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, usually in collages. 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. He arranges grotesque images from cigarette packages, such as 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.

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

In “St. Cecilia’s Choir,” Vanoudenhoven shows multiple women with orgasmic expressions in a choral arrangement as if universally singing an ode to joy. In “Djeezes,” a naked woman is lovingly wrapped about the crucified Christ, surrounded by naked onlookers, in a dichotomy between love and lust.

Other porn clips by Vanoudenhoven are unidentifiable in circles, squares and squiggly lines that simply reveal the soft colors of human 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.

“Nudity has been part of art throughout history,” says Vanoudenhoven. “Even the Old Masters were not averse to it. Think of the voluptuous nudes of Rubens, L’Origine du Monde by Gustave Courbet or the sexual expressions of Marlene Dumas. And Jeff Koons even married a porn star.”

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.  

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 images on wooden boards encased in glossy epoxy. Wooden “canvases” provide durable, flat surfaces and epoxy gives them elegance and longevity.

“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.”