The Voeten Collection represents a unique combination of both Belgian and international works. Currently it comprises over 1700 art pieces that have been collected during a period of more than 40 years. They are exhibited in two separate locations – at the Art Center close to Herentals and at the sculpture park near Gheel.

Rosen Rashev (BGR, °1970)

Rosen Rashev (°1970, Vratsa, Bulgarije) creates in his artworks an imaginary, magical world in which he mixes personal experiences and imaginative stories with universal themes. Rashev is inspired by his childhood, his native region, nature, folklore, folk tales and by religious as well as pagan rituals. By depicting these specific and rather unusual subjects, by painting in a spontaneous, childish style and by applying reduction and stylization of motifs, the Bulgarian artist relinquishes the artistic conventions. Rashev goes beyond the boundaries of the artistic canon and constructs a personal fantastic repertoire of symbols and signs. Rashev's art can be defined as outsider art, intuitive art or art brut. The term outsider art was conceived in 1972 by art critic Roger Cardinal (°1940) as the English synonym for art brut, translated 'raw', 'brute' art, a term formed by Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985). This French artist applied this label to define art created beyond the boundaries of the established art scene.

Creation, 1995, distemper on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

In Creation (1995) Rashev expresses his fascination for birth or the creation of new life and for family as a source of power, comfort and inspiration. At the bottom of this canvas lies an immortal soul that is connected with a couple, above which is written 'the beginning'. Rashev defines the pipe that the central creature is smoking as 'a vice'. Between the couple at the right floats their 'soul in love', as a butterfly out of their stomach. The woman is about to become mother. Under the buggy, from which sinister snakes are appearing, is written 'fear of death'. Rashev utters religious considerations by using biblical images and Christian motifs, such as Adam and Eve, the apple, snakes.

Artist, 1995, distemper on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

In Artist (1995) Rosen Rashev mixes his personal story – maybe the painting is a self-portrait – with a universal theme. The main subject of the work is undeniable artistry. The female figure left, with two heads, as well as the floating and winged angelic figure above her, seem to sit model for the painter behind his easel. However, the canvas on the painter's easel shows something different: the painter represents the posing human figure as an animal. The two-headed creature, as also seen on the painting Story (1995), belongs to Rashev's usual repertoire of illusory figures. Interesting is a work of 2001 upon which a similar dissociated figure is depicted and that Rashev named Between two Worlds. In what kind of world does the artist finds himself? Is he making a choice between two worlds? Or is he – by eliminating the human figure – choosing for an even other world? What kind of universe is he depicting? Anyway, the artist is not depicting what he sees in front of him. The angel, a figure that Rashev pictures in several of his works, is not so much transcendent, but rather realistic and present: the angel assists the artist as some kind of permanent companion. The clothing and headdress of the other figures seems folkloristic inspired. The birdlike animal that is sitting behind the painter can be a reference to the tradition of depicting the ox as symbol of the holy Lucas in art history. Rashev mixes spiritual and profane motifs and aligns the terrestrial and heavenly. By depicting thus an all-embracing world, the personal is elevated to the level of the general and universal.

Story, 1995, distemper on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

The two-headed figure on the quasi-symmetric painting Story (1995) suggests two worlds. Rashev depicts this literally by writing next to the two suns at the bottom of this canvas 'the sun in one land' and 'the sun in the other land'. The painter unites in Story image and text, which is a characteristic of Rashev's oeuvre. The artist namely approaches a painting as an independent and authentic reality. The numerous words that pass through Rashev's compositions and thereby become artistic symbols, contribute to this aspect of the painting as a self-contained authenticity. Rashev's assigns language an aesthetic function and incorporates it as an integral part of the image. This lingual dimension elucidates the subjects that Rashev paints. For the painting Story thus becomes clear that the head on the left, adorned with (devilish?) horns, indicates the road to hell, and the head on the right the road to heaven. This combination of two worlds, of heaven and hell, of the terrestrial and the spiritual, in one image, is characteristic for Rashev's work. The terrestrial and material, represented by the bikes, cars and roads, leads to the supper terrestrial and spiritual, the roads namely disappear into nothingness, the unknown. At the endings of the twisting arms as roads is written 'road to nowhere'. Likely Story depicts one of Rashev's favorite themes: the good and the evil. The cyclist at the left, hellish side, on his way to nowhere, seems to be an automatic pilot – due to the winding-on reel on his back – who cannot determine his own route. Across from him, at the right side that seems less driven, sits a figure on a unicycle reading the newspaper. Left, a Jeep, Chevrolet and limousine are driving, whereas right cattle is being transported and a concrete mixer is driving. Finally, Rashev draws attention to homosexuality: he wrote 'gay' under the genitals of the central figure.

Life, 1995, distemper on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

The painting Life (1995) seems to be an ode to life. Next to the couple in the boat on the upper left side the words 'joy of life' are readable. The other superscriptions on this painting are similar and read 'happiness', 'joy', 'safety', 'tree of life'. By that means the female figure left symbolizes security and Rashev marked the place under her arm as 'the safest place', between her breasts as 'the softest place' and between her legs as 'the warmest place'. The thee smaller figures in the middle are possibly her children, two daughters and one son.

Text: Sarah Gallasz