Marcel van Maele - ‘When a poem loses its face’


M HKA, Antwerp

13 May 2023 - 03 September 2023

Marcel van Maele (Bruges 1931-Antwerp 2009) was a non-conformist and rebellious writer, poet, performer and visual artist. He opposed bourgeois life and the established order, and saw art as a means of changing consciousness. After his military service in Korea in the 1950s, van Maele hitchhiked for several years through nearly thirty countries. During his wanderings he worked as a night watchman, a lumberjack, a cow keeper, a joiner, a grape picker and a docker. In 1956 van Maele made his debut as a poet with the collection Soetja, and started to work on what would become an extensive oeuvre. In the last decades of his life, he became blind, but assisted by others, he continued to write poems and create art objects.

Marcel van Maele has published novels, film and stage scenarios, collections of poetry and bibliophile publications. A recurring theme in his work is the conflict between the absolute freedom of the individual and the pressure of society. In addition to his literary work, he made paintings, assemblages, sculptures and installations, in which word and image often come together in a humorous way. From the 1970s on, van Maele also created unusual objects: objets trouvés that he combined with words that he somehow made illegible. His Gebottelde Gedichten (Bottled Poems; 1972-2002) are for example rolled up in a tightly closed bottle, and for Vakkundig Hermetisch (Expertly Hermetic; 1973), he poured his collection of poems into a block of polyester. The objects often appeared as multiples in limited editions.

The occasion for the current archive presentation in the M HKA is collector Jef Debacker’s recent generous gift of assemblages and multiples by Marcel van Maele. In total, there are 25 works from the period 1972-2002. Debacker regarded his gift as a tribute to his wife Rolly Klinck, who died in 2011.

With special thanks to Carine Lampens, Adriaan Raemdonck, Galerie De Zwarte Panter, Ernest Van Buynder and Liliane Dewachter.

Click here to browse the digital scan of the exhibition.

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