Celina Vleugels


Celina Vleugels - a vulnerable search to consolation

Text written on the occasion of her solo presentation at The Wunderwall in 2021-2022 by Isa Van den Wouwer

Celina Vleugels translates her imagination into intimate drawings and textile works which tickle our senses. This young artist, graduated in both painting and textile design, seeks a place where she can reveal the most vulnerable version of herself, without feeling judged. The tender structure of the textile installations, that originate from thread, textile, paint, hand embroidery, felt and recycled material, brings us comfort. In contrast to the soft material, Celina Vleugels tackles rather difficult themes in her work: how do I deal with the loss of a loved one? Do I need to protect myself? Am I truly my own self when you are no longer with me? The weight of these concerns, compared to the   light materials, causes both contradiction and complementarity. She describes her evolving practice as painting with textiles, relinquishing control and allowing herself to be fragile.The painfull loss of her mother at a young age acts as an alibi for her work. The treasured memories with her are a haven, in which she embraces her weaknesses and encounters consolation and shelter.

Vleugels' intuitive drawings initiate as a study but manage to find their way as an independent work throughout the process. An idea is translated with oil pastel on paper, making mistakes impossible to erase. In this way, she uncovers her feelings and instincts without the possibility of changing one' s mind. Her uncensored thoughts are subsequently transformed into textile works. During this process, the artist combines a variety of techniques, such as dry and wet felting and hand embroidery. In her studio she tends to let her works rest for a short period, allowing her to reflect about the story behind the work before adding the final details. Celina Vleugels’ devotion and love towards textiles does not come unexpected: her mother used to work for Dries Van Noten and often brought leftover stock home for Celina. To this day, these fabrics find their way into Celina's practice, making her mother proudly part of her work.

The rough texture of the pastel on paper and the loose threads on her felting works add a new dimension to her work. The tactility of her work makes us want to feel with our eyes. Balancing on a thin line between abstraction and figuration, this upcoming artist is still paving her way. While exploring and playing with various techniques such as embroidery, felting and patchworks, she offers spectators an insight into her past and a melancholic glimpse of the future. As a viewer, your sense of time fades into the background as Vleugels takes you along into an imaginary world, longing for the precious moments developed during the close relationship with her loved ones.

Celina Vleugels’ latest work focuses on the recent loss of her beloved grandfather, or how she lovingly reffered to him; Bonke. The titles of her work refer affectionately and occasional melancholically to her memories: ‘What is the foundation of feeling at home?’, ‘Autumn Leaves, and You are still gone’, ‘Farewell Bonke’ and ‘Our last cup of coffee together’. However, other works and their references are rather hopeful and encouraging: ‘The sun will rise again’, ‘I hope the Nights keep you warm’, ‘Even when the season changes, you will always be remembered’ and ‘Revoir of Nostalgia’. This demonstrates an intense grieving process, where positive and negative moments alternate, where sorrow and hope compete and confront each other.

Her practice does not go unnoticed, even at this early stage. Seizing her opportunities, Vleugels participated in residencies at the Design Museum Ghent and KOPvzw, and gave workshops at Bauhaus University of Weimar and Academy of Textile Department, Antwerp. She showed her work in intriguing scenographies, completely immersing the viewers in her world, during solo and group exhibitions and has deservedly won prizes such as the Juryprice Textile Department, Luca Ghent and Antwerp Artistic Awards, Jean-Gallery, Antwerp.

A promising artist with a lot of potential. Curious about what is yet to come and what evolutions her artistic practice will undergo.

Blue Hours Counting, 2024