Marc Van Hoe
Marc Van Hoe was born in the middle of the textile region of South-West Flanders, in Zulte, a village between Deinze and Kortrijk in the flax-growing area. It was here indeed that the flax was reeted during summer, at the beginning of the industrial era. These two components - a passion for textiles and a passionate curiosity about the origins of these textile traditions - have governed the course of his life. It seemed only natural that he decided to study weaving techniques and textile design at the Provinciaal Technisch Instituut in Kortrijk. That was the way he should or could earn a living. But his interest in culture caused him to become absorbed in the study of old fabrics just at the right time. Thanks to his experiments with the results of his free plastic work and his training at the Royal Academy of Kortrijk, he continuously succeeded in escaping from the common image of a standard drawer. His wife Veerle Rouquart is also active as an artist and is his faithful interlocutor in discussions on new ideas. They have often worked together on projects. It is this continuous cross-pollination which makes the work of the all-round artist Marc Van Hoe so interesting. As a spectator, one never knows what direction he intends to take: that of art or that of industrial imaging. One is always in for a surprise.
In experimental textile designs, he tries to extend the concept of industrial design. Its purely decorative aspect makes way for a message transmitted by the material, its structure and the drawing and invariably contains an image of the essence of being.
Nature inspires his plastic work. "Nature is the presence of water, the sea and the trees which structure our flat landscapes. To him, trees and water are deeply connected to his youth: the 17th-century house in which he grew up was surrounded by a moat in which trunks were put adrift. These images have never left him." (1) Mark Van Hoe's installations are moments in the natural process of time which have become solidified. He wants to interrupt the eternal movement of time just for a moment.
As a spectator, one is not sure whether one is part of the process or is forced to look and meditate. This ambiguity between action and reflection is also present in his working methods. Sometimes he is an artist, at other times he is a designer. But there is more to it than that. He does not keep his passion for and knowledge of textiles all to himself. He passes it on. And once again, he does so according to the laws of action and reflection (or contemplation). To this end, he has organised various exhibitions such as Textielstructuren (Textile Structures) (2). He also teaches at the Royal Academy for Fine Arts in Kortrijk and often conducts workshops (3) abroad.
1. Experimental installations
The work that touched me the most in Marc Van Hoe's oeuvre was his bound trunks (Photo 2). At the beginning of the eighties, these solidified moments could be seen at sometimes very moving locations. I can only repeat what I said at the time: "Marc Van Hoe binds trunks with white cotton thread in a rigid regular manner. The binding functions as a formal nuance and also as a protection. It stops the weathering process. The binding fixes a moment in time. The bound logs had numbers painted on to them and were arranged repetitively and numerically. They are anonymous and quiet like the gravestones for the unknown soldiers in the innumerable graveyards along the border of WestFlanders and France or in the Ieper region. At the same time, they evoke a vague image of lake villages. Their repetitiveness fixes an event, a state in time". (4) "Reconstruction" was presented in 1980 during the exhibition "Textielstructuren" (Textile Structures) organised by Marc Van Hoe at the Academy of Kortrijk. This exhibition was the precursor of the Vehta Biennale (5) which was held several times at the small Romanesque church of Vichte to which Van Hoe also contributed. In 1980, "Elementen van een paaldorp" (Elements from a lake village) was selected for the 3rd Miniature Biennale of Szombathely in Hongary (6).
In 1981, he was selected for the 10th Biennale for textile art in Lausanne for his "36 Herinneringen van een oude stad" (36 memories of an old city) (7). At that time, participating in this event still opened the path to international fame in the field of textile art.
"Waterpeil in een oude fabriek" (Water level in an old factory - photo 1) is an installation which will never leave my mind's eye. Bound bamboo sticks were placed on plexiglass supports. They seemed to float on the imaginary water which was very poetically evoked at the empty factory in Sint-Niklaas during the exhibition "Materies en Kunst" (Materials and Art) in 1980. (7) The force of the water pushes all the driftwood in the same direction, though sometimes it was all cris-crossed. Floating, floated.... Is this the path of being?
2. Experimental textile designs
In 1978, Marc Van Hoe has entered several of his experimental textile works for international competitions. In 1978, he was selected for the 3rd Textile Triennial - Art Fabric and Industrial Textile in Lodz, Poland (8). His double velvet piece "Garden" is woven in dralon and cotton. Here, he enlarged the leaf motif to a 70 cm copy, just like in the hippy tissues from 1970 in which a tree and rabbits underline the green movement in enlarged copies.
