The story why visual artist Pierre Mertens (Antwerp °1953) is obsessed with the tension between the masses and the individual, immediately touches you. The short life of his daughter Liesje (1978-1989) brought him from painting to global activism. Through a series of medical blunders, he focused from the early eighties onwards on raising awareness about the complex and uncertain conditions of hydrocephalus and spina bifida (open back) of which she too suffered.
Mertens responds to a society that strives for perfection and eliminates suffering. When not working in the studio, but in the world becomes primary — and you can take that very literally with numerous campaigns and projects in Africa and South America — it is not surprising that in situ work is the main format for Pierre Mertens.
He calls himself a contextual artist. His work is both aesthetically and ethically confronting and often revolves around social art projects on homeless people, the elderly, asylum seekers, unemployed migrants, social exclusion, AIDS and so on. A more recent project is the memorial in Tanzania for deceased children with disabilities (2019).
Over time, Mertens has built up a remarkable oeuvre in which his work as a visual artist, psychotherapist and development collaborator blends seamlessly into one another. This exceptional combination of activities has stood in the way of recognition after a brilliant start, but is now more topical than ever.
The large format (2 x 11.5m) paintings in Loving Care portray children with an untreated hydrocephalus. With this series Mertens as an artist-activist, wants to draw attention to a global health problem that affects about 1 million children every year. In addition, a series of works are shown which are directly related to other works of Mertens related to spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
Photos Walter Saenen – https://www.waltersaenen.com/
The opening took place Sunday 27 September 2020 with a conversation between Prof. Dr. Dirk De Wachter and Pierre Mertens on the art of caring.Blikfabriek, Antwerp
Open till Sunday 25 October 2020
Free access from Thursday to Sunday from 2pm to 6pm