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“Meunier’s The Prodigal Son will always be important to me." A meeting with CHVE.

Amenra c Martin Corlazzoli COR07803
Acoustic set Amenra at the Lambeaux hall © Martin Corlazzoli

This spring, we were very pleased to have musician Colin H. Van Eeckhout (CHVE) in the museum for some exceptional evening performances. During January’s Thursday Late, he and Amenra performed an acoustic set in the Lambeaux gallery. And in March he shared the stage with lutist Jozef van Wissem, for a concert in a gallery of the Theodoor Rombouts exhibition. But how does he feel about the MSK, and about art in general? A conversation at the museum.

You arranged a photo shoot in the MSK galleries to mark Amenra’s 20th anniversary. Are there any works here that appeal to you especially?

For me, the MSK is a garden of inspiration. It gives me a sense of artistic peace, which makes me feel insignificant. And I mean that in a good way: it’s like being a grain of sand in a big desert. It’s a feeling of recognition, in a way, like visiting a world that is intangible but still familiar.

Constantin Meunier’s sculpture of The Prodigal Son will always be important to me. It tells a different story depending on which side you see it from. I find it enormously intriguing that the juxtaposition of shapes in a sculpture can bring it to life. And you can also touch and embrace a sculpture, as it were. A lot of things came together for me when I played in the Lambeaux gallery with Amenra. From where I sat I could see Meunier’s sculpture in the doorway. Right there, right then, we made contact, just for a moment. Together we each told our individual stories.

Grief, pain and death are themes that turn up regularly in your music, but also in art. Do you take inspiration from art?

Of course, but I do so with caution. I don’t have any artistic training, and I have little to no knowledge when it comes to what we call ‘the arts’. Even so, that’s the environment I find myself working in. That’s particularly interesting to me, and sometimes even intimidating. First and foremost, you learn to follow your own heart and soul. The essence of my work is emotion, and that doesn’t require any formal knowledge. Perhaps self-knowledge, insight, understanding of your own specific story as a creative being.

With Amenra, when we take inspiration from a painting we try to orient that to our contemporary world. We look for universality and timelessness. Light, for instance, sets the tone in paintings as well as in our photography. We move out of the shadows and reach towards the light. But above all, we try to analyse everyday life and reflect it in our own way in our music and imagery.

You played a hurdy-gurdy in the Theodoor Rombouts exhibition galleries. Do you have a particular interest in historical stringed instruments?

Actually, not at all. I find mediaeval music off-putting, generally - or at least the few things I’ve heard. It has never really appealed to me. But I was intrigued when I first heard a hurdy-gurdy, mainly because the sound seemed so full of potential. Together with Lennart, Amenra’s guitarist, I bought a hurdy-gurdy for the group. Then it took on a life of its own.

Are you aware of how important musical instruments were in the work of Theodoor Rombouts?

I wasn’t, but it was exciting to discover his fascination for that world, and that he painted musicians so accurately. The fact that people then had an entirely different way of annotating music, without staves, is so interesting. And now we can only guess how their music would have sounded - there are no recordings. Somehow, though, you can feel the connection back through the centuries to those musicians in Rombouts’ paintings.

In an interview, I read that you prefer to have silence before a concert or important event. Museums are very quiet places. Does that appeal to you?

Certainly, and that’s why I seek out silence. For instance, before a performance I go onto the stage just to sit there, to wait. I love the silence that falls then, the awkwardness that both I and the audience feel, keeping a grip on my nerves and then launching into sound.

There’s an energy that courses through the museum which you don’t feel anywhere else. The closest comparison would be a church: it brings out a sense of respect in the people who enter. And the works of art inspire reverence. For me as a musician, it’s so gratifying and also rewarding to tell my own stories, in my own way, among these works.

Do you see the museum as a place to experience other kinds of art, either classic or modern, or for creativity?

Everything is interconnected and all things amplify each other. I think the important thing is to do whatever is needed to get people into the museum. The arts are more than the sum of their parts, that’s for sure. By bringing different disciplines together, linking old and contemporary art, you can inspire completely new creativity.