Bart Ramakers was born in Belgium in 1963, near Maaseik, the Van Eycks brothers hometown. Under the influence of his father, an art amateur, he absorbs everything he can find on painting, history, typography and printing at the town library. At twelve, he starts writing and illustrating stories before applying to an art school. Later on, he learns graphic tricks at the academy of Maasmechelen, including the technique of engraving. Meanwhile, he discovers the Fantastic Symphony, Faust, Boris Godounov, Othello, the Rite of Spring and Lady Macbeth... a sounding and narrative landscape which perfectly aligns with his drawings.
The source of his work can be found in all these artworks with, as main ingredients the narrative form and the pictorial of baroque and romantic music and painting. In the 70s, he follows an art course in history at the University of Louvain. By then, his own artistic work was mainly composed of only black and white drawings and comics stripe. His first drawings show in Louvain is such a success that all his work pieces are sold. Under the influence of Rubens or Manara, the female nudity was already an important element of his work at that time. Within twenty years and two marriages, Bart Ramakers did his career in communication and marketing. On the side, he fed his artistic themes with movies after operas, cartoons after novels, travels after travels, until the time when in 2009, he started his own artistic career. At the core of Bart Ramakers work lie classical myths, fables and legends, colored in a contemporary perspective, filled with harrowing human feelings like passion and treason, love and hate, desire and jealousy... In Bart’s work, male/female relationships are tilted by a sarcastic irony. The Christian moral of suffering and guilt is transformed into a story of joy and generosity where references to art history abound.
Which picture left a mark on you ?!
Rubens. Uncommon lights.
If we were to remember only one of your pictures ?
«War of the Roses». When I started with this style of photos it was a discovery. Before, I used to photograph naked women staged as many others are. And then, finally, I realized that I wanted to tell mythological stories and tales. I realized that I wanted to tell something different. My very first own photography was the «Voyage à Cythère», a circus company with the tattooed model on the train. And I thought I wanted to make a great work to put in a hotel or in a church and that is how «War of the Roses» was born. There are many genesis of photographs in my work. There are some for which I am very rational, others more spontaneous. In «War of the Roses» it was more of a vision. I saw it waking up one morning and then I only had to find the model, the outfits, the place. All in all, it took me one year to gather all these puzzle pieces. We shot in a desacralized church!
Can you tell us about a place you like ?
I have been into a museum in London called the John Soane Museum, a very narrow house of one of the architect for the National Bank of London. The house was saturated with Greek and Roman sculptures and there was no room left on walls or on the ceiling. It was as if I was in this architect’s brain and at the same time in the catacombs of our Western civilization. I felt home there. Why don’t you use black and white ? Because black and white enables to get a graphic effect very easily. The biggest challenge for me was to find a pictorial aesthetic with color. I experimented a lot to give this varnish aged and transparent look. Even if Fred does black and white and that the Polaroid technique is still marvelous !
Jack-of-all-trades, you put your hand on design, photography and painting.Any other desire after that ?
It’s a trick isn’t it? (laughs) I must tell you that I have been often asked why I wasn’t doing any video as I am telling stories. I am doing some backstages but that’s all. So I am going to try on video in a castle with mirrors interplays and eccentric characters but without taking picture, just the movement. The great challenge is that it deals with continuous light diffusion.