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Guy Rombouts (1949 - )


Guy Rombouts (1940, Geel, Belgium) is a Belgian artist. He has produced work with language and the representation of language at its thematical core.

See also: language - art in Belgium -


Azart has two meanings. First of all, AZ-art refers to the art from A to Z. At first, it was on idea of Rombouts no to take shape until 1983-1984. Under the name of Azart, a new language of signs is invented in which a new graphic phenomenon replaces convention. According to Droste, every word in the Azart becomes a closed form resulting in an isle of meanings which everyone can use to express onseself.  Those forms resemble existential beings. The Azart words are read clockwise starting from 12 o’clock. Letter sounds are associated with forms and colours. In this way, the letter C is a lemon yellow curve, the D is a pine green twist, and the R is a pink rhomb. According to the same principle, the artists have sought for new sounds to attach to the letters. Those sounds are not always easy to pronounce. The letter A is used for ‘aha’, the letter B for the sound of a bell, the D for a dull sound, and so on . Therefore, they have not chosen for a ‘real’ new language as the link with the existing alphabet remains.

Secondly, the word Azart alludes to the French word ‘hasard’ (translation: coincidence). This coincidence is revealed in the connection between the word form and the word referred to. The word is liable to coincidence as it can lead to different forms and to different interpretations . The Azart alphabet is visualised in Dutch, French, German and English by means of all sorts of materials as glass, wood and sink. The used materials often hint at the meaning of the word and sentence constructions .

To Rombouts and Droste, the spectator is free to interpret a work of art. The decoding of the hidden message is encouraged anyway as poetry has been frequently translated to the Azart. Look at their work made in 1993 and executed by the Provincial Museum of Hasselt. The poem ‘Light’ by Emily Dickinson can be read in Azart on the sandblasted glazed façade . In that way Rombouts and Droste are visualising poetry. In fact, it is more than a frivolous poetic language game with beautiful forms, lines and colours. The spectator discovers the importance of the sign while convention takes that for granted. That is how we sense the relation between the reality of the contents and the artificial of the writing in a language.

See also: http://www.azart.be


The project School 4

School 4 was built in March 1855 under the impulse of architect Eugène Frische. More than a century afterwards, a rebuilding is set up by the house-building cooperation C.V. Heuvelhof. The result is a block of 287 social houses. This renovation involves a project of conservation of monuments and urban renewal. This renovation also offers the unique possibility to involve contemporary visual arts in it . Rombouts and Droste are asked to contribute to the project. Droste determines for example the shades of colour in the central hall . C.V. Heuvelhof set up this building project to start a campaign to eliminate illiteracy of the inhabitants and the neighbourhood. It is clear that the alphabet by Rombouts and Droste plays a major role. The house-building cooperation wants School 4 to become a place for social diversity . At the same time, the former school is to become a point of reference where the neighbourhood would (be able to) feel respected and appreciated .

The idea of transformation is central in the rebuilding as in Rombouts and Droste’s work of art. Anyone able to read what it says, is able to write and tell what power in the end means. Rombouts and Droste make use of the location and of social problems . It is not a coincidence that their work is situated in the central hall of the building which was the functional, symbolic and aesthetic focus of the school community. That building has still today a semi-public function. The historic conscience is kept alive by the works of art, which are mainly put in blind frames.
Already in entering the building, the spectator is confronted with the Azart at the entrance gate. The Azart reader can read there the following sentence: “The society is filled with objects in such a way that we want to create empty holes in the reality in which the fantasy can be developed.” The importance of the word transformation is stressed by the sandblasted version on the glazed communicating door of the former director’s house. By following the Red Thread and the arrow, we end up in the in-between floor of the central hall, containing 19 Azart constructions.

Let us elaborate on 3 arbitrarily chosen constructions . A first work is read as “the familial relations” (4). There is a reference to the three-unity: the holy family visible as mother, father and child. Through the process of identification and differentiation a small human being comes into existence. The deciphering of a smaller work gives “the investigation of the space” (7). A replete colour represents the indefinable depth. The combination of the green of a blade of grass and the blue of the sky evokes a dazzling experience. The third example can be seen as “the relativity of the point of view” (9). At the end of a long journey we are at the crossroads, forced to make choices. However, choosing is losing as each time there is parting, comparable with dying. Can relativity comfort us in such a situation ?
After the ending of the work, the inhabitants enjoyed a personal guided tour by Rombouts and Droste, which was highly appreciated. Visitors now often are guided by proud inhabitants. The fascination for Azart is inspiring for some . This proves that the stigma so often found on social houses is not correct.

