Despite the restrictions issued by the Italian government, Andrea Festa Fine Art reopened its door to the public with the double solo exhibition of artists Tom Poelmans and Danilo Stojanović, showcasing their works for the first time in Italy.
The artists participated in the opening on Mar. 7: on that occasion, they had the chance to meet the Roman visitors and talk about the themes and imagery characterizing their art. The two semi-arcs in Andrea’s home gallery divide the space into two symmetrical rooms, whose domestic aspect and intimate feel make it the perfect space to host a double solo show.
This month, we’re looking at Belgian artist Tom Poelmans’s half of this double show, The Hidden History, curated by Domenico de Chirico. The exhibition features five new artworks: The Gathering, Pink Portrait, Mascot, DayDreamer, and Chimaera.
Antwerp-born artist Tom Poelmans studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 2010. From the very beginning of his career, not feeling very confident in his artistic abilities, he almost exclusively experimented with abstract painting.
But when he went to Florence, he was enchanted by the pre-Renaissance works of Giotto and the imperfection of his proportions. Today, the works of the Italian Medieval artist, who lived between the late thirteenth century and the early fourteenth century, mark the end of the Middle Ages and the start of the Renaissance in the history of art.
These intentional tiny mistakes somehow resonated with the artist who, at some point, felt it was “clear that I had to use drawing in my paintings,” although he yet wasn’t extremely confident about this technique.
During his one-month residency in Los Angeles in 2020, however, he decided to experiment with drawings for the first time, which turned out to be a game-changer for his career. On the occasion of his exhibition The End of Time at Galerie Rodolphe Janssen in 2020, he finally presented some of his first figurative works. For his following exhibition at Andrea Festa Fine Art in Rome, he chose to display both abstract and figurative paintings.
“I like telling stories with my works,” he says. “I don’t have a plan nor I make preparatory sketches.” As for the main piece featured in The Hidden History, titled Chimaera, he started painting with the idea of a field in his mind, a field that, for some reason, cannot be crossed.
“I like this kind of suggestive elements in a painting,” he says. “I like art history and symbolism and myths. It’s the influence that Renaissance has on me.”
Instead, the making of his other painting Mascot started with Tom’s idea of a mask—a portrait of himself—that is looking up, on which he worked for 2-3 weeks. But then he told himself that might be too predictable, so he added the smaller elements that surround the mask—a shell, an apple, a flower in a glass.
“I like unpredictable things,” he says. “I like to be surprised even myself as a painter, which is also the reason why I don’t draw before I start painting.” For this piece, he took inspiration from the objects that decorate his studio: toys, memorabilia, Greek sculptures. In doing so, Tom plays with these symbols and metaphors to create his own world, which reminds him of his studio in his hometown.
“This is a representation of my studio surrounding me, literally,” he says. “Perhaps, the apple is a symbol for Adam and Eve. The flower in the water is life. This—he’s pointing at a small sculpture—is wisdom in a way, I don’t know why. Tomorrow it might become something else.”
Regard his collaboration with the owner of the home gallery that hosts his works, Tom says Andrea saw his works on Instagram for the first time, after which they got in touch at the beginning of 2021. The artist finds it interesting to see his works exhibited outside of a gallery and hanging on the walls of someone’s private apartment, judging that “it works very well here.”
Since 2010, Tom Poelmans has been exhibiting internationally in group and solo shows, including his exhibitions The Eternal Sunday at The Cabin LA in Los Angeles, The Human Condition at Kusseneers Gallery in Brussels, and We Do A Solo at Souterrain in Antwerp.