Virginie Pringiers is ‘Not Holding Out For A Hero’

Born and raised in Belgium, Virginie grew up in a family of collectors who spent their weekends in flea markets hunting for unique pieces. Her family home was a haven of beautiful artworks of great cultural diversity including paintings, furniture and various other decorative elements.

Virginie Pringiers’ work is distinguished by her bold passion for the lost and found, the forgotten and remembered, the iconic and the cosmic.

Virginie pursued artistic studies and became a graduate of the prestigious school of Van Der Kelen Logelain (Brussels) where she specialized in “trompe l’oeil” (a painting or design intended to create a visual illusion). She also mastered cinematographic arts, theatre-set design and the renovation of cultural artefacts.

During her studies, artists such as Rauschenberg, Basquiat and Cy Twombly inspired her to start drawing and painting. Virginie found her own style of creating different textures on canvas using layers of old paper glued together, acrylic, oil paint, pencil and markers; repeatedly roughening the surface with sandpaper, incorporating lettering and sealing it with a glossy varnish.

Virginie’s 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 Not Holding Out For A Hero, Virginie explores our desire to be saved, and rescues herself at the same time.

What are the concepts behind your “Not Holding Out for a Hero”?

I am a big fan of old toys that refer to the science fiction of our youth with all of its heroes, which featured heavily during a very naive time in our lives - where we could still imagine a better world - even with innocent eyes - on another planet or galaxy. We were transported by these superheroes from cartoons and manga characters, who saved us from imminent danger thanks to their superpowers.

Today as an adult, things have become more serious. We’ve lost our innocence, sometimes even our imagination and we feel like we’re going crazy. The superheroes (both ‘real’ and imaginary) from our youth are not there to help us anymore. That said, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to make fun of our lives with the same science fiction themes from our childhood, sometimes referring to contemporary events for example, ‘Mr. President’; or a more personal experience for which I had to learn to fight, ‘New Army’. And instead of always waiting for the superhero who will come to help us it is always better to unite to solve our problems. This union is strength!

Mr. President” by Virginie Pringiers, mixed media on canvas, 2017

Arty-Fact: “I created this painting in response to what I was feeling about current global events shaping western society. I felt like an alien had come from outer space to guide us into a new era. What I like about the face is its lack of emotion - the emptiness of the eyes. It is impossible for us to know what the future will be.” ~ Virginie Pringiers

Where do you usually draw your inspiration from?

Above all, I am passionate about old paper. At home I have piles of old magazines and old comics which I include in all of my artwork.

In the past I used to paint portraits of friends for a few dollars, and it became increasingly frustrating because they did not see their nose like it really was, or they imagined their cheekbones were higher than in reality. In short, I gave up on the idea of showing people what they really looked like. Then I began to literally focus on faces but in a different way, whether in the style of ‘George’, with his big mustache and his slicked hair; an epoch or nothing but a mouth or a look. Now I am painting a kind of "Fantômas" (fictional character created by French writers Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre) that is very vintage. ‘The Brain’ is the latest addition to my ‘Not Holding Out For A Hero’ series.

George” by Virginie Pringiers, mixed media on canvas, 2018

Arty-Fact: George, a 45-year-old well waxed male, is an extremely ordinary man. He loves his wife, but she is ordinary, his children - are ordinary, his work - is ordinary... his life is extraordinarily sad.

One day, George decides to throw a fit. He lets go of his ‘ordinary’ and dives head first into gambling, drugs and violence... he decides to live in total excess.

Actually no... George is not capable of excess - his gun shoots only love songs. George is delightfully ordinary.

Inspiration also comes from my passion for antique toys, predominantly ones made from iron, but also the kitsch plastic variety from the 80’s.

Inspiration really comes from everywhere but once I decide on a theme, I can collate the elements that I want to include. This is a mix of materials including cutouts of phrases, words and images which I find in my old magazines and this how my paintings begin.

What is the relevance of 'flea markets' in your childhood and how does it influence your art even today?

