Bart Lodewijks & Jan Kempenaers Kerselare Drawings and Photographs (Part 3)
Bart Lodewijks & Jan Kempenaers Kerselare Drawings and Photographs (Part 3) In memoriam Juliaan Lampens (1926-2019)
â€˜Unfortunately, it is usually the case with architecture that the physical implementation is little more than the mortal remains of your dream.â€™ Juliaan Lampens
Our fathers Lemberge, 3 April 2020 Dear Dieter, With some hesitation, since a message from father to son is of course very personal and not meant for sharing, I am enclosing a message I once received from my father. In it, he casts his light on chalk, concrete and uprights. It is, in part, because I had the honour of getting so close to your father that I send you the message below in confidence. Warm regards, Bart Zutphen, 1 April 2020 Dear Bart, Read your text with great pleasure and enjoyed the photos from your joint project in Kerselare: what a wonderful combination of looking through the lens and seeing with a yardstick, supplemented with written reminiscences. I was struck by the word ‘brutalism’, which I had never encountered before. Upon closer examination, it turns out to refer to the architectural style by which Lampens and others articulated their vision. Hard concrete and rigid uniformity. The intricacy of the design must become especially important in such cases. I feel that you two have wonderfully illuminated that with your drawings, text and photos. I found the bit about the removal of the uprights particularly entertaining. It could almost be a metaphor for our polarized society. We invent a danger (collapse), protect ourselves against it (an upright), minimize the danger (centimetre gap in support) and ultimately the myth is deflated (uprights removed). In the end, it’s all just a recirculation of air, fortunately not dangerous in this case, but such recirculations often have dangerous consequences. I thought this sentence was wonderful: A drawing doesn’t weigh down on earth like concrete. It so adequately expresses the subtlety of the drawing versus the roughness of the concrete. Much love, Papa
Semmerzake, 14 May 2020 Dear Bart and Jan, Such an initiative, by which symbolic value is created for culturally valuable historical heritage in an honourable, respectful and highquality manner is more than commendable. It deserves the requisite attention, support and realization potential – not only for the way it showcases itself, but also for the attention it focuses on the object of study and consideration. Beyond that, it contributes with honour and respect to the promotion and accessibility of that heritage for a wider audience. Under the auspices of proposing the project Kerselare Drawings and Photographs, we had a meeting with my parents on 7 April 2017. There we planted the seed for a long-term project and, indeed, partnership with the approval of my father – Juliaan Lampens. A certain artistic kinship was immediately apparent between you and him, if nothing else, because of your mutual affinity for chalk: my father’s sketching hand on the blackboard wall in his studio, where the chapel in Kerselare first took shape before it was built from 1963 to 1966; your practiced, chalk-drawing hand that ties together public, and not-so-public, places with, for and by the people through all kinds of weather. The idea of incorporating the chapel into your oeuvre started to mature and gradually take shape from that point on. I have followed the project’s execution with particular interest: the drawings on the chapel, the photos by Jan and your subsequent writings all constitute a valuable tribute to my father. (…) My father always attached great value to the craft of drawing. Your project is a true embodiment of that. This project brings art and architecture closer together. Dieter Lampens Chair of the Juliaan Lampens vzw That letter from Dieter Lampens/vzw Juliaan Lampens was part of an application to the Flemish Community requesting financial support for this publication – a request that the Flemish Community granted. 17
Longer, straighter, more resolute and more assured There are no buildings made to be drawn on with chalk, I always say. Four years ago, the artist Mark Manders pointed out to us that, not far from where he lived in Ronse, there was a building that did, in fact, seem designed for drawing on in chalk. I didnâ€™t know the chapel, though I did know that Lampens was a brutalist architect. It was not until later that I discovered that he and I were on the same line. My life's motto is that my lines are like footsteps. The lines are straight; they represent the shortest path between two points. But how true is that, really? Might it not be that my chalk lines are, in fact, the longest conceivable connection between two points? Is that what makes the drawings what they are? You may not be able to tell from the drawings themselves, but to make those straight lines, I have to take twisting paths and extreme detours. Those lines may directly gravitate between two points, but they never take the shortest route. Which two points, exactly, are being connected here? In an effort to determine that, I drew every intersection point, vanishing point and viewpoint imaginable on the chapel, but I never found that one point that seemed so logical to me: Lampens. I had visited him once in the De Lichtervelde nursing home in Eke and made a second acquaintance with him through his chapel in Kerselare. I experienced the sadness of his passing and kept in close contact with his family, including his son Dieter, but I never figured Lampens out. I drew on the Virgin Mary statue at the entrance to the pilgrimage site three times; my reverence bordered on the sacrilegious. I drew on the small devotional recesses of the circumambulation and then placed the first lines on the chapel. The drawings became longer, straighter, more resolute and more assured. I was increasingly less concerned with the building itself. And Jan? We were in step with one another. He â€˜tookâ€™ photos and examined my lines with me. Though we did that from the very beginning, it gradually became more automatic. Our work at the chapel fused together; we were able to interact without giving it a second thought. 25
