Alone in the studio and immersed in a creative fervour, Anne-Sophie Morelle breathes life into clay - witness the development of an artist in full bloom.
“Go on,” Anne-Sophie Morelle’s grandfather, the Baron of Voghel, would say to her as an adolescent exploring the various disciplines of visual art. A man far from ordinary, to whom the Fondation Roi Baudouin and Europhalia both owed their existence, was also a seasoned art enthusiast. “He spent a lot of time around artists and always encouraged me in my ambitions. Without ever imposing anything on me, he instilled me with a taste for the finer things,” she remembers. Her grandfather’s words will become a source of valued consel to which she returns with increasing frequency as her career matures.
Morelle spends the first years of her professional life in a medical environment. Aware even then that she is meant to work with her hands, Anne-Sophie becomes a kinesiologist/osteopath and works at St-Jean hospital in Brussels, while taking classes at the Académie St-Josse under Jacques Talmar. She does not hesitate to interrupt her studies, however, to join an anti-polio campaign for six months. Assuming responsibility for sick children at a sanitarium in the middle of the bush is by no means a small task. “The greatest challenge of all was in convincing the patients to come and accept treatment. That was the true test of what it took to earn their trust.”
Over the Hurtle
Love crosses Morelle’s path and she marries Vincent Buckens, an engineer with a strong affinity for art. After the birth of her first two children, Anne-Sophie returns to sculpture classes, this time at the Académie de Braine-l’Alleud under the guidance of Philippe Desomberg. “His approach went against everything I had learned up until that point. Whereas Jacques Talmar advocated a purity of technique, Desomberg pushed me beyond those limitations. He started off by uprooting my old ideas at a pace I could barely keep up with, then encouraged me to submit work to the Van Buren competition. I ended up not being selected; my style was too classical. It took me a while to regain a sense of confidence after putting so much hope into that work.”
It is always easier to criticize than it is to actually make art. But the severity of Philippe Desomberg’s judgement was not without its benefits. He was well aware that his student was in the course of mastering her technique, and trusted that everything else would follow in time. Anne-Sophie returns to her studio determined to tackle the problem of design, digging deeper within herself to figure out what she wants to express. Compromise for the sake of beauty is not an option. Reading the painter Nicolas de Staël’s Le Prince foudroyé reaffirms Morelle’s need to surpass her previous efforts. This attitude translates into her sculpture as clean, definite edges give way to a new density and maturity. Her statues begin to find their way into exhibitions in the Jardins d’Aywiers in Lasne, the German exhibition space at Hanse Office, and at the Abbaye de Forest soon thereafter.
With the fourth and youngest child in Kindergarten, Morelle is now able to devote the majority of her time to sculpture. “So long as I am surrounded with clay, I am content. It is completely physical. I love big sculptures; I have no problem raising 80 kilos of clay into a self-supporting mass. It takes a great deal of strength but when I submit myself to the forces emerging from the clay, my spirit is free.” Morelle sculpts, often deep into the stillness of night, as the rich tones of raw and cooked earth transform classical anatomies to reveal grave new intensities.
And yet, as is the case of any artist engrossed in their work, her stance is often one fraught with doubt. “No sooner have I given the work my all, do I recognize that I can push myself further still. Sometimes it comes to a point of desperation. Other people’s perspectives are crucial to my development. Positive or negative, they help me evolve.” The solitude of the studio is another experience, one she cherishes, where the self is able to tunnel inward to meet itself far beyond any question of rules or convention. Morelle’s most recent work bears witness to the increased precision with which she is able to tap into this outspring of creative possibility. “With one’s roots raised skyward,” her grandfather wrote ex libris. “Leave the earth alone,” Desomberg would caution. “I want to work; to work and to go further,” says Anne-Sophie. She is well on her way.