Siska Lyssens is a freelance writer who navigates the worlds of contemporary art, fashion, architecture and design. Born in Belgium, she spent 7 years in London, thriving on the buzzing city’s boundless creativity. She now lives in Antwerp, taking in the historic city’s creative offering to the fullest.
As a writer for Wallpaper*, Disegno and Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia, and other lifestyle titles, Siska has had the privilege of meeting many of today’s most talented designers and artists, honing her critical eye and mind along the way. In 2018 Siska will be on the Expert Judging Panel for the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize.
Lisa: We’re thrilled that you are on the judging panel for this year’s JOPP. How important do you think awards and prizes are to artists today, and have you seen the positive effects of awards and prizes on artists in the past?
Siska: Awards and prizes can be useful to artists in that it may make them more aware of the work of other artists around them – if they are interested in that of course! The exposure to potential buyers and galleries is the main take-away that they can expect, and I think that also the prize money is of course a great thing, seeing as many artists are struggling today – especially in London with rent prices for studios being so expensive. I know that Emma Hart really benefited from winning the Max Mara Art Prize – I interviewed her in Florence – as it gave her peace and quiet to work and the great opportunity to show at Whitechapel Gallery.
Lisa: What will you be looking for in the entries submitted?
Siska: I think the first impression of an artwork is – or must be – always a visceral one, that sense of awe the Romantics spoke of. So I don’t think that initial connection can be put into words, but I do know that I am usually drawn towards either strongly personal and original figurative painting (like Bacon or Freud) or strongly emotional graphic work that employs light and architecture (like Turrell).
Lisa: What were your exhibition highlights in 2017?
Siska: There were so many! In London, I really loved seeing Alice Neel’s ‘Uptown’ at Victoria Miro, for her touching and respectful portraiture of African Americans, but also for the curation by Hilton Als – one of my favorite culture critics. His insightful commentary made it even better. In Belgium, I visited the Nendo exhibition at Grand Hornu, a great retrospective of the Japanese designer’s oeuvre that really opened my eyes to his genius, and I revisited the Middelheim sculpture park in Antwerp to view the open-air Richard Deacon show, which was brilliant. The Martin Margiela exhibition at Antwerp’s Fashion Museum, also, was a great tribute and testament to this Belgian designer’s genius approach to fashion design.
Lisa: What are you looking forward to in the new year, art-wise? Do you have any hot tips for artists to look out for?
Siska: I’ll be visiting the Jean Michel Basquiat exhibition right before it closes at the Barbican in London at the beginning of January – I’m so glad I’ll be able to squeeze that in. Next year, Antwerp has a ‘Rubens Year’, and lots of contemporary artists will be creating work around this Flemish Master’s oeuvre in and around the city – which should be interesting. Apart from that, I think the MET’s Heavenly Bodies exhibit should be great and I hope to be in New York for that. In terms of hot tips for artists – I’m looking forward to seeing what the Antwerp artist Rinus Van De Velde will create this year.
Lisa: You write not only about visual art, but interiors, fashion, and a lot of other aspects of contemporary culture. How important is painting today, and how do you think the influence of painting feeds into other areas of contemporary culture, if at all?
Siska: I think painting will always be relevant to contemporary art, seeing as so much of art history hinges upon it. The way we still tend to experience art by just standing in front of it is a clear indication of how painting has shaped our perceptions. Sketching and painting are still important parts of the process for installation artists as well, so I think the impact it has is mostly in our ‘ways of seeing’.
Lisa: Who are your top 3 painters ever, today (if you’re anything like me they change all the time!!)
Siska: This is such a hard question, and yes, they change all the time, but these ones will always be in my general top 10, in no particular order: Luc Tuymans, Marlene Dumas, Amadeo Modigliani.
Lisa: What is a typical day for an arts writer like?
Siska: I have the luxury of not having to wake up early every day, so most days I get up between 8-9 am, do yoga and have breakfast while taking in the news and reading. I need it for creative clarity – rushing things completely throws me off balance. I think most of my day is taken up by reading, emailing and researching, once I have an idea or a pitch that’s been accepted, the writing part goes fairly quickly. I’ll also have meetings here and there, and attend events in the evening so that I keep my networking on point!
Lisa: Do you have any advice for any artists considering entering our competition?
Siska: I have always liked the idea that for artists or creative minds, doing what they do is the only thing they can do. So all I could possibly advise is: trust your instincts and take chances.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Siska: I write for the printed version of Wallpaper* regularly and for Harpers’ Bazaar Art Arabia, and I contributed to the coffee-table book for the Brussels fashion exhibition at Bozar from 2 years ago, named ‘The Belgians’, published by Lannoo. Otherwise, do visit my website to see a selection of my online features on www.siskalyssens.com
Header Image: Siska Lyssens
To enter the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize visit http://www.jacksonspaintingprize.com