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Bruegel meets street art in Brussels

0a1a-162, together with the Brussels collective Farm Prod and with the support of the City of Brussels, has developed a “PARCOURS Street Art” tour honouring the great Flemish master Pieter Bruegel in the heart of the capital. No less than 14 frescoes now adorn a number of facades in the Marolles district.

Brussels and Bruegel are inextricably linked. The artist spent part of his life in Brussels and was also buried there. Brussels was a great source of inspiration for him: it was where he painted two thirds of his works. His powerful patrons lived a few minutes’ walk from his house, on the Mont des Arts. Today it houses an important collection of Bruegel’s work; after the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium own the largest collection of Bruegel’s paintings, and the Royal Library holds no fewer than 90 engravings.

Brussels felt a duty to hold several events to mark the 450th anniversary of the death of this world-renowned artist., in collaboration with the collective Farm Prod, and with the support of Delphine Houba, Alderwoman of Culture, Tourism and Big Events in the city of Brussels, has also paid homage to Pieter Bruegel, by developing a street art journey through the city center.

From today, visitors can admire no fewer than 14 frescoes along the journey, created by who artists who are members of the collective, as other well as well-known artists. The perfect opportunity to discover Bruegel, in another time.

These 14 frescoes will be an integral part of the PARCOURS Street Art tour, which has been developed since 2013 by the City of Brussels. “How fortunate we are to be able to incorporate frescos inspired by Bruegel’s work in the PARCOURS Street Art tour, which is composed of nearly 150 works,” says Delphine Houba, Alderman of Culture, Tourism and Major Events in the City of Brussels. “The City of Brussels is proud to host this tour in the Marolles district, which is home to the cultural centre that bears the artist’s name!” Houba enthuses.

The frescoes

The inspiration: “The wedding dance in the open air” (painting)

Artist: Lazoo (FR) Location: Rue Haute n°399, 1000 Brussels

“In going through the works of Bruegel the Elder, I was especially interested in his representations of fantasy and the scenes depicting working class life, particularly celebrations. My work also focuses on celebratory themes and dancing, so this work of Bruegel’s was a natural choice for me as it allows me to create an affinity between Bruegel’s universe, and my own. “The wedding dance in the open air” has shown me how much, even with a gap of 450 years, this painting corresponds to the universe that I describe in my own paintings. That’s why I chose to rework this painting, so I could express this aspect that the Bruegel work inspires in me, that’s both working class and completely modern. So, you can find the same characters as in “the wedding dance in the open air”, but this time in a contemporary setting. This fresco, which is an acrylic and aerosol painting, uses the same range of colours that Bruegel used, but in another way. My painting is steeped in hip-hop culture. The colours hit the wall to show the scene’s energy, so it works like a transparent coloured filter. The way the colours work is completely modern, without affecting the outline of the characters. So, Bruegel’s painting is evident and clearly visible, and yet the overall vision of the colours adds another perception of distance to the whole work. In this fresco, I wanted to express what Bruegel’ s work inspires in me: a scene from working class life, surprising with its freshness and modernity. ”

The inspiration: “Hunters in the snow” (Painting)

Artist: Guillaume Desmarets – Farm Prod (BE) Location: Rue de la Rasière n°32, 1000 Brussels

“I was immediately struck by this scene’s atmosphere and composition. Even though it shows a scene from ordinary life, a surrealist atmosphere is emerging. I decided to concentrate on the hunters and their dogs. By keeping the composition features, I’ve completely changed the subject and the graphic aesthetics. The scene now depicts rat hunters being chased by their prey, and it all takes place in a hazy, dreamlike world. A type of surrealist allegory of the absurd.”

The inspiration: “the parable of the good shepherd” (engraving)

Artists: Farm Prod (BE) Location: Rue des Renards 38-40, 1000 Brussels

“We decided to work on a particular detail of the engraving, taking the shepherd with a sheep on his back. The idea is to transpose the shepherd’s posture with a fox on his back. The central character in this fresco refers to the Rue des Renards (Foxes Street), where the fresco is. It’s also a nod to the atmosphere of the neighbourhood, which is full of bars and people who love partying. The shepherd’s watching over you. As for the depiction, we’ve mixed the styles between realist replication, Bruegelian scenery and contemporary motifs. Another way of conveying the neighbourhood’s cosmopolitan side. ”

The inspiration: “The Tower of Babel” (Painting)

Artist: Kim Demane – Delicious Brains (SE) Location: CC Bruegel – Rue des Renards n°1F, 1000 Brussels

For Delicious Brains, Babylon is a symbol of oppression. A demoniac vision of men yearning for power and wanting to impose their ways on the people from the top of their Tower. It’s the basis of our society. Even if Bruegel created this work several centuries ago, it’s still relevant today.

The inspiration: “Peter Bruegel the Elder” (engraving)

Artist: Arno 2bal – Farm Prod (BE) Location: Rue du Chevreuil n°14-16, 1000 Brussels

“Given this wall’s setting, on a vertical background and visible from a distance, I needed to find an image which would have an impact from a distance, and which becomes clear and yet confuses as you approach it. As I tend to overload in my creative process, I wanted to distance myself from Bruegel’s typically complex compositions.
The representation of Pieter Bruegel then became obvious to me.

This official self-portrait of the artist is an iconic image which is recognisable at first glance. Thanks to the engraving process, it transcends time and has been reinterpreted several times. As artisan 2.0, as I like to call myself, I wanted to reinterpret this portrait in my contemporary graphic style, using a clear line, playing with abstract forms and tribal references.