These enlargements gave Marc a chance to find his own answer to the flat formal language of Swedish origin which was so slavishly imitated in our region at the time. For his "Vier liefdesverhalen" (Four Love Stories), Marc Van Hoe made use of the industrial possibilities of the loom. He had his love stories repeated several times along the width of the fabric and had one meter of it woven by industrial weavers. Afterwards, he cut it into little gems of 20 x 20 cm. He framed them as if they were precious works of art and thanks to this, he was selected for the Fourth International Exhibition of Miniature Textiles in London in 1980 (8).
And in 1985, Marc Van Hoe was rewarded for his heroic battle against the windmills. His upholstery "Ethnic" was selected for the famous selection of design shown in the International Design Yearbook 1985-1986 (9). By mistake his double velvet piece was printed horizontally in the design book, yet because of this it could immediately be given a meaning: two strokes of stylised white waves stand out very geometrically against a black horizon. The water line and flood line are suggested by red and blue stripes (photo 3). This fabric is a milestone in Marc Van Hoe's industrial experiments. The result was a free interpretation of industrial fabric that reveals the artistic possibilities of someone who opposed all commercial restrictions. Through this process, he broadened the notion of industrial design. He uses the loom to draw his own story just like a painter handles his brush. With Hugo Van Acker, his friend and then co-owner of Ter Molst International, Marc undertook a number of similar experiments. These took their final shape in a collection "Cogitat" in 1989. "Cogitat" was a daring, unusual, but especially distinguished collection, often containing brash colour combinations and memphis-like motifs which opened at Decosit 1989. At Interior 1990 in Kortrijk (9), Van Hoe presented a brand new and mainly figuratively inspired collection. His themes were Moorish faces, negroes in profile, skulls, coptic motifs and parts of the human anatomy. Marc still repeats these themes in his work today, long after the decline of the "Cogitat" collection.
Similarly, in 1994, he presented "De man met de drie koppen" (The man with three heads" (photo 4/photo Kwintessens) at the stand of the Waesland company, during Decosit, the International Professional Upholstery Fair in Brussels. It depicts figures with a head, a trunk and two hands in the shape of heads stepping into a watery blue colour set against a cream-coloured background along a horizontal water line which divides the jacquard tissue crosswise into two parts.
Marc Van Hoe followed his "Ethnics" in 1985, with the series "Ornament" which was also published in the Design Yearbook of 1986 (10). The main theme of the "Ornament" series is the card drawings of the weaves. He transposed these weaves into graphical motifs. By using these graphics, he created a rhythm in the way a musician composes by using notes. The repetitive timbre has mainly been coloured with contrasting variations: black and red, cobalt and grass green. At times, these two-toned sounds are combined with small touches of red on blue-green and olive green on black and red. With this series, Marc Van Hoe opened a new chapter in his oeuvre. He discovered that, when a weave becomes a drawing, all types of supports are allowed. It is a story of cause and effect. This imagery became an obsession and he frantically made numerous studies and drawings on black wooden panels in the shape of turtles (photo 5). He even chiselled the symbols into a monolith. Once, in 1986, he used a copy of the stone floor of the Lakenhalle in Ieper in applying his symbols. His series "Toen we de miniaturen nog niet kenden" (When miniatures were still unknown to us) and "Reeks herinneringen aan oude verloren gegane symbolen" (Series of memories of old lost symbols) (11) date from that same period.
Textile has always been a matter of rhythm, from the very first linen weave where the threads went simply up and down to the repetitive motifs of computerized designs. A computer is not always alienating but, as a tool, it can influence the drawing. In order to study these possibilities, In 1986, Marc Van Hoe participated in the pilot project "Designing with a computer" (12) run by the ITCB, Belgian Institute for Textile and Confection. Now the Van Hoe design office designs exclusively by a computer. The office equipment is therefore compatible with the electronic part of the loom which can process its data and begin weaving immediately. (12)
Fascinated by the new technology of computerized looms, he agreed to coordinate a project (13) for promoting the new looms made by the Van de Wiele company at ITMA 1995. He gathered a number of young artists from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain who were skilled in textiles but who had never before designed velvet. The results were amazing and can be admired at the Museum for Art and History in Brussels during the exhibition "Fluwelen Rijkdom" (Velvet Treasures) which will run until June 1996.