Interview with Florian Tomballe
“Intuitively I follow where my hands lead me.”
Florian Tomballe, artist/sculptor
“It took me four years to paint like Raphael but a lifetime to paint like a child”, said Picasso. The Antwerp artist Florian Tomballe also devoted his first years passionately to classical Greek sculpture. Immense Kouros-inspired sculptures were the result. For now, Florian lets himself be led by his gut feeling while his hands express a more personal and abstract story. One to watch!
Florian, how exactly did your passion for sculpting begin?
‘I come from an artistic family. My father is a painter while teaching model drawing at the academy, my mother is a musician, my sister sings and my twin brothers are painters and graphic designers. There was always music, painting or singing at home (laughs). I’ve always wanted to work with paint on canvas, but discovered that I often got stuck in my creative flow. In the last year at art college, we were asked to model a self-portrait. Suddenly I felt my energy flowing more freely. That’s why I decided to start sculpting. After all, around my sculptures, I can move more freely, even dance.’
How would you describe your own style and how is it evolving?
‘I started out very classically. After my master I focused on further comprehending classical sculptures and human anatomy. This resulted in monumental three-metre high, standing sculptures, based on the Kouros type of Greek archaic sculpture. In the renovated shop of Café Costume in Ghent, there’s such an immense statue. Making these classical works was a very enriching experience. Although I could not escape the desire to work more freely and to break with the strict vision of classical sculpture.’
“My hands and emotions have a greater knowledge than what I determine with my head.”
‘I began experimenting with portraits and a freer way of sculpting and drawing. Without a preconceived plan, I followed my feelings and where my hands led me. One day I made a very intuitive sculpture, only 30 centimetres high, but it had everything I was longing for. It depicted a human figure in an abstract modernist way. This sculpture defined my new direction in sculpting, a true turning point.’
‘After this, I even destroyed my last three-metre-high Kouros sculpture. I literally wanted to break with classical sculpture. It’s with this intuitive attitude that I found the most inspiration and freedom in recent years and have seen the greatest possibilities for growth. That’s why I’ve started to draw much more again, apart from sculpting. The human figure remains central.’
Do you have any particular examples? Or where do you draw inspiration from?
‘My intuition is my inspiration. I worked on my first Kouros sculptures with a clear result in mind. I knew in advance what the image would look like. I’ve let go of that image now. I look where my hands lead me and feel intuitive if it flows or if a work is finished and when I have to let it rest for a while. My hands and my feeling have more knowledge than what I determine with my head.’
‘Making art is a very special and personal language that for me is mainly about form, rhythm, sound, lines and planes. They all determine the content of a work. My gut feeling always prevails when creating. Of course, there are sculptors for who I have got an enormous admiration, think of Picasso, Ossip Zadkine, Henry Moore, Arno Breker and Antoine Bourdelle. Among the Flemish, I particularly like the brutal expressionism of Permeke and Frits Van den Berghe.’
Finally, what drives you to come back to your studio every day?
‘The urge and the desire to work, to create and to seek beauty. It’s a kind of instinct that drives me to my studio every day, where I’m happy. I like to get my hands dirty and sculpting and drawing touch something spiritual in me. There are hardly any days that I don’t create something, and thankfully so.’