My parents collected faience (glazed ceramic ware), impressionist paintings, and loved spending time in flea markets. They taught us a lot of things about recognizing rare items. By the way, I made them miss out on a lot of good deals, because I would run ahead in the market to find a hidden gem shout, "Daddy, Mummy, I found a Royal Boch plate!” and suddenly, the seller would increase the price of the item which would pretty much squash any possibility of finding a bargain ;-)

As a student, I would get up at 5am, grab a flashlight and wait for the openings of the trucks that contained everything for these markets and watched them being unpacked... I loved this ambiance. It smelled of coffee, old furniture, and everyone had sleepy eyes. It was the perfect time for my friends and I to start our hunt! I bought small objects, old magazines, album covers. Later, as I learned the history of furniture, I was able to go to the markets with a more expert eye.

My love of flea markets and the search for hidden treasures has stayed with me. Today I go to the flea market to find inspiration for my artwork. A great find was the old picture featured in ‘Fuck We Are Going To The Moon’ – it set the tone for the artwork. I never leave the local market with empty pockets here in Singapore. I love to hunt for old Japanese or Chinese toys, or just finding stuff like old earthenware pins with Chairman Mao’s portrait. In fact, it does not take much to inspire me.

Most of all, I love the atmosphere of these markets!

Fuck! We Are Going To The Moon!” by Virginie Pringiers, mixed media on canvas, 2017

Arty-Fact: “This old picture was found in a Singaporean flea market. The photo shows us people who laid a foundation for our own stories - people who everyone may have forgotten. They are deconstructed with faces torn apart and partly disappearing below the painting. Their trip into space for a new colony has never been so timely. It’s a good way to stop sinking into oblivion and start something new.” ~ Virginie Pringiers

About your environment, why was it 'strict' that you cannot express your own ideas?

The ‘strict’ side had a rather good influence on me and never really prevented me from expressing myself and creating.

When I was little, the decor of our house was itself very ‘strict’, I remember that everything was beautiful - family heirlooms handed down from generations as well as the new additions.

I could do what I wanted (mostly) but my parents have never hung one of my paintings on their walls, although I have restored a lot of furniture for them. The restoration work I do for furniture, rather than my paintings, is more their style.

They have always believed in me, always pushed me to do what I loved, but would always remind me that one day I would need to have a job. That's one of the reasons I learned trompe-l'œils and furniture renovation. I had to be able to make money, but with know-how or a trade rather than depending too much on my contemporary art. That’s not to say that I’m not working hard to become a world famous artist!

What was your first mural about? Why do you think your mother finally accepted it?

To be very honest, I couldn’t tell you what went through my head when I painted this ‘fresco’... All I know is that I had little time to do it because my parents said "NO!”…so I did it in secret. Once finished, I think it was too late for my mother to get angry and she accepted that it gave a certain chicness to my room. Perhaps she thought it was time to let me express myself… And then, my mother probably preferred this mural to all the Kurt Cobain posters hanging everywhere in my room (yes, I was very in love with Kurt too).

“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.” ~ Virginie Pringiers

How significant is freedom for the 'rebellion' to be expressed in your art?

Actually, it’s not so much rebellion but rather a revolution to achieve something to which we are entitled. To accept that the grass is not always greener elsewhere and that the small concerns of each are sometimes harmless compared to what others live every day.

By uniting together, we can move mountains instead of just raising a mini pebble that will only fix "my little worry". All together we make more noise... I have a little autistic boy, who has taught me tolerance and patience. My attitude towards difference has completely changed and makes me want to fight. Our schools and governments are completely impervious to hosting these children in normal social conditions.

Yet children with special needs are entitled to live fully with others, like all other children in the world. So, if we want them to go to school, we have to bang our fists on tables, scream and make ourselves heard by these institutions. We have noticed that when we are many we shout louder and hermetic ears start to open little by little. But there is still work to be done...

New Army” by Virginie Pringiers, mixed media on canvas, 2017 

Arty-Fact: “I have a personal cause that I’m fighting for. In recent years, I have been able to rally other people who are fighting for the exact same outcome - to create a better life for children in need. Armies, as scary as they might seem, are groups of people fighting for the same ideals, feeling empowered by each other, able to affect change through collective strength and achieve their desired outcome. I am part of this army.” ~ Virginie Pringiers

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