Boccanegra (born June 16th 1988 in Belgium) is a self-taught Belgian contemporary artist.
As a child he spent a lot of his time in the book shop of his parents. Mostly in the history section, soaking up everything there is to know about our past. Later he went to Ghent to study History and English.
Through his work Boccanegra calls attention, in a confronting but also accessible way, to topics that are commonly ignored. Violence, war and human suffering are recurring themes . When once asked about this he replied: “As an artist I look at the World, I absorb it and I express my thoughts and ideas about it. I suppose I’m just more sensitive to the bad things that are happening around us. Or maybe it’s just my way of dealing with all the absurdity going on in this World”
With every piece Boccanegra asks himself the question how he can, in the best possible and strongest way, visualize a certain topic. This always leads to visually powerful works, combined with a deeper meaning or backstory. “A good artwork is like a boxer. The first punch is what you see or experience, but the knockout blow is what’s behind the work, the meaning, the story. If I don’t feel these two punches while watching a work of art, then it’s nothing for me“.
Another important factor of his work is the artist’s own engagement. “I’ve always been more inspired by the type of art where I can truly feel the passion of the artist. The blood, sweat and tears. Whether it’s a passionate cook looking for the best ingredients or a war photographer risking his life to show use the realities of war. Whenever I see passion and engagement I feel inspired and deep respect. That’s the type of artists that I want to be myself. You can not credibly make a stand for anything if you’re not willing to get your own hands dirty”
The choice to use the pseudonym ‘Boccanegra’ was inspired by Belgian artist Panamerenko (1940), a prominent Belgian sculpture famous for his work with aeroplanes. The name Panamarenko is supposedly an acronym for ‘Pan American Airlines and Company’. Originating in 13th century Italy, the name ‘Boccanegra’ literally translates to ‘Black Mouth’. To say that one had a Black Mouth was to say that one was an ‘evil speaker’. “The idea to use a pseudonym that already says something about the artist and his vision really appealed to me. Since most of my works have dark and violent themes the name Boccanegra was a perfect fit.”
Past works include:
- NFL: National Fucked-up League, an art installation about the dark side of American Football, first shown in New York in December 2016.
- Machete Season, a series of sculptures made with authentic Rwandan and Ugandan machetes, collected by Boccanegra himself.
- Lex Humana, an art installation consisting of a (stuffed) 9 foot American alligator hanging from a gallows.
- Out of Business, an art installation consisting of 9 bullet and shrapnel riddled shutters that were gathered by Boccanegra himself from the ruins of eastern Mosul, Iraq in March 2017 during the Battle of Mosul.
Both NFL: National Fucked-up League and Lex Humana made the national press in Belgium. But it was Out of Business that eventually lead to his national breakthrough, resulting in a front page article in De Standaard and numerous other newspapers and magazines including Knack Magazine and Vice and even the national news (VRT). It also resulted in his first selection for a group expo together with i.a. renowned Belgian sculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere in 2018.