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Els Cools
Østerbrogade 52
5600 Faaborg
0045 60536261
facebook: els.cools.5
instagram: elscools0603


A Crooked World on the Edge of Realism

In the collision between the realistic

The surreal and the epic, we find the visual artist Els Cools. Els Cools was born in Belgium in 1966 and has studied illustration at Sint-Luscapaviljoen and the Academy of Antwerpen and the Academy of Bratislava in Slovakia. She moved to Denmark in 1992 where she lives together with her husband, Oliver Streich, who is also an illustrator. They have two children.

Soul and surrealism
Cools’ style can be described as a kind of surreal realism for it is in the grotesque, in the absurd and in the surreal that the almost painful realism is hidden. In the collision between the hyper-sensed, intimate realistic details and the individual elements, Cools’ art opens up to the spectators and invites them into a surreal room of interpretation. Through these clashes between figurative elements, a story is told which may seem absurd or surreal but which via the surreal convinces us that it is the only way that everyday life or the intricate human soul can be portrayed

An eye for the tragic-comical
A part of the explanation for Cools’ narrative art can be found in her background as an illustrator. She feels at home working with epic stories which are then transformed through a special associative technique that often creates a story running parallel with the written word. But even when the pictures are illustrations for books they are always individual works of art, possessing their own inner logic and story line and they always bear that distinctive mark that is Cools’. Her paintings are not easily confused with the work of other artists. The imaginative and often absurd associations to a given story are transmitted to her art in grotesque, morbid or in utterly sad ways – but never without a glint in the eye. The humorous is always present - as is the eye for the crooked aspects of life. The spectator is asked to meet both himself and others in new ways. And this goes for both paintings and illustrations. Both tragic humour and great vulnerability are present in her art.

With a starting-point in classical art
Cools is inspired by classical artists such as Rembrandt, Goya and Frans Hals, but also has a sharp eye for the small occurrences of everyday life and the worn clichés of language which are twisted and turned with a constant sense of humour and subtlety that enables the spectator to see the quotidian in a sometimes comical revealing light.

Her line is expressionistic. She works in simple compositions with striking cropping, clair-obscur and structural twists such as neat patterns on wall paper and clothes which are then contrasted with a fierceness in both motif and colour choice. She zooms in on the concrete detail, allows it to open up, adding symbolic meaning.

Vulnerable reflections
In her work with portrait art, she also focuses on the clash between the recognizable and the absurd. Surprising, but still figurative elements such as drawers, lamps and rubber gloves are placed either on or near by the person portrayed, resulting in personal stories and added meaning in the paintings. The borderline between caricature and portrait is blurred which leads to new ways of understanding people and relations.

But no matter how absurd Els Cools’ paintings or book illustrations may seem, her art never turns introvert. It continously invites us to interpret and reflect as well as to a vulnerable and tragic-comical meeting with ourselves. Els Cools has participated in a number of exhibitions both in Denmark and in Belgium and has received numerous prizes and scholarships.

Dorthe De Neergaard


Els Cools,
1966 in Mol, Belgien, lives in Danmark since 1992
The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, graphic arts
1985-89: Sint-Lukas Antwerpen, illustration and graphic arts
1990-91: VSVU, Akademi in Bratislava, Slovakia, graphic arts
Job at the publishing house, Plantijn & Moretus, Antwerp 1989-90
Fraalance illustrator and painter since 1992
co-founder of the gallery “GaleRiget”, Faaborg, since 2011 

-Udstillinger group
-SAK, Svendborg DK 97-07-14 “Forår 98”
-censored exhib. Herning, DK 98 
-Premi int. Catalònia d'il. lustracio 1997, censored illustration exhibition, SP 97 
-Konservesgaarden, Faaborg Museum,DK 97-98-00-01-02-04-05-06-08-10 
-“Den gode historie” in Politikens Galleri København, DK 98 
-Center for Børnelitteratur Kbh. DK 99-03-04
-Illustrators Exhibition Bologna Fieri censored exhibition Bologna, IT 00 
-141 Bilder intern. Kinderbuchillustratoren, Folkwang Hochschule Essen, D 01 
-Danske illustratorer in Munkeruphus Dronningmølle, DK 02 
-73 Danske Illustratorer København, DK 02 
-Le Immagini della Fantasia 20, Sarmede Palazzo Municipale, censored , IT 02 
-Exhibition of the Contemporary illustration from Northern Eur. Bolzano IT 02 
-88 Danish illustrators København DK 06
-"Luft fra det gamle millennium"Danish Cult. Inst. HU 07, Dronninglund 08, Beijing 08, Bruxelles 10
-Nordic Illustration Exhibition, Rådhuset i København, DK 08 
-Adam& Geisler, Dubai 13 
-Danske illustratorer i Busan, Syd Korea 13 
-Contemporary Art Ruhr, Essen, D 13 
-Forum DK 14-15 
-Art Copenhagen DK 14-15-16 
-SAK, Svendborg DK, Eldorado 19 
-Ringe Kunstforening, Ringe, DK 19 

Udstillinger solo
-Herning Museum, Herning Kunstfor., DK 03
-Gallerij Van Duyse, Antwerp, B 09 Det
-Hemmelige Galleri, Herning, DK 8 -10-11-12
-Galleri Contour, DK 10-11
-Galleri Kirk, Aalborg, DK 10-13-14-16-17-19
-Galleri NB, Viborg, Danmark 12
-SAK, Svendborg DK 12 Galleri Oxholm, Kbh 13
-Galleri Backlund, Göteborg, Sverige 14
-The Studio Gallery, Odense 16-18
-Østfynsk kunstforening, Nyborg DK 19
-Tarmac, Meerhout, B 20

-Exhibition illustrations Nordsø Oceanarium 02
-Faaborg Folkebibliotek, decoration of childrens computer room 05
-Ringe bibliotek, decoration of the door to the art library 07
-Arwos, Aabenraa, decoration of a 35 m long wall 11
-Sydfynsk Rygcenter, decoration of the waiting room 12
-Faaborg-Midtfyn kommune, wall painting Ringe 19

Illustrations childrensbooks andschoolbooks
-Lene und Peter packen aus, Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag, DE 94 
-Otto, Pappa, Bubu und das Dreimeterbrett, Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag, DE 95 (translated into Spanish) 
-Julie auf dem Fussballplatz, Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag, DE 96 
-Kinderzimmerkrach, Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag, DE 95 
-Der Schnabelsteher, Rafik Schami, Nord Süd Verlag, CH 95 (translated into German, Dutch, American, Korean, French, Spanish,Taiwanese, Danish.) 
-Der Traumdieb