interview with Ronald Vanoystaeyen
Satyrykon: The exhibition of drawings by George van Raemdonck refers to the period of 1st World War, was it a good time for him?
Ronald Vanoystaeyen: This period was for him like a knife that cuts on both sides: 1) a terrible time for him and his family, 2) a time of changes and opportunity. So when you think about it, it was the war that forced George van Raemdonck to flee to Holland and to draw cartoons and so earning some money for his family. If he had stayed in Belgium he could have become, after some years of hard work, a very famous Flemish painter … but there would never have appeared these magnificent cartoons… we say that this is something like the ‘yin and yang’ of George van Raemdonck: good things can only happen when bad things happen as well…!?!
Van Raemdonck is your passion, you know him as probably no one else does, what can we see at the exhibition that we should pay attention to the most?
Just look at one of the drawings and at the same time think about the artist sitting in this foreign country at a small table, with his pencils, ink and paper dreaming about his country which is struggling in an ugly war and he, as a kind of Flemish ambassador, has to make his weekly cartoons as a witness from abroad. Looking at the chosen drawings try to imagine how long it would take an artist to make this work: first, the thinking what to draw, then the first drawing in pencil, then putting everything in ink and after you made this exercise look around and count the hours you receive out of the live of George … What you would pay attention to: first of all, the beauty of the drawings, they are perfect, then the different subjects.
You are one of the biggest promoters of George van Raemdonck, is the cartoonist who lives today in Boechout simply stuck with George van Raemdonck and would you be interested in him without it? Have you ever met him in your life?
I was 20 when George, whom I never met personally, died. As a young boy I made drawings since the age of 6 and I still remember having seen George van Raemdonck at his house, pushing the wheel-chair of his daughter, walking in the street with his dog … but at that time I did not know his work. It is only later that I discovered his cartoons, drawings and paintings. When in 1986 we started in Boechout with our cartoonfestival and had to choose a name for it we found this name very quickly ‘George van Raemdonckkartoenale’.
I have never had the idea that we are stuck up with this artist and we will always be interested in his works and day by day this interest is still growing. The cartoons we choose for our cartoonfestival are not influenced by George van Raemdonck’s drawings, the jury picks the winning cartoons independently.This November when we remember the Great war in Belgium we are lucky to publish the book ‘De eerste kartoens van George van Raemdonck 1914-18 + …’. This is the second book we’ve made about the work of George, the first was ‘Boechoutse Koppen’ a collection of drawings of normal Boechout People: workmen, farmers … he made on beer mats in his local pub.
As you are a drawer yourself, what is the difference between being satirical cartoonist then and now?
I think you can compare this to the difference in times of the occupation of Poland and afterwards … It seemed to me that the drawings changed a lot, not the styles or the way of drawing but the subjects, for example, in 2014 nobody is still making drawings about toilet paper like they did in the early ‘80’s. In the late eighties we made and exhibition of Polish cartoons at Antwerp University and we had to explain several drawings to the Belgian people and this was not only something about the language, it was about the cartoons themselves. You had to be in the same situation to understand the drawings.
Of course, the cartoonist today also makes satirical drawings but of other nature, it is a feeling not so easy to explain.
GEORGE VAN RAEMDONCK – drawings
SATYRYKON Gallery in Legnica
(5 June – 31 July 2014)
exhibition opening 13th June 2014, 7.30 p.m.