The basis of the original work was made up of horizontal lines and, knowing that Bruegel was a strong advocate of expressions and word games (“The Flemish Proverbs”), I wanted to create an ABC, reusing local words and expressions from Marolles and Brussels. After doing some research, I chose around 100 words from both the “Zwanze” dialect spoken by old Marolliens, and modern expressions that stem from the neighbourhood’s cultural diversity. ”

The inspiration: “Flight into Egypt” (painting)

Artist: Piotr Szlachta – Farm Prod (PL) Location: Corner of the rue des Capucins and la rue des Tanneurs

“The smuggler”: The mural depicts a couple who are trying to get over the border into an imaginary Europe that’s luxuriant and inviting. A smuggler waits a bit further on to take them. Situated in one of Brussels’ most cosmopolitan neighbourhoods, this work of art celebrates the movement of people that has been going on since time immemorial.

The inspiration: “The ass at school”

Artist: Alexis Corrand – Farm Prod (FR) Location: Rue Blaes 135

“I chose to rework the Ass at school. This work shows a teacher surrounded by a class that’s rather out of control. I liked it for its humour. At first, I wanted to rework the subject of the chaos of the children. Later I decided to focus on the craziest and most emblematic aspect of the work, namely the ass that can be seen leaving through a window. This decision was mostly driven by size of the wall and its location. I thought it deserved something that was strong and clearly visible rather than being too loaded. I also didn’t include some of the features of the original that I thought were questionable, such as the teacher smacking a child. That way I could concentrate on the main feature with proper attention to detail. To accentuate and frame my work, I put the ass into a kind of false perspective, simulating the edges of the wall onto the back wall to give the impression that the ass is coming out of the wall. ”

The inspiration: “Sloth” (engraving)

Artist: Nelson Dos Reis – Farm Prod (BE) Location: Rue Saint Ghislain 75

“I’ve often drawn and painted fantastical characters who are a bit flawed, sort of anti-heroes. I wanted to pay tribute to the artist in my own style by focussing on one of the many creatures
and taking it out of context to make it the main character in my mural. ”

The inspiration: “The Peasant and the Nest Robber” (painting) and “Pride” and other creatures from different engravings (engraving)

Artists: Les Crayons (BE) Location: Rue du miroir n°3-7, 1000 Brussels

“The idea is to have a jumble of characters in the foreground, coming from the “Triumph of Death” and “Juno in the underworld” paintings, as well as from certain engravings such as “Envy”, “Last judgement” and “Pride”.

A kind of concentration of monstrosities, of Bruegelian “pariahs”. The themes are rather morose, but handled with a certain light heartedness.

This cataplasm is pointing at a tree on the left wall. This tree, which has a “figure” hanging from it, is taken from the painting “the peasant and the nest robber”, the exact meaning of which is a bit patchy, which I like. ”

The inspiration: “Patience” (engraving)

Artists: Hell’O (BE) Location: Rue Notre Seigneur n°29-31

“Bruegel’s Patience is an allegory of patience (made up of abstract ideas), and our aim was to work on a counter-allegory, taking features from the original work that we thought were interesting and turning them into simple geometric forms that are evenly balanced and very colourful. ”

The inspiration: “The fall of the rebel angels” (painting)

Artist: Fred Lebbe – Farm Prod (BE) Location: Rue Rolebeek X Bvd de l’Empereur 36-40

“I chose a sequence from this work where the picture world speaks to me. My challenge was to interpret it as faithfully as possible using the modern technique of aerosol painting. A way of paying tribute to Bruegel’s technical feats.”

Phlegm murals as part of The World of Bruegel in Black and White exhibition

Artist: Phlegm (UK) Location: Royal Library of Belgium

Phlegm not only creates large wall frescoes, but also small brass engravings full of details, that he prints in his studio. An artist who catapults Bruegel into the 21st century. You can discover him on the facade and interior of the Library walls.

Murals inspired by several of Bruegel’s works

Artists: Farm Prod (BE) Location: Palais du Coudenberg

As part of the Bernardi Bruxellensi Pictori exhibition, the archaeological site gets a makeover and lends its outside courtyard to the artists from the Farm Prod collective, who have interpreted Bruegel’s often quirky work in this 450th anniversary celebration. Every member of the collective has reworked one of this master’s classics. They have either reproduced the work with their own take on it, or created a new composition, starting off with Bruegel’s. These interpretations are presented in the Palais du Coudenberg as posters that decorate the museum’s courtyard.

Mural inspired by the “Bernard van Orley. Brussels and the Renaissance” and “Prints in the Age of Bruegel”
exhibitions Artists: Farm Prod (BE)

BOZAR – Palais des Beaux-Arts

For a month now, la rue Baron Horta has had a new look, with an installation by the landscape architect Bas Smets, and a new wall fresco to celebrate Pieter Bruegel. The mural, created by Farm Prod, reinterprets the 16th century by borrowing pictures from two exhibitions: “Bernard van Orley. Brussels and the Renaissance” and “Prints in the Age of Bruegel”.

Since 2013, the City of Brussels has played an important role in promoting urban art as a vector for social cohesion that is accessible to all. In recent years, the City has multiplied initiatives such as this: calls for projects, orders, and walls for free expression are all included in PARCOURS Street Art. There are currently 150 frescoes included in this database that provides information on the works such as biographies on the street artists. This project to beautify the city is continuously growing and will be enriched in the coming months with a dozen new projects.

Farm Prod (BE)

FARM PROD is a collective that brings together several visual artists around various creative projects, set up in Brussels in 2003. While they all have the same artistic background, each member has, over time, developed their own expertise. Today the team unites painters, graffiti and graphic artists, web-designers, illustrators and video makers. For 15 years they have used their different energies to organise and take part in sociocultural events, both in Belgium and abroad.

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Chief Assignment editor is OlegSziakov