Speech Karla Sanchez​ at the opening of '*Dooltocht/A desperate quest to find a base for hope’, M HKA, Antwerp

Finding a Base for Hope

Every artist has in her or his practice many choices regarding how to approach their subject matter, how to use this or that material, what to do about the formal aspects of the work.

We are in luck tonight as we will witness the choices that artist Els Dietvorst has taken over the last 15 years, all under one roof: Drawing, sculptures, installations, videos, performance…

In her case, her choices seem to flow organically, following the immense passion that fires her and everything she does.

Working as a socially engaged artist is not easy, it is a practice that takes a lot of time; it is very often a process full of challenges, and is, I believe, all about relationships – establishing a connection to others /to the other.

And this is where Els and her work are at her strongest.

Els’s work approaches issues such as massive migration, social conflict, homelessness, disregard towards nature and those who look after it, climate change, and our own mortality in a very personal and committed manner. Starting always with her as and individual, and the relationships she creates with other people and the world around her.

Human connection is fundamental, it is something that we are quickly losing in our contemporary societies without even realising.

Human connection is difficult, it involves uncertainty, vulnerability, empathy and TRUST.

And these are exactly the emotions that we are prone to encounter while engaging with Els’s work.

We are both working currently working in an Art Education project in Ireland, commissioned by Wexford County Council, in an effort to help teachers relate to their students through art in a different way, exploring the issues of belonging, identity, the environment and consumerism. We believe the understanding of these subjects is critical to the future of children. We want to promote skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, visual literacy and empathy.

There are many beautiful and moving pieces amongst this exhibition. And there are others that despite having been made ten years ago or longer seem to be more poignant and pertinent than ever.

Congratulations to Els on the many difficult choices she has had to make throughout the years.

I invite you to go through the exhibition with open eyes, open ears, an open heart and think about the choices that you will be making from this moment on.

Karla Sanchez