Home News In The Spotlight: Philippe Timmermans

The making of…

In his atelier in Zottegem in the Flemish Ardennes Philippe still works in the traditional way; hand covered in clay. He molds his creations step by step in the company of absolute silence or accompanied by classical music.

This is how the inspiration flows. Philippe suddenly ‘sees’ a sculpture in something happening around him. Once the ‘image’ has taken clear shape in his head, Philippe seeks out a model and organizes a photoshoot that helps visualize the pose he had imagined. Once this is done, the sculpting can begin. The artist starts out by creating the torso, step by step, in all its details. He molds the hands and the head separately, and once the body is completely finished, he puts the pieces together. Posture and proportions are key in this phase. Throughout the process he adds fine lines, the textures, into the clay. Thus, he finishes the sculpture until he finds perfection. Perfection and a high level of quality, those are the words often used when talking about Philippe.

When is the sculpture ready to go to the bronze caster? According to Philippe, the totality of the proportions needs to be right. To do this he trusts in his own intuitive frame of reference, to feel when these proportions are just right. His sculptures are never exact copies of his models. “I work with models, but I do not recreate models. The final sculpture is a form of idealization”, he says about the matter.

That’s when the hard part comes, the letting go. The passion is that enormous… Philippe easily spends 4 to 6 weeks working on one sculpture. Then he makes the mold and that is brought to the bronze caster.

Timmermans’s sculptures are available in different sizes. ‘Mansize’ sculptures, as he describes them, are just a bit larger than actual human measurements. This little tirc is used to make an impression in a public space. He also makes works that are half ‘mansize’ and smaller pieces between 20 to 25 centimetres. Prices start at € 2.750 for the smaller works and are around €10.000 for the mansized sculptures.

Already at the beginning of the creative process, when the sculpture is still in his head, the artist starts thinking about the ‘ground’ on which the sculpture will find itself. The pedestal, or how the sculpture will be presented, is part of his starting point. It is a magical moment according to the artist, to unite the sculpture with its pedestal.

How do you become a sculptor?

Did Timmermans spend his childhood playing with clay? No, he studied moral philosophy in Ghent and his passion for sculpting was awakened during a short trip to the Ardennes. The stockpile of wood at his house started calling him and he took to chiseling the material. Back in Ghent he enrolled in various academies. He got absorbed by his newfound passion, every moment of the day he was drawing, painting or sculpting. One of his teacher told him about a job vacancy as a sculptor for a company in Zaventem; the company was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of mannequin dolls. The prototype would be sculpted out of clay and later molded in polyester to go into mass production. Few know of this, but Philippe Timmermans has actually sculpted women during his career!

Artistic career

Philippe also creates more realistic sculptures -following the tradition of the classical form of sculpture-, often commissioned by museums. He is the creator of the Julius Caesar that points to the Archeocenter in Velzeke. For the town of Zwalm he made a stonemason and a sower as part of a seven sculpture group, depicting the seven main occupations.

In 1992 Philippe made one of the most well-known statues in Ghent: the life-size diver on the Lindelei.

Only male sculptures

‘As a sculptor, one does not create humans, but a sculpture’, says Philippe. ‘My sculptures are an externalization of what ‘I am’. Men that mold a woman, give them their own interpretation, because they are not women. I can ‘feel’ my sculpture for myself, I experience the pose of my arms and legs, my muscles relaxing. It’s my masculine energy and I express it in my work. I cannot do that for a female sculpture.’