Sculpting for me is a journey through my feelings and emotions. Intuitively I choose a stone and never know beforehand what will become of it. I am guided by my feelings with due respect for the stone. I try to reveal 'that' from the stone which is already present. It is always a struggle, my struggle, to again and again reach that place where I have to let go, where I should not hold on to a certain shape, my shape. Once that struggle is over and I am going into that place together with the stone, I surrender. I allow myself to be led and to see…. And thereby I receive the most beautiful gifts: gifts of connection
Thanks to my teacher Dominique D'haese www.lieregaard.be
of Charlotte Backelandt with Maureen Thienpont
I came into contact with Maureen Thienpont via the website www.kunstiggavere.be of Gavere, the municipality I live in.
After watching several artists and their works, I chose for Maureen. Her work appealed to me the most, it was beautiful and clearly made with heart and soul. Via her website I could contact her. I sent her an email and quite soon after that, I received a response.
I met Maureen for the first time on November 3, 2016 at her home, after we previously had arranged this meeting. Despite that we lived in the same municipality, we never met until then. From the very moment we met, I felt welcome. Maureen is a highly pleasant and friendly woman. For sure a great atmosphere was present!
Maureen Thienpont is a 60-year old sculptress from Gavere. According to her, sculpting is a journey throughout her feelings and emotions. Maureen intuitively choses a stone, but she doesn’t know in advance what will emerge from it. She follows her felt sense with much respect for the stone, and attempts to reveal ‘that’ from the stone which already is present inside. She describes her working style as “intuitive, creative, and with heart and soul”.
Maureen is someone who works with lots of passion, and she is therefore immensely connected with her artworks. According to this artist, the world would look a great deal better if we would speak, work and live more often with our hearts. Paying a visit at her home is always possible, you can contemplate her artworks, and take a look in her art studio.
How did you find out you have a talent for sculpting?
Actually, I inherited those genes from my father. At the primary and high school level, I excelled at art workshops. I noticed I was creative in many aspects. For instance, when I hike in nature, I get inspired to create all kinds of things. In the bakery of my parents, I found it incredibly nice to decorate the shop window per season and per theme. This creativity ultimately expressed itself in more or less everything, such as for instance furnishing the house, landscape gardening, etc.
Fifteen years ago, I got to know Dominique D’haese from studio Lieregaard in Ghent, and she brought me into contact with sculpting with clay and stone. Ever since, this creativity has been gaining momentum. Creativity was always present inside me, but when I discovered sculpting, I could express myself the best.
Do you rather see sculpting as a profession or a hobby?
At most as a side-profession, because I have periods without motivation or inspiration for sculpting. Sometimes I have an enormous need for rest and space, in order to fully return able to sculpt again. When sculpting would be my profession, I most likely would feel too much pressure, and as a consequence, I would lose pure intuition and connection. In this case it would need to come from my head, and I cannot accomplish that.
How much do you sculpt?
I sculpt here at home, often in periods. Usually for several hours, a few days a week. But months during which I don’t sculpt at all also exist. Anyhow, every month I pay a visit to the art studio in Ghent because it’s always very inspirational. In this case I’m together with people who all share the same passion, and who therefore inspire each other.
Were you schooled in art, or what is your background as an artist?
I wasn’t trained in art. However, by learning-by-doing Dominique guided me into sculpting. She particularly took care of me now discovering what’s inside of myself, in order to express that to the outside world. I never received a technical training, but when I’m feeling stuck for a while I can get help from Dominique.
I saw on your website that you predominantly work with stone and also made some clay artworks. Why did you choose for these materials?
When Dominique first asked me whether I would like to attend a sculpting course of her, I thought that “cutting in stone” wouldn’t suit me. I thought this would feel way too heavy, and that was really the last thing on my mind. Molding in clay seemed, on the contrary, like a nice idea, so I got invited to clay in her art studio. Once I was there, I still was allowed to tryout cutting in stone. I started, and I couldn’t stop. Something I never had expected!
When I took a look in your portfolio, I often saw ‘the human being’ reoccurring. Is this your central theme? Why did you chose for this theme?
As I never know in advance what will emerge from a stone, I don’t really have a central theme. I may sound weird, but for me every stone has already something present inside, and the only thing I do, is to bring that to light what’s already there.
When I try to cut something particular out of a stone as an assignment, it feels twisted, the stone isn’t suitable for that, so this doesn’t work. For instance, if one would ask me to cut out a small dolphin out of a particular stone, I wouldn’t be able to.
Often, I start with “cleaning up” the stone, i.e. removing the outer crust. At some places you then feel that the stone is hard or soft. When it’s soft, I can cut deeper, leading to a first abstract shape. I then continue to work like this, and refine further. Sometimes large or small pieces break of, which then lead me into a new direction. In this way, I let myself be guided. Often, the final result is a surprise, and that makes it so interesting! The curiosity of what the stone will bring makes me enormously enthusiastic.
From what source do the ideas of your artworks arise?
Strangely enough they arise in the moment, I never have a preconceived idea. I though discovered something: when I create a sculpture on someone’s request, each time a part of the personality of that person will become reflected in the stone. It may sound crazy, but it’s like that.
This happens each time I create art works for others. I think I unconsciously tune into these people, and as a consequence arrive at a specific end result. I don’t notice much about this process, until the person says what he or she notices. I find it also very amusing I get requests from foreign countries. For this reason, I created already art works for someone from America, Italy, France, Germany and of course also Belgium.
Is art kind of your outlet?
At first, art was mainly a discovery of myself, my resistances and struggles, by letting go, not holding on to a specific form, and by surrendering to the moment. For me, art also has a spiritual dimension because art is performed by feeling, intuition, and particularly with the heart.