No spring classic Every year, the Tour of Flanders, one of the Spring Classics of cycling, passes within a stone’s throw of the chapel, but the chapel never gets shown on TV. I thought it would be a wonderful tribute to Juliaan Lampens if the helicopter cameras showed some aerial footage of the chapel. That idea took hold in my mind shortly after he died on 5 November 2019. Aerial shots of the chapel and a live broadcast on hundreds of thousands of television screens around the world would finally give this architectural masterpiece its due. But this year, of course, the corona virus swept through Belgium. People were mandated to remain at home as much as possible. And Antwerp, where Jan lives, was even under a curfew at night. All of the cycling classics were cancelled, with the Tour of Flanders postponed. The entire country was depressed now that even the ‘High Mass’, the Catholic-inspired nickname of the Tour, had succumbed to the corona pandemic. Hoping for the best, I lit a candle in the chapel. A small candle costs fifty cents; a larger one, which burns longer, two-and-a-half euros. I chose the one that burned longer, because the greatest cycling event in Belgium had only ever been cancelled once: during the First World War.
This meeting stays between us On the other hand, the long respite this year has been comforting and contemplative, perfectly in keeping with Lampensâ€™ passing. His loss could be avowed in dignified silence. The encounters between Lampens and me, Lampens and Jan and Jan and me are hardly worthy of TV. No, the viewing public just wants to see hunched backs biking along concrete roads and cobblestone streets, watch the grass growing for hours on end and, above all, not be distracted by the beauty along the way. But it is spring no longer, and autumn is around the corner.
Equal value Jan and I both think there needs to be a printed book. Spread out on the table are prints of the photos Jan has taken of the chapel, its surroundings and my drawings over the past two-and-a-half years. The prints only measure 10 cm x 10 cm and still the table is too small. We start making a rough selection: photos of drawings and photos of the surrounding area. The best photos are marked with a red dot in the upper left corner; the somewhat lesser ones get an orange dot; and the undecided ones â€“ far and away the most â€“ land in a separate pile. The photos of the drawings and the chapelâ€™s surroundings all hold equal value for all of us, though the series of straight lines I did on the roof of the chapel during the lockdown are particularly dear to my heart.
On the roof From up on the roof, I looked out over a serene, nearly unpopulated landscape. The only figure I saw was Jan walking around, or I would hear ‘clickety-clack’ and know where he was. It was perfectly silent, even the wind lay still. My eye fell upon the small chapel near the entrance to this pilgrimage site, standing in the shade of eight ancient linden trees in their autumn finery. If the original chapel had not burned down in 1960, I would not be standing here now. My light-blue face mask was draped over the box of chalk lying diagonally against the slope of the roof – an alien landed down beside me. The steel-blue sky was somehow grotesque and frightening: how far into it could I see? Meanwhile, all the competing line drawers of the airspace had cleared the stage, making way for us to speak. I drew a long, dead-straight line on the roof: a fundamental, rigid and essential line beholding to nothing and nobody. I was no longer seeking to converge with Lampens’ body of thought; I had become one with his ethics, knew the chapel’s aesthetic. Jan and I had written ourselves into the history of the place. We waited a couple weeks for the rain to wash the line off the roof. Then I drew a line diagonally across the length of the roof. This one was longer and more ruthless than the one before, as if I wanted to keep my grip on the chapel, to overpower it. We waited again for that line to be washed away, and then I launched into the coda.
Final photo ‘Speaking of Lampens,’ I say, as we are choosing photos, ‘he never screamed for attention, but maybe he secretly prayed for more of it.’ ‘We can’t know that,’ mutters Jan. ‘He definitely dreamed of fame, though; that’s par for the course.’ ‘Ethics, aesthetics and history: that is all we need to construct a good book,’ I say, placing a big red dot in the upper left corner of a photo print of the roof on which you can barely make out a line. ‘Why are you picking that photo?’ asks Jan. ‘It’s the last one you took.’ ‘But it’s not that great: the contrast is too high; you can’t see the drawing.’ ‘It might well be the most important photo you took.’ ‘Well, then shouldn’t you put a chalk stripe on the photo instead of a dot?’ he teases. I look at the overexposed photo until I can project myself into it. I see a puny human on the roof of the chapel furiously drawing the last chalk line.
