Barak Lili M resident Ilke Cop

Ilke Cop's studio clearly shows who she is as an artist. Although her practice is still young, she does have a clear history leading to the current art expression. During our conversation she gives insight into her way of working, the development of her ideas and how she came to paint.

Ilke Cop started her career as an art historian, a characteristic that remains visible in her current work. During that period she became acquainted with the subjects that still intrigue her, such as the portrayal of women in history and how the female artist (re)presents herself in art. This explains why her work is permeated with references to art history. In addition, those references are also a personal reflection. By presenting herself in self-portraits, she explicitly searches for the positioning of the female artist and the definition by society. In this way she continuously strives for a balance between being an aesthetic person and offering content. That content focuses on contemporary and historical points of discussion, where privilege and a colonial past are never far away. In new series, the artist explores her own position as a privileged woman and the role of a colonial legacy in her work, realizing the power of the image and wanting to use it in a positive way. Her goal is that the work immediately affects the viewer and that there is a trigger to think or to do research.
In addition to paintings, Cop also makes works in textiles, which have enormous aesthetic and substantive power. Textiles have always been somewhat of the realm of the female, but instead of being a muse or object, the woman in this situation is the artist and creator of the work itself. Using textiles in her art practice has her roots in a previous career path: her own fashion label. After her art history studies, Ilke felt that she still wanted to do something creative, which manifested itself in a fashion education. The creations on her label received rave reviews in their own country and were also noticed in fashion capitals such as Paris and even Seoul. However, the bigger the brand got, the less room there was for creativity and that started to gnaw after a while. By reflecting on the question of whether a fashion label was really what she wanted and after thorough reflection, she came to the decision to phase out the collections and dedicate herself to art for art's sake. In fact, she first picked up the brush, a moment that changed her life and gave it a different direction.
Although the fashion chapter is really closed for her, much of this episode sticks in her imagery. It is thanks to these previous experiences that the artist was able to develop her own sensitivity, maturity and aesthetics, which also allowed her to develop her own style within her art in a short time. The support on the rich image bank in her head and knowledge of art history have been important here. Since you really start from scratch with visual arts and don't have the 'limitation' of the human body as with fashion, anything is possible. The possibilities are endless and at the same time intimidating. However, this can also give you a lot of freedom. Cop has taught himself painting largely independently with the help of a few practical books (which are not numerous) and above all by looking a lot at others. She feels strongly attracted to the Flemish Primitives, who provide a great deal of insight into technique and the use of oil paint, but who also belong to Flemish art history.
Painting itself and turning an idea into a work, meanwhile, are easy as it feels so natural and really coincides with what she wants to do. How something should be finished is a lot more difficult. In order to develop herself as a person and an artist, she regularly visits fellow artists who teach her a lot and enable the creation of a community of makers. There are so many talented people in her environment, but working together is out of the question due to the personal nature of her own work. She does like to work with professionals who also operate in the art world, such as galleries that are on the same level in terms of professionalism and ideas. For example, there is currently a group exhibition in Shame Gallery, which represents queer and female artists. At the end of January, a solo project will also start as a guest artist at Tatjana Pieters Gallery in Ghent. Her contacts with fellow artists and professionals from the art world are her most cherished contacts and she also finds many like-minded people within the Hyster-x collective that her twin sister founded. The womxn collective is mainly concerned with word and Ilke joins in this by writing a lot about her art herself and by preserving the connection between the word and the image. Language can enhance and deepen the meaning of a work, but above all it wants to leave room to the viewer to extract its own elements and to have the option of its own interpretation.
Upcoming exhibitions:
Shame Gallery, Pretty Ugly: the deconstruction of beauty, until 11/02 (including work by former Barak Lili M resident Nina Van denbempt)
Tatjana Pieters Gallery, Prolific, 29/01 – 06/03
Website Ilke Cop
Ilke Cop on IG
Barak Lili M is Pilar's breeding ground for young, artistic and cultural entrepreneurs. Barak Lili M consists of 2 rehearsal rooms for musicians, 3 art studios and a workspace for creative entrepreneurs.
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Written by Ella Oelbrandt

Mainly self-taught photographer and sociologist. Focussing on Brussels, human movement and culture.

12 January 2022
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