Jeroen van den Bogaert’s tapestries are beautifully chaotic and reminiscent of visuals you’d probably associate with moral panic. Often dealing with themes of masculinity, the artist collects, dissects and reorganises imagery that speaks to behavioural patterns throughout history and in contemporary culture. “The subjects I work with are often sensitive and wrapped up in delicate social issues that I believe deserve respect and attention,” he tells us. After years of building an archive of references ranging from figures in classical paintings to photographs from within modern hip-hop culture, his work is steeped in the intention of being confrontational and “in your face,” he adds.
As a teenager, he originally became enthralled in the world of graphic design – after his father told him that “people have jobs designing logos” – and decided to study it at university. After graduating, he began working as a designer at an agency, in the brand and identity department, before realising that his heart just wasn’t in it. “I felt like something was missing,” he tells us. “In that environment you are often engaging in transactional frameworks driven by the client’s needs and I’m a big believer in the fact that once the motive gets clouded by money and commodification, you tend to shift away from enjoying the act of making,” he adds. Deciding that it was time to make a change, he enrolled in a master’s programme at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, where a tutor would ignite his love for curating cultural imagery.
For Jeroen, there are particular challenges – both in the artmaking process and conceptually – that come with his practice, which is why he very rarely decides on his themes before the final result. “Sometimes I find subjects I would like to work with but the images I find are unclear, and other times I find images with an aesthetic that I love but cannot find an angle to work with,” he tells us. Always working from a desire to spark conversation and ask questions about the society we live in, he is also cognizant of the thin line between critiquing the status quo and glorifying it. “Can we choose what we do despite where we come from, or is the script written out for us and we have fewer choices than we think?” And so, the artist accepts the evenings, where hours spent at his computer scrolling through archives amounts to little to nothing, as an inherent part of the work.
On the other hand, Jeroen’s process for building his compositions comes with ease – deeply entrenched in instinct and a reliance on personal tastes. “It’s like I have an unconscious personal compass that guides me in the right direction, even though it may not be clear when starting out.” In his piece Anatomical Mirror, he separates classical and contemporary imagery into two different tapestries. The poses in each are almost identical, and illustrate the way that the male physique has been represented throughout history, and its lingering impact that we see today. Making use of online blogs and social platforms for references to today, and art history archives for representations of yesteryear, he is adamant on his work being a bridge between the ages. “I think it’s exciting to put a 300-year-old image next to a wonky screenshot from four years ago.What attracted me to this way of working in the first place is how people throughout different eras and centuries seemed to do the same things as we do now.”
With every stitch, we have no doubt that Jeroen will continue reminding us how failing to stop and question the past will have us doomed to repeat it. Recently producing new works in a variety of studios including the Textile Lab in the Dutch Museum, he is excited for his work to reach new audiences all over. “I am convinced that people are often a result of their environment and therefore I find it difficult to define what is 'good and bad'.”
Jeroen van den Bogaert: A Foolish Pleasure in Wicked Schemes (Copyright © Jeroen van den Bogaert, 2022)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) is a staff writer at It's Nice That, with a particular interest in Black visual culture. They have previously written for publications such as WePresent, and worked as researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.