I grew up with my maternal grandparents since I was 3 years old. Till then, I was with my paternal grandparent’s home with my mother and when she left from there, leaving my father, my mother decided it was maybe a nice idea that I and my older brother, who was already staying with my maternal grandparents then, stayed and grew up together with her parents. So I grew up with these grandparents.
It’s another story why I started drawing very early but I was drawing a lot and when I was 6 years old, on the first school day I declared to the whole class and to my headmaster that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. But it must be said here that, then, I did not know what the word meant except that the artist was somebody who drew and painted.
I never had visited a museum except on school trip. The museums we visited during these trips were always historical museums so that we, as children, came to know more about our history. So the chance that I should come in contact with modern and contemporary art was as good as zero. At home, my grandparents and my older brother were most interested in cycle races and football. It looked to me as if their lives turned around sports. There was no interest in art or anything related to it, what so ever. My grandfather always said if you are shaken out from a worker’s pant, you will become a member of the labor class. So again, I should get in touch with art at home, was minimal.
I must be around 12 years old, when every Sunday I had to pay a visit to my mother’s place. She was living in Antwerp city. Why I went there is another story but it came down to the fact that when I arrived there, they sent me shopping, together with my 3 younger siblings, almost to the other side of the city. There was a butcher who had buy-one-get-one free meat sale on Sundays. It was also most probably to get rid of us, for a long while.
On the way to the market, we passed a big building. It was surrounded with a big lawn, with long steps, leading to a big gate between pillars. Each time I passed this building, it started interesting me more and more. I seemed some kind of castle to me. One Sunday, we entered the grounds of that building and started playing around the sculptures in the gardens. But it did not take long that a uniformed man came to send us out saying it was forbidden to play on the grass. Out of curiosity, I asked him what kind of building it was. He answered it was the Museum of fine arts and added it was not for the snot noses like us.
From that moment I could not get that old, giant looking palace out of my mind. A short time later, I went on my own to find out what was going inside. It took me a while and a lot of courage to get in, which is another story but when I got in, it was like an eye opener for me. There were paintings all around. Especially, the exhibition rooms with modern and contemporary art were so overwhelming, that I did not know where to look first and wanted to look everywhere at once. I walked from one room to the other in a daze. From then onwards, I visited the Royal museum of fine arts almost every week for years to come. It was during these weeks that I decided and made a promise to myself to create something just so special, as what I had seen in this museum.