Where do you create your artworks? Here, at your home, or do you have an art studio at a different location?
Here at my home in my art studio and in Atelier Lieregaard in Ghent. You’re always welcome to have a look.
I read on your website that you never know beforehand what you will create, because you follow your intuition with much respect for the stone. Do you never make a sketch in advance?
No, never at all. It is just that which gives me a sense of enthusiasm and curiosity. Because I really do not know in advance what the stone will bring.
I also read that you, thanks to sculpturing, receive the most beautiful gifts of connection. What do you intend by this?
By this I mean that eventually everything is interconnected, you could call it spiritual, but even in physics it is known that everything is energy. I’m not informed enough about physics to further elaborate on this, I can only share my experience. When I connect myself with a stone, and when I surrender, then I become one with that stone, and then this stone gives me the most beautiful gift, the gift of connection.
How would you describe your own artwork?
I could say a lot about this, but what it boils down to is that my artworks are, one by one, gifts of connection.
How do you know when your artwork is finished?
For fear of negative criticism I sometimes told my art work was not yet finished, which had to do with my fear of being rejected. Currently, I don’t suffer from that anymore. I follow my feeling and when it’s ready, it’s ready.
What is one of the highlights of your art life?
The creation of a stone for a woman from Paris was certainly a highlight. From the beginning to the end it was a pleasure to work on that stone, I felt blissful. When I met her and gave her the stone, I told her how nice it was to work on her stone, what peace and pleasure it brought me. She told me that she “coincidently” had a very nice time as well, and that she felt happy. In the center of this white alabaster stone, there is a blue core which shows a little heart. How beautiful can it be!
From 19 to 21 September 2016 you participated in the group exposition in CC De Zwaan in Nazareth. Where can we view your artworks now? When will you exhibit again?
When you contact me, I’m always willing to show my artworks at my home. The next exposition will be held next year. Then, an art trail will take place in Gavere, and I will exhibit in the old pastory of Semmerzake. My website also informs to which future expositions I will participate.
What artists do inspire you?
Unfortunately I know very little about artists. Nonetheless, for me August Rodin, Camille Claudel and Constantin Brancusi stand out. When I watch their sculptures I immediately become silent. They are heavenly, and move me very deeply.
What advice would you give to young starting artists?
Follow your heart and intuition, but particularly your enthusiasm! Don’t do it to become famous or important, but out of love for art.
Finally some quotes from artists. It would be very nice if you could share with me your thoughts on these.
“A gift or talent is not enough, you will also need an enormous amount of will power”.
I would formulate it differently. Art lets you become acquainted with your deepest self. If you have that gift, and you, for instance, work as a sculptor, you could get confronted with yourself and come across resistances and parts of yourself you might not like that much. It is important to see these resistances and overcome them. I personally interpret will power more as something that comes from the head: you need to persevere, to achieve, and to become famous. According to me, this is not the right way of thinking. I would name this rather conquering, by letting you get inspired, no matter what happens.
“There’s a big difference between art and creativity. Art is an individual reflection on society, in the sense that it could bring a new meaning to the spectator.“
Without creativity, art cannot be accomplished, so they are intertwined anyhow. The difference is that one could be creative in anything. One could, for instance, decorate a plate, but also make an artwork from it. With art, one tries to awaken something. I’m not really concerned about this, but if it happens, it’s nice.
”Art can save the world when enough aesthetic courses would be given.”
When you take a course on aesthetics, or are involved in art, you are more involved with your feelings and heart than with your mind. Nowadays, we reside more and more in the head, so less time and space are available to contemplate, and to listen to our heart. One is currently mainly focused on achievement and competition, which can come in handy, but I’m convinced that it would be a very good thing when people on Earth would work more with heart and soul. Aesthetics is a nice pathway leading there.
According to me, art is an expression of one’s emotions and feelings, but also a way to make something clear to others. What is art for you? Do you agree with my definition?
I don’t have the intention to awaken or make something clear to others. When I’m creating a sculpture I’m just connected with that stone and full of enthusiasm for what will come out of it. Would that stone in hindsight bring an image or a vision to the outside world, then that’s great, but it’s not the reason why I created the work. What’s the definition of art? My take on it is that it’s different for everyone.
Maureen’s work certainly intrigues me. One can clearly see what her sculptures mean, and it’s never far-fetched. I’m someone not deeply involved in art, but when I heard about the stories around Maureen’s art works, I was enormously fascinated! Each of her art works has a wonderful story, sometimes even with a magical side. For me, she is an authentic artist who connects herself to the world of the stone with great pleasure.
It was very nice to interview Maureen. From the beginning till the end I felt enormously welcome. She was open for all my questions and answered all of them very clearly and extensively. The interview went very smoothly, and it was nice to listen to Maureen’s many stories.
One thing is certain, I’m enormously happy I met Maureen. Thanks to her I learned to know the beautiful and also magical side of art. Her magnificent stories opened my eyes. Art can certainly give a nice meaning to something.
My attitude towards art is partly changed. On the one hand I still believe a piece of unprocessed wood is just a piece of wood, and should not be called art. On the other hand I’m more open to the story or explanation associated with the artwork. In the past I found this often excuses to let certain objects seem like art, but once one really listens, there’s sometimes something to it.
When I went looking for artists, I was surprised by the large number of people involved. I don’t know anybody in my direct environment who is so passionate as Maureen. It was great to get to know someone who spoke with such pleasure about her stones. Maureen is a woman with a lot of life experience and passion, and I can definitely learn from that.