Max Kesteloot’s work combines a love for photography and the urban environment into a practice in which he is always carefully studying and juxtaposing fragments of images and subject matter together. He chats about how he began to work with photography in this different way here, and you can find more information about his exhibitions and projects at the links after the interview!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’m Max Kesteloot, living and working in Ostend, Belgium. Born in 1990. I’m working in the fields of visual arts, architecture and photography. I’m also teaching at LUCA School of Arts in Ghent, where I’m instructing Mixed Media.
My work develops around the paradox of the apparent absence of a subject in the final image. This gives every detail in my work the status of context.
When did you first discover are, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I guess I was always interested in taking photographs. Actually I think everybody does, especially nowadays – it’s within everyone’s reach! For me it must have been around 2003 -when I started graffiti writing that the actual need of taking a good photograph in not so ideal situations presented itself. It has always been there. Whether it was to keep a memory from a trip or to frame a situation that I liked.
What do you like most about working where you do?
Although my work is really about places or at least the atmosphere of places, this doesn’t really affect the place of my studio. You see on one hand I work outside – observing, wandering about, this is were I take photographs. In my studio fragments of these images come together. I need the outside spaces to be attractive and bold, I like my studio quiet and calm.
I currently have a studio in the old harbour in Ostend, with view on the water. This is good. I think I enjoy it so much because it’s constant, you know? I don’t have to worry whether the water will still be there tomorrow. It will. – I’ve always had a thing with water…
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I actually don’t consider myself as being a photographer, you know… I just really like to observe things, and to capture these observations, I take a photograph of it. Because it’s actually an easy medium. I work really strictly. It could easily take about half an hour before I actually take a photo of something that I like. Think twice, shoot once. I work in a way that is really over-controlled. I’m a bit neurotic. But it’s okay, I like it like that. It’s a calm and quiet process full of elements that are logical to manipulate. Such as light & focus. Maybe that’s the reason why there are not too many people in my work. The real protagonists are rather a plastic bottle or a fence. I guess they’re much easier to control and they don’t move around. This gives me the opportunity to really take my time.
Can you describe your process?
I feel the need to move further then just being an observer. But because I don’t change anything to these ‘as found’ situations this is actually very hard. It came to me right after my first show in 2014, Nowhere – part 1, KERK – Gent (BE), where I made really large scaled prints of photographs I took that year [pictured last in the scroll above]. These images were then glued onto the exhibition space’s walls. When the exhibition was over I wanted to recover the prints and started to recollect them. By doing this some fragments of the images suddenly became isolated. Today I’m still working in relation to these (and other, more recent) fragments. I’m taking larger scaled prints of images that I made very carefully and controlled into a final finished image. After laying them out on the floor I – completely against my nature – start to tear parts of them, which will then later on be recomposed into a new image. This gives me the freedom to interact with the reality of the ‘as found’ situations without having to change the setting at that moment. The part where spray paint, brush and acrylics comes in is actually just a method to precisely re-frame/crop the final result as one would do in Photoshop or by using a passe-partout.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice, which has influenced your practice?
I’m just very lucky to have a lot of talented artists that I can call my friends. It doesn’t always necessarily have to be about art you know.. We’re all doing our things, because we like to do them.
Simon Laureyns, Manor Grunewald, Arthur Haegeman, Lucien Janssen, Theo De Meyer, de vylder vinck taillieu.
Is there any advice you would offer to others?
Kill your darlings.
What is your studio like?
As said before – there’s water around. And boats! And fishermen!
Many thanks to O.666 for letting me use this great space!
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mindset to make your work?
I really like to work in the early morning. That makes that there’s always some preparations at the end of the day. It’s like a cycle.
I don’t know much about music so I let other people do that for me. I really love NOSEDRIP’s mixcloud. He’s a young Belgian DJ, from Ostend too!
Besides that, Belgium has a very good Classical radio Station called KLARA. I really like the show called DJANGO by Heidi Lenaerts & Pompidou by Chantal Pattyn / Nick Aerts..
Because I’m not in the studio all the time – I think a lot about my work when I’m in the car for instance. This makes that I can work quite fast once I arrive.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Lack of time…
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Insinuating, spheric & easy.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve just finished a first rough script on my new film. – I hope it’s going to be ready to be released in spring 2019!
Besides the film I’m constantly taking photographs and making Fragments.
Anything else you would like to add?
“Night falls on a nearly empty road. CruiseControl set at 127 km/h, so there’s not too much distraction. White road marks become very important. Everything around it as well.“
“After the show I go home.”