Sammy Slabbinck: Modern Master Of The Surreal

Photo of Stephanie Benoit
25 April 2017

Belgian artist Sammy Slabbinck has been steadily gaining international attention since he started making collages out of old magazines in 2009. Compared to René Magritte and Jacques Prévert among others, his surreal images combine modern ideals with traditional states of mind and often display a wry sense of humor. Find out about his thoughts on everything from his own creative process to Belgium‘s contributions to the art world.

The artist himself | Courtesy of Sammy Slabbinck

Tell us a bit about your background. What made you decide to pursue a career as an artist?

I never really set out to pursue a career as an artist. It kind of happened unintentionally. I’ve always been a fan of the look of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, so I started collecting magazines from those eras. Only later on I started cutting them up and making collages with these found pictures as a way of almost giving them a new life.

I really like making these, and I haven’t stopped since.

Above and Beyond | Courtesy of Sammy Slabbinck

How would you describe the philosophy behind your art?

Most of my creations have a surrealistic feel. I tend to create these surreal-like atmospheres where anything goes, often with an added layer of humor. Maybe they are just visualizations of my fantasy I guess.

What drew you to focus on collage specifically?

I just like the freedom that it offers in creating new images. No real rules apply, and I get to browse through a lot of vintage magazines, which is a nice bonus.

Attraction Diagram | Courtesy of Sammy Slabbinck

Where do you get your inspiration from for new works of art?

Inspiration mostly comes by association. One image can trigger my imagination and a story unfolds in my mind. Then I try to visualize that story by finding and combining pictures. During that process, other ideas might pop up sometimes, and the collage can take a whole other route than originally intended.

Going Nowhere | Courtesy of Sammy Slabbinck

How do you go about creating your works of art?

I usually start with finding a good base image. While browsing through magazines and books, I collect images that I find visually inspiring. From that base image an idea can come to mind and then I start looking for other images to combine.

Just Do It | Courtesy of Sammy Slabbinck

You’ve managed to turn Vine into an art form. Are there any limitations (or benefits) to the medium that you have come across? In your experience, how can the internet provide opportunities for artists to expose their work?

Vine is fun because the videos are only six seconds long, and they loop. So in that short time frame, you have to tell your story, which is, of course, a challenge. Seeing collages come to life in stop motion animation is a nice addition to the creative process. The internet and platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, etc. are great for aspiring artists to showcase their work to a wider audience. With one click of the button, you can share you artwork with the whole world. And it’s (almost) free and open 24/7 🙂

What is your personal favorite out of your own artworks?

It’s hard to choose, but almost always it’s the last one I have finished.

Your work is often quite surreal and humorous. How do you think it fits in with the Belgian Surrealist tradition? Is there also a specific artist/artistic movement you are particularly inspired by?

The surrealistic approach really comes naturally to me. I can’t explain why this is a Belgian thing; maybe it’s a certain mindset we share to twist reality and add extra layers to it. From an early age, I have always been inspired by the pop art movement. I once described it as ‘rock and roll on canvas.’ This burst of colors, no-rules-apply art form mixed in with a social context always attracted me.

Spacefood | Courtesy of Sammy Slabbinck

How do you think Belgium’s contributions to the art world are developing beyond Magritte and company?

As a small country, we keep on producing interesting artists and even musicians I think — artists that stand out and have real influence on the art scene even up to this day.

Vantage Point | Courtesy of Sammy Slabbinck

With humor, there always tends to be a subversive element. Are there any topics you are particularly critical of in your art?

Consumerism has been a topic that seems to come back now and then. But it’s mainly the viewer that will decide what they recognize in a work of art. An artwork can be pretty to some and subversive to others.

Where have you been hiding lately? | Courtesy of Sammy Slabbinck

What are your plans and hopes for the future?

Keep doing what I do best and like doing [it] is my basic plan!

Interview by Stephanie Benoit

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