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.

Stanislav Pamukchiev

Steps, 2004, fabric, glue, pigmento, wood, 28 x 15 x 340 cm / 22 x 15,5 x 340 cm

Stanislav Pamukchiev, one of the most important Bulgarian artists of his generation, was born in 1953 in Sofia. He graduated at the Murals Department of the National Academy of Fine Arts in his hometown. He is currently professor at the Department of Drawing in the same institute.

Pamukchiev works in the field of painting, drawing, objects and installations. In his works he develops subject matters such as time and memory, archetypical and family symbols. The materials he uses have a great psychological potential such as ash, charcoal, wax, earth, straw, metal and stone. His art is a material expression of the finite and the infinite. He is the artist of the spiritual space and the human mission. He is constantly looking for an answer to the question of where we come an where we are going. Ashes in his monochromatic works are like a pictorial symbol of time and mortality. Ashes are the last visible en tangible witnesses of the transformation between material and immaterial.

Stanislav Pamuchiev once noticed a small clay foot in an archaeological magazine before seeing it for real in the Archaeological Museum of the Bulgarian city of Ruse, on the Danube river. The archeological piece had been found in a sanctuary pit where rituals from the pre-Thracian times were performed. If the significance of the object still remains a mystery for the archaeologists, it turned for Pamukchiev into a sign.

This experience resulted in 2004 in the creation of the work Steps, as part of an exhibition the artist made in the basement of the Krug + Gallery in Sofia (Circle +). The show was titled Beginnings and consisted of Steps and a cycle of paintings titled Beginnings as well. For Pamukchiev, descending the staircase into the basement was like descending into clan memory, into the realm of archetypes and into the collective unconscious. This vision was then influenced by his reading of Jung and the theories of deep psychology.

The foot the artist saw in the Archaeological Museum of Ruse turned into many feet, in fact a symbol of the whole human kind, walking, moving, eternally treading across time and space. It also refers to the 1990's , a period of mass exodus from Bulgaria. At that time a whole generation was leaving the country and those who stayed behind, including the artist, had a feeling that their 'tribe' had been scattered. So Steps has a demographic and social aspect.

Three versions of Steps have been made by Pamukchiev. The first one belongs to the Hugo Voeten collection. The composition is made of two wooden platforms with seven plaster feet on each platform (from small to big). Suspended in the air by metal wires, the platforms can be rocked in such a way it creates a sensation of walking.

The second version is more complex and has been made after Pamukchiev realized that a bigger amount of elements would reinforce the impact of the work. He decided to associate three groups of two platforms to create a moving 'field'. The work was shown in 2005 at the Prague Biennials where it received a lot of attention. It was published in the magazine 'Art in America' in their review of the 2005 Biennials around the world. The Prague National Gallery bought the work and installed it in the permanent display of the museum. A third version of Steps was later created and purchased by the National Gallery of Bulgaria in Sofia.

Hugo Voeten discovered the works of Pamukchiev first in a catalogue. He visited in 2003 the exhibition dedicated to the 50th birthday of the artist at the Sofia City Gallery in 2003. Being fascinated by the power of the exhibition, he later purchased several works that show the gradual process from oil paintings to ash paintings, to three-dimensional objects and kinetic installations. Pamukchiev's huge, impressive and dynamic installation The Slings now occupies the main space of the entrance of the Art Center in Herentals, filtering the descending daylight and symbolizing new life in the old factory.

Myriam Geurts, January 2017