'Not Holding Out For A Hero' ~ Artist Virginie Pringiers Explores Our Need To Be Saved
It’s hard to listen to Bonnie Tyler screaming throatily about needing a hero without remembering that tractor duel scene from Footloose. While Kevin Bacon shows us all that the underdog can take on the tough guy and win, we see that tough girls like Lori Singer still need saving - even by guys who are accidental victors on account of their shoelace getting caught on the accelerator. But of course, that scene and that song were both written by men. Out in the real world, we all know that Bonnie’s a property mogul, Lori Singer is an accomplished cellist and documentary film maker, and women save themselves. Take Belgian artist, Virginie Pringiers for instance, whose work is distinguished by her bold passion for the lost and found, the forgotten and remembered, the iconic and the cosmic. In her first Singapore art series, Virginie explores our desire to be saved, and rescues herself at the same time.
Nearly nothing in Virginie’s house is new. Her furniture and objects have all lived other lives and been given new life again by Virginie. Sometimes she’ll hang on to things for years before she makes use of them, like the 15-year-old keyring attached to the canvas of one of her latest works, ‘Awake’. Recycled, repurposed, reimagined, her home, and her art, plays homage to the past in order to salve the present. “I like things that are old. I like things that have a story,” she says. Which can include anything from acquiring stacks of vintage magazines, whose aged pages find their way into the many layers of Virginie’s lacquered artwork, or pop culture collectibles, like UltraMan, whose portrait is just one of the many hero figures depicted in her paintings. Even things that are new appear old – Virginie is a trompe l’oeil expert who can turn a piece of ply into a slab of marble, or fine grain wood, by applying techniques acquired through her studies at the prestigious Vanderkelen School in Brussels, and through her tutelage with furniture restoration masters. Her love and respect for these skills can be traced to her childhood.
Growing up in a sprawling country house filled with antiques and artefacts in rural Belgium, Virginie would spend weekends scouring flea markets with her parents, looking for precious items to add to their various collections. A love of unearthing special things was cultivated, but it proved restrictive for the creative Virginie. “Everything in our home was very beautiful but very strict,” explains Viriginie. “I admired these classic things but I had the urge to express my own ideas, which was not possible.” Which made it all the more shocking for her traditional household when Virginie redecorated her bedroom. “Non, non, non was my mother’s response when I suggested I draw on my walls. But when she returned from a weekend away and saw the mural I’d painted on my walls, she accepted it. She has passed away now but this meant something to me.” This quiet brand of rebellion is now a hallmark of her contemporary work.
“When you see my work, you can find humour, you can find something childlike. But I think there is always something a little violent too. The things I can’t yell or cry about in real life seem to come out in my painting,” considers Virginie. She is referring to things happening in the world at large - like Trump - and in her everyday life, such as the ongoing acceptance required in order to rally and adjust your life when your son is diagnosed with Autism. While the superheros central to Virginie’s current work encourage the viewer to follow, to join, to escape, to move to the moon, to find a better place, they’re really calling us to a better frame of mind. Once we’ve had a chance to lose our shit a bit and act out, that is.
If Virginie’s childhood was steady and presentable, in contrast her adult life has been nomadic and unpredictable. Expat stints with her husband and children have taken her to Tokyo (fascinating), Houston (dull), Angola (restrictive) and now Singapore (vibrant). It is only now in Singapore that she has been ready to paint again, since the upheaval of her postings and pregnancies. It makes sense then that that act of collecting and the hero figures themselves, might have provided a constant in an unfixed world, as well as a chance to thumb convention and be a kid. When asked who the hero’s in her paintings represent though, Virginie muses, “It’s me I guess. But I like to think it’s my Mum too. That she’s calling to me from the moon, and is always there when things get too bad.”