Opgedragen aan de steenbakkers (Dedicated to the Brickmakers), 1967. Found materials, 162 x 266 x 23 cm. Photo: Stany Dederen, Courtesy Provincie Antwerpen

Love, Hope, and Socialism: A Conversation with Camiel Van Breedam

Belgian artist Camiel Van Breedam launched his career in the late 1950s, when peinture informelle (abstract gestural painting) was still going strong. At an early stage, he made the leap from abstract geometric painting, with an emphasis on matter, to assemblage sculpture and collage—works, both formalist and historicizing, made from ordinary laborer’s tools and the remnants of shuttered factories, and often fraught with meaning. Van Breedam has always been drawn to the early Modernists, who embraced mostly abstract principles of design, but his work blends those principles with influences from other times and cultures to form a hybrid language that serves his personal and political convictions.

Van Breedam’s empathy for what is old, broken, worn down, or simply considered irrelevant is a reflec- tion of his compassion for humanity. He is a deeply engaged artist, who feels intensely. Poetic, and sometimes nostalgic, his sculptures and installations can also descend into sorrow and bristle with rage; irony and cynicism, on the other hand (so often a part of modern and contemporary practice), find no place in his work.

Michaël Amy: Your name is unusual.
Camiel Van Breedam:
Camiel is not uncommon in Belgium, though it is more often written as Kamiel, or the French Camille. . .

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