1. CHILDHOOD

Bob De Groof is a self-taught painter, collagist, photographer, outlaw printmaker and installation builder. Born in Antwerp 1959, he spends most of his childhood in the US and Germany where his father, an army officer is stationed in different garrisons. Due, among other things, to incessant school changes, he is soon fed up with studying, and drops out of art school at the age of 16.

Nevertheless, Bob is an avid book and comic reader who continues to self-educate. From those books and in the streets, he acquires a good linguistic background and now reads, writes and fluently speaks Dutch, French, English and German.

At an early age he sees and connects with art everywhere around him, as his parents have hung out with erstwhile COBRA artists and situationists. Therefore it comes as no surprise at all, that his biggest influence is the art collection of his uncle, Piet De Groof aka Walter Korun, fighter pilot, writer, art critic, curator and last but not least, former situationist (1957-58). Said collection consists mostly of works from Jorn, Alechinsky, Constant, Wijckaert and Bervoets.

2. STREETWISE

The peculiar atmosphere in Germany at the time, during the 1968 aftermath, the RAF years and the Münich Massacre, affects him from early adolescence on, a political interest is provoked and at the same time an obsession with mind and mood-altering drugs is aroused. In his own words: “I mean, i was basically an addict at 15, and without exaggeration, from then on was stoned, drunk or both every fucking day. I can see that now.”

His rebellious nature draws him to punk rock from 1977 on, and leads him to serious clashes with authorities in the following decade, after having become an autonomist activist for a while. Most punk, reggae and anarchist inspired artwork from this period has been lost.

3. YOUNG ARTIST

Being a big believer in the “rock ‘n roll” way of life and the “cursed artist” myth, Bob has found the perfect rationalisation for a life of booze and other mind-altering chemicals. From ‘85 on, having become a father he tries to settle down, and begins to paint on canvases and exhibit on a regular base. Drugs take a more prominent place in his life still and help him to stay anaesthetized and survive a deep-seated angst as best as he can. Again, in his own words: “Without dope , i would have committed suicide before i was 20 years old” and: “ Deep inside me, i knew i couldn’t take care of myself and i also knew, that i couldn’t take care of a kid as well as i should have.”

During this ‘season in hell’ of searching, doubting and drug abuse, his paintings and first collages reflect an obsessive , expressionist and irreverent sensitivity for addicts, freaks and other underdogs..

In the early ‘90’s, he encounters the editors and a variety of Kitoko Jungle Magazine artists, all of which opens his eyes to the photocopied DIY art fanzines.

Crashing down from a decade long intravenous drug habit, his art becomes yet more haunted and manic. During these times, especially drawing, saves his life he says, it being the only way he knows how to tackle his demons. People try to help him as well as they can, but in the end support mostly drops away. Amazingly he is continuing to make a lot of art, until in the late ‘90’s he becomes more unreliable, burns a lot of bridges, loses all connection to his inspiration and in the end finds himself alone with the all the repercussions of his drug abuse, which include an total artistic block.

4. REDEMPTION

Unhinged, dazed and confused, he is now on his own with the physical, mental, spiritual, familial and financial consequences of doing things his way. This is the time he gets clean, when using has become more painful then not using and things have finally become a matter of life or death. For the first time , he meets people who are in recovery and who have the means to help him.

Bob is now no longer a survivor but just an escapee, who has a hard time adjusting to reality, and who has to take a step back from the art world, to center and begin to take care and heal the wounds he has inflicted on himself.

Life is strange, and after a few years he begins making collages again to deal with a sentimental break-up and when he is trying not to relapse. He also discovers an eternal truth, only available to artists who survive their addictive antics: drugs do not really boost your inspiration, you just go on using for a very long time before your inspirational connection to the universe harshly breaks down.

Clean and concious now, seeing the leaves grow on trees, seasons pass by and really hearing music for the first time, discovering Schnabel’s “Basquiat” is an immense trigger for his work to come, not so much as an influence but mainly for the gratitude of being alive and for being able from now on to dodge the mistakes which had cost this great painter his life.

As miracles happen, from now on his artistic adventure becomes more interesting than ever before. Painting, collages, linocuts are stronger, more focused and disciplined. He tries out new ventures such as assemblage, installations and pinhole photography. His creativity does not burst out in spurts anymore, but becomes a steady flow. The process though, of rebuilding all those burned bridges is a slow one. But Bob is now steady on his path, one step at a time.