The Ravestijn Gallery presented two artists at Art Rotterdam 2018; Belgian story teller Jan Rosseel and English artist Darren Harvey-Regan.
JAN ROSSEEL (BE 1979)
Tintin au Congo is Hergé’s second album of cartoons in the series ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ about a Belgian investigative journalist reporting on world affairs. Tintin’s trip to the Congo is sandwiched between his investigative journeys to the Soviet Union and to America.
There are three versions of the Tintin au Congo album. The first was published in 1931, in black and white. The second is a coloured version from 1946, from which Hergé pruned his prejudiced view of the Congolese. The third version appeared in 1975, and contained changes aimed at making the story more animal-friendly.
One of Hergé’s 1946 modifications is a box in which Tintin, together with his faithful dog Snowy, stands in front of a class of Congolese schoolchildren. In the 1931 version, Tintin is giving them a history lesson about their fatherland, Belgium. In the 1946 impression, this history lesson is changed to a lesson in arithmetic. The text has been changed from ‘My dear friends, today I am going to talk to you about your country: Belgium!’ to ‘We’ll start, if you don’t mind, with some sums. Who can tell me what two plus two is. … No one? … Here it is, two plus two … Two plus two equals …’. In spite of the dropping of the national subjection, Tintin is still clearly very much in control, and the associated national pride is still very much present. The master-pupil relationship remains the same, and what’s more the pupils – unlike Snowy the dog – remain mute in this frame.
Tintin’s superiority in this comic album is indicative of the prevailing colonial relations at the time Tintin was created. As a role model of the ideal Belgian, Tintin is able to improve the lot of the Congolese with help from God and Western values and inventions. As a doctor, teacher, leader, engineer, military leader and peacemaker, Tintin purposefully leads the way along the path of progress – and the Congolese idolise him for it. The popularity of this comic, which was originally published in the weekly youth supplement to Belgian daily newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle, played a significant role in the formation of young people’s ideas about the Congo. The story, and this specific frame, are far removed from forms of education that take the basic equality of all as their starting point.
In this work an original album is being re-edited. The images that do not contain any black characters are manually sanded away, leaving us with an even more polarised comic, exposing the colonial framework.
DARREN HARVEY_REGAN (UK 1974)
The Erratics is the title of the work that Darren Harvey-Regan presented at The Ravestijn Gallery for the first time during the Photo London at Somerset House. The exhibition is made up of a group of photographic works: The Erratics (exposure) - show natural rock formations in the desert eroded by the wind and sand – and The Erratics (wrest), photographs that depict a series of sculptures made by the artist himself, using chalk collected from rockfalls along the South Coast of England. In geology the term “erratics” indicates those rocks carried down to the valley floor by a glacier. Once the ice retires these great rocky formations, far from their place of origin, are found to occupy an unusual position in the middle of the plain. In the artist’s work the term refers to a double displacement, both that brought about by the photographic act of lifting something from its environment and by removing chalk from the rockfalls.
Erratics Harvey-Regan tells us is a term that comes from the Latin “errare” whose meanings include “to wonder without a goal” and “deviate from the true”. They are suggestions that in an indirect way refer to some motivations that form the basis of the project, conceived during a phase of creative impasse in which the artist felt the need to confront the abstract dimension, finding a source of inspiration in Wilhelm Worringer’s famous essay of 1906 Abstraction and Empathy.