detail and uses nature and culture as inspiration, Jonas Vansteenkiste is then known for his monumental installations and psychological reflections on the house and architecture. In this exhibition they show a selection and of wider oeuvre. These apparent opposites converge, but are they against poles or do they have more points of contact than appears at first sight? ”
Jonas Vansteenkiste and Joke Raes amaze with a symbiotic exhibition!
What was supposed to be a text of an exceptionally beautiful exhibition has now become an exceptionally beautiful memory. Fortunately, we were able to view "Synergia" in the Poortersloge of Bruges in the last week that it was open for visitors. Joke Raes and Jonas Vansteenkiste, who are making a duo exhibition together, initially raised some questions for us. Artists couldn't be more different, right? But they live up to the title of their exhibition.
As if to confirm our original objection, the first two rooms of the exhibition are neatly divided between the two artists. In these spaces both offer a glimpse into their heads, the things that inspire them, the objects in their environment from which they draw their inspiration. On the right: Joke, in what can only be called creative chaos, until you hear her talk about this. Then you quickly realize how ordered her thoughts are, how streamlined her creative flow is. In the room on the left, we discover Jonas' sources of inspiration, books of all kinds, indefinable objects, tries and experiments, all neatly arranged in an orderly manner.
A clear dichotomy between their artistic worlds, their biotopes feel completely different in this first split space. Different from tonality, strength, appearance. As a spectator you keep asking yourself: what does these two artists connect? How do they get that "symbiosis" mentioned in the title?
The second room already offers a good example of what these artists are capable of together. On the false flat floor you will find a typical installation by Jonas, a half-destroyed or unfinished house that refers to both displacement and the longing for a permanent home. Joke weaves a kind of illegible map around this in situ - a recurring theme throughout her oeuvre - that can be read both as a mental compass, and as a subcutaneous map of the veins that determine our path of life, or make it possible in any way. As if this is not disorienting enough, you can hear Jonas's voice transformed into a bass as a voice-over in the background, giving a discourse on how the lie of an artist, or of art itself, can become truthful, because it has an artistic value, or because it is precisely art. Not easy to read, but very impactful as a complete experience.
An intense rush of impulses and for us, as we had the pleasure of being personally guided by both artists, a plethora of thoughts. As if to take a relative breather, they keep the next room simple. To the left, drawings of houses by Jonas, the background of which merges alarmingly with the wallpaper on the wall, which he had designed especially for the exhibition. Here the experience is also quite disorienting: where does the artwork start or end?
Central to this space is a work by Joke. A lot of artificial hands reaching for an unprecedented goal. Artificial hands, coming from industrial remnants from an equally unknown past. However, they do not reach for an empty place. Whoever pulls the weight on the left of the work - it is allowed - sees the work unfolded and discovers in the heart of it a somewhat bizarre stone that Joke found on her way while traveling in Switzerland. Joke's zoomorphic creatures always have something cuddly and at the same time they ward off too much intimacy. They don't look like irritable cacti, but they often are. You must be careful not to enter their aura without first and foremost respecting them.
To be clear: Joke and Jonas are not a couple. However, they chose to call the most impressive room in the exhibition the "love room". Harmonious colors set the tone: soft pink, mixed with soft blue. The surprising combination of Joke's masks and Jonas' homely leather cloths creates a remarkable combination of emotion and analysis. They bring both perspectives together in a separate and very intimate way.
The showpiece in this room, however, is the work of Joke, which immediately catches and holds your gaze. Stately, enigmatic, sensual. You cannot avert your gaze from the piece, we cannot avert ours anyway. How she did this, we forgot to ask in simple bewilderment. What the work is called, even less. It takes over the entire space by itself, although there is so much else to see. It seems an ultimate symbol of femininity, we see a reference to female anatomy in it, as well as a connection with the deeper laws of nature, perhaps a religious or pagan emblem, a shrine that sanctifies femininity.
Both artists have realized here what we did not think was possible. In a beautiful historic location, which is intriguing enough on its own to wander through. But in every room they came to a compromise, to an enriching harmony even, with respect for each other, two voices that elevate each other instead of getting in the way - an artistic dialogue such as we have seldom experienced. Joke seduces with her sensual creatures, with enormous subtlety and sensibility - Jonas shows with this exhibition that he is not just a one trick pony, but masters many techniques and design languages to convey his story - a psychological reflection on house and architecture. This is a friendship that apparently also works on the level of artistic symbiosis. We can only conclude with a single word: chapeau!
Very unfortunate that the public can no longer enjoy it, but we’ve tried to ease the pain with this report.
text: theArtCouch Frederic De Meyer & Annelies A.A. Vanbelle
Translation: Dieter Vantomme
photographers: Matthias Desmet, Annelies A.A. Vanbelle, Frederic De Meyer and the artists