The city is the canvas in Hasselt’s diverse public art project


Photographers, graphic artists and textile designers are among the creators taking part in Hasselt’s city-wide celebration of contemporary art

Pattern recognition

This summer, Hasselt is once more the setting for an innovative public art project that takes place all across the city centre. Motif: The City as Artistic Canvas invites contemporary graphic artists to play with pattern in surprising ways, using the fabric of the city itself as a vehicle for their designs.

The artists come from Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and Spain, and work in various media including photography, graphic design, illustration, street art and textiles. They all use pattern in some form in their work, whether it be the repetition of a graphic design element or a kind of abstraction that breaks images down into component parts.

One of the first works to be realised is by Niels Vaes, a young local artist who works in diverse experimental media. Using a blowtorch, he burned the symbol of the Louis Vuitton fashion label, commonly seen on their signature leather goods, into the lawn next to Hasselt’s Modemuseum.

Another work takes the form of a mural painted on to a garage door by UK-based artist Supermundane. His work is characterised by a graphic style combining bold lines and colour. He also created a series of posters that currently decorate the floor-to-ceiling windows of the city’s administrative building. Each contains a letter; together they spell the word “HOPE”.

Motif is a collaboration between the city and Hasselt-based art gallery and graphic design studio Alley. Debora Lauwers, one of the founders and creative directors behind Alley, is also a participating artist in Motif. In addition to an outdoor installation in the form of an equestrian jumping course, she has designed paper cups bearing her colourful graphic style. These will be used in all the coffee shops in Hasselt for the duration of the festival.

Art for everyone

According to Karolien Mondelaers, Hasselt’s city councillor for culture and tourism, the cups are another way to make art accessible to everyone, not just self-professed art lovers. “The goal is to help people to see our city in another way,” she says – not just visitors but also residents.

Motif is also a collaborative effort between many of the city’s cultural institutions, most notably the Street Art Festival. This grassroots, city-wide art project has been going on for seven years, drawing top international graffiti artists and muralists to create permanent outdoor works all over Hasselt.

Unlike the Street Art Festival, many of the works created for Motif are meant to be temporary

A handy fold-out map, available in the city’s tourist office, shows the locations of both this summer’s Motif works and the existing murals of the Street Art Festival. Since some of the locations are far-flung, the city offers bike rentals for those wanting to see as many as possible. However, most of the works are within walking distance in Hasselt’s compact city centre.

Other important collaborators are the Yokoso Festival, celebrating 25 years of Hasselt’s Japanese Garden, and the city’s cultural centre, CCHA, which currently has an exhibition of photographs by Anton Kusters, a local photographer who has worked extensively in Japan. He has contributed a work for Motif that’s on view at the tourist office and has been printed onto reusable shopping bags that are sold there.

Unlike the Street Art Festival, many of the works created for Motif are meant to be temporary. The piece created by Vaes in the field started to disappear from the moment it was finished, subject to weather and the natural processes of growth and decay.

Others, like the mural by Supermundane, could become permanent additions to the city’s streetscape. Still others will be realised in the months ahead as the project continues, and continues to change the city’s public spaces.

Until 7 September, across Hasselt

Photo: Jan Castermans