As a Belgian television presenter, Rob Vanoudenhoven has been in the public eye for decades. But behind the scenes, he’s always been an artist as well. For the first time in 2021, he displayed this side of himself in a series of exhibitions.

Vanoudenhoven’s art is about refining the unrefined, often in collages and always with untraditional materials. He transforms raw, gritty images or materials into beautiful and noble presentations, putting them in another context. Take, for example, porn magazines. Vanoudenhoven literally cuts out their vulgarity by artfully arranging photo clips in geometric shapes like fishnet or Cubism. With unraveled paper clips, he transforms ordinary objects into works of art.

“I like geometric forms and the repetition of patterns as they give peace through containment or predictability,” says Vanoudenhoven.

Circles, squares and squiggly lines reveal the soft colors of human skin. “Skin Hunger,” for example, made up of isolated circles of different skin colors like floating virus particles, speaks to the longing for human touch that many people felt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vanoudenhoven also arranges striking images from nature books and cigarette packages, such as fish eyes or human eyes with cataracts, in intriguing patterns. The result is a trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye or optical illusion), visually stunning from afar and shocking up close, jolting viewers into thinking twice about how they perceive things.

In other works, the trompe l’oeil is instantly obvious such as hundreds of nails stuck into a Styrofoam head or broken Christmas ornaments arranged like Sanskrit language or computer code. Such works prove that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, depending on what we do with it and how we view it. They inspire us have gratitude for even the most basic or least desirable of things.

Known for his sense of humor, Vanoudenhoven lets it shine in some works as well while commenting on societal issues. For example, in “St. Cecilia’s Choir,” he shows multiple women with orgasmic expressions in a choral arrangement as if universally singing an ode to joy. In “Red Flag,” Jesus swims in a wild sea away from a red flag in the ocean, signaling that not even a divine force can save the planet against climate change.

In his hit television series “The XII Works of Vanoudenhoven,” he made several paintings for charity with rock-star-gone-artist Herman Brood. While Vanoudenhoven only uses paint as a background for limited works, he shares Brood’s use of color, approachable style and spontaneous inspiration.

“Brood taught me that I didn’t need to go to an art academy to express myself artistically,” he says. “It’s something that comes from within you, an escape from the real world, the freedom to only think about your creation.”

The creativity of Vanoudenhoven, humorously known on Instagram as RobertScissorman, is usually expressed in collages of paper or photographic images on wood, diebond or canvas encased in glossy epoxy. Such canvases provide durable, flat surfaces and epoxy gives them elegance and longevity. He also experiments with non-traditional materials, such as unraveled paper clips, nails, plastic “shrapnel” and even dried palm fronds.

“In art, I have complete freedom to do whatever I want and the peace of mind of unhindered creativity,” he summarizes as an artist. “It’s the reverse commute of television; instead of being a public figure inside private homes, I’m making my private works available to the public. It’s telling a story in a different way.”