Anouk Frederix and Nele Verhaeren






Frederix, Anouk, Nele Verhaeren, Interview met Guy Rombouts, Antwerpen, 24 november 2000.

Frederix, Anouk, Nele Verhaeren, Interview met Guido Pauwels (bewoner School 4, nr. 23), Leuven, 19 december 2000.

Frederix, Anouk, Nele Verhaeren, Interview met Diane Martens (bewoonster  School 4, nr. 1), Leuven, 19 december 2000.

Frederix, Anouk, Nele Verhaeren, Interview met Patricia Vandekeere (bewoonster  School 4, nr. 4), Leuven, 19 december 2000.


Abeele, Lieven Van, ‘Guy Rombouts. Het alfabet als alibi, de taal als voorwendsel’, Arte Factum, 17 (1987): 10-13.

Bekaert, Paul, Paul Beeckman, Flor Bex, e.a., ‘Guy Rombouts’, Tielt Beelden Buiten 88, tent. cat., Tielt, Cultureel Centrum Gildhof, 1988: z.p.

Boodt, Kurt De, ‘Kunst in de kijker. Rombouts & Droste, van A tot Z’, Kunst & Cultuur, 12 (1998): 46-48.

Callewaert, Marc, ‘Dat een cirkeltje ook een letter o kan zijn, en omgekeerd’, Gazet van Antwerpen, 7 augustus 1979: 27.

Eeckhaut, Marijke Van, ‘Rombouts & Droste. 20 december ’98 – 28 maart ‘99’, Rombouts & Droste. Colofon, tent.cat., Antwerpen, MUKHA, 1998: z.p.

Foncé, Jan, ‘Inleidende structurele opmerkingen van A tot S’, Woord en Beeld in de Belgische Kunst van a tot z, uitg. door Lilian Dewachter, Antwerpen, 1992: 28-35.

Jansen, Bert, ‘Guy Rombouts (1947)’, Het plastische alfabet van Guy Rombouts: inhoud is vorm is is beeld is woord,  tent. cat., Hoorn (Nl), Kunstcentrum De Boterhal, 1989: 2-6.

Jansen, Bert, ‘Leesbare hiëroglyfen overbruggen de afstand tussen woorden en dingen’, Het Financieel Dagblad. Rubriek: Persoonlijk, s.d.: z.p.

Lambrecht, Luk, ‘Rombouts-Droste in Provinciaal Museum Hasselt’, De Morgen, 2 september 1993: 17.

Piron, Paul, ‘Tapta’, De Belgische Beeldende Kunstenaars uit de 19de en 20ste eeuw, uitg. door Paul Piron, bd 2, Brussel, 1999: 1277.

Theys, Hans, ‘Cowboys, ridders, circusartiesten en andere buitenaardse wezens…’, Rombouts & Droste. Colofon, tent.cat., Antwerpen, MUKHA, 1998: z.p.

Verpoest, Luc, Ludo Bekker, Maurice Jacobs, e.a., Omtrent School 4, uitg. door Maurice Jacobs, s.d.

Wynants, Marleen, ‘Duo. Monica Droste & Guy Rombouts’, Knack Weekend, 23, 45 (1993): 138-140.

Exhibition catalogues

1988, Tielt, Cultureel Centrum Gildhof
Tielt Beelden Buiten 88, Tielt, 1988.

1989, Hoorn (Nl), Kunstcentrum De Boterhal
Het plastische alfabet van Guy Rombouts: inhoud is vorm is is beeld is woord, Hoorn, 1989.
1996-97, Kortrijk-Boston
Inside the Visible, Kortijk-Boston, 1996.

1998, Antwerpen, MUHKA
Rombouts & Droste.Colofon, Antwerpen, 1998.

1998, Brussel, Vlaamse Gemeenschap
Two hours wide or two hours long, Brussel, 1998.


Jan Baetens [...]

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