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.

Thierry De Cordier

ZEESTUK (Morceau de mer), 2011, oil on canvas, 175 x 200 cm

After his training in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gent, Thierry De Cordier, born in 1954 in Oudenaarde, devoted himself in solitude to philosophy. He would be thinker. As a young artist, he leads a nomadic existence for about 10 years. He is constantly on the move and writes his first poems. In 1985 he chooses again for a sedentary existence and takes the wire from the plastic arts. In the French Auvergne, where he lives a long time since 1987, he paints desolate Flemish landscapes. He continues graving to the north with its gray climate and he returns to his "Fucking Flanders" (1).

Initially the landscape and its vegetable garden give him the peace of mind, in harmony with nature, to reflect on existence. Later he turns his back to this world and focuses on the sea. He settles in Oostende where he transforms on old industrial building into a home and studio. He mainly makes sculptures, paintings and drawings. Thierry De Cordier has always had many questions about life and how man and the artist himself are in this life. He tries to understand the world through his own experience. He is also looking for his own identity. He is disgusted in man and society. That gloomy atmosphere is clearly perceptible in his work that is as dark as his thoughts. Actually, he is a contemporary romanticist. In his work the mysterious, obscure and dark sides of human existence come to life. Yet the artist realizes that this form of artistry has become unworldly. Thierry De Cordier once said: "Je n'ai absolument rien à voir avec le vingtième siècle".

In his tormented drawings, enigmatic sculptures made of waste material, and his paintings, he expresses his Weltschmerz, an immense sense of despair. This is due to the deep disappointment because of the imperfection of life. A person with Weltschmerz has the feeling that physical reality can never satisfy the desires of the mind. The atmosphere of this painful melancholy is clearly felt in Thierry De Cordier's oeuvre. Blue and gray tones, but above all an obsession for dramatic black are striking. The famous Belgian filmdirector and columnist Marc Didden once wrote: "He paints a wild, cruel sea that looks as black as the devil's soul. Just by looking at the work I was afraid of drowning and yet it's fascinating".

Morceau de Mer, a work from 2011, is part of a series of seascapes. In this work, a threat is also felt It is a wild, dark and oppressive sea against a green background. Thierry De Cordier uses oil paint, East Indian ink and enamel, hence that black, unbeatable sea that overwhelms the spectator. Recurring themes in his work include mountains, seascapes and desolate landscapes for which he was partially inspired by the typical Chinese black and white landscapes. They are not only the result of accurate observation but also stimulate the spiritual experience. This incentive for meditation is also reflected in his creation of 2007, The Chapel of the Nothing, a quiet space for patients in the garden of the psychiatric clinic in Duffel (Belgium).

De Cordier reveals his weird world views in painting and writing. Language plays an important part in his work. Sometimes the texts are difficult to read. They are now informative and again cynically meant. The artist grew up in a bilingual family at the language boundary near Oudenaarde. Although his works are penetrated by his dark Flemish melancholy, with gray sky and black sea, he writes his texts in French, the language of his mother. On the work Morceau de Mer the artist wrote "J'ai peint ce morceau de mer folle à la hâte en ce dimanche le 23 octobre 2011. Vivement je suis peintre et dans ma tête est une chambre-à-air".

The artist wants to return to the origin, which is the opposite of the progressive ideas for him. Important sources for him are nature and the mother figure. In word and image, he embodies his melancholic, demonic worldview. De Cordier, the painter of the inner, returns to the cultic nature with his work. "It is if he seems to wander through life, in the darkness of the earth, in the fire and the water, searching for the ultimate still life of our soul and our cosmos" (Jan Hoet).

Text: Myriam Geurts, June 2017