Last line All alone, I was, up there on the roof, and the sun was brutally bright. The chalk line was so intensely white it hurt my eyes. Everything else around me fell away into dark shadows. Jan tried to capture the line from the path encircling the pilgrimage site, but his efforts were in vain. With that much backlighting, the only thing you could see in the photo was a bright spot outshining everything. I think of Godelieve, who as a small child had watched the old chapel go up in flames from the opposite hills with her mother â€“ a bright spot shining out in its surroundings. I, too, had been blinded by something dazzling: the line of chalk on the roof. But this time, there was no fire, no smoke, no ash, no drama. Eventually, not a trace of chalk would be left on the building. All that would remain would be photos of the drawings and the memories in my head. This time, there was no need to build a new chapel, just a book as monument. I am reminded of something Lampens said: â€˜Unfortunately, it is usually the case with architecture that the physical implementation is little more than the mortal remains of your dream.â€™ The first raindrops started to fall. The roofing, the black material I had drawn on, a near equivalent to the blackboard wall in the studio in Eke where it all began, would once again become a clean slate. I climbed down off the roof and brushed the chalk from my hands. The building had changed without a single block being moved. With both feet planted firmly on the ground, I walked along the concrete path that Lampens had laid half a century ago and counted myself lucky.
The autumn classic The Spring Classic of Flanders ultimately took place in the autumn of 2020, on 18 October, to be exact. The big suspense was whether the television cameras filming the competition would show the chapel. When the riders crossed through Edelare, I caught a glimpse of the car park where the Virgin Mary statue is. But the cameraman only had eyes for the two front runners, who seemed very well matched. Two points cycling through the landscape connected by a single line. Air was being recirculated with tremendous exertion. ‘Do they have grinta* or will it end in indignation?’ the sports commentator wondered, providing plenty of substance for thought. The riders were headed for the finish line, or rather, ‘home’. They were thirty kilometres away from their final destination. The chapel had already disappeared behind the ridge of the mountain, Edelareberg. Next spring it will pop up again during the High Mass, traditionally scheduled for the first Sunday of April. Let the countdown begin.
* ‘Grinta’ is a term the Flemish cycling commentators use a great deal; it means something like ‘grit’ or ‘determination’, ‘a desire to win’. The word derives from Gothic, where it means ‘enraged’ and ‘angry’. It is not so far-fetched, then, that grinta came to mean ‘a fighting attitude’: someone who gets really angry does indeed look combative and determined. 79
Epilogue Shortly after Lampens died, the yellow steel uprights were removed, as if in answer to his last wish. It was an honour to be present as they were hauled off. But the uprights had not been the only thorn in his side: there were a few other matters that needed to be â€˜put rightâ€™. Instead of wooden pews, the original design had had concrete benches and those needed to be restored. The large carpet covering the raised altar was sacrilege and should be removed. The roofing had been thought up by some idiot roofer and should be torn off so that moss could grow freely on the concrete roof. And the concrete rot should be covered with a coating that would not cause harm to the building: a specialist had already circled the rotted sections with yellow pastel crayon. Somewhere in the future lies a point when the chapel will be complete.
Bart Lodewijks & Jan Kempenaers Kerselare Drawings and Photographs (Part 3) Drawings and text Bart Lodewijks Photographs Jan Kempenaers Editing Danielle van Zuijlen Proofreading of the Dutch Lucy Klaassen Translation Dutch-English Nina Woodson Design Roger Willems & Dongyoung Lee Publisher Roma Publications, Amsterdam This project is the initiative of Bart Lodewijks and Jan Kempenaers, with gratitude for the support of the city of Oudenaarde, the O.L.V. Geboortekerk Pamele and the Lampens family. Special thanks to Juliaan Lampens and Dieter Lampens. ROMA 378c © Bart Lodewijk, Jan Kempenaers, Roma Publications, 2020
Kerselare Drawings and Photographs (Part 3) by Bart Lodewijks & Jan Kempenaers. In memoriam Juliaan Lampens (1926-2019)
Published on Nov 5, 2020
Kerselare Drawings and Photographs (Part 3) by Bart Lodewijks & Jan Kempenaers. In memoriam Juliaan Lampens (1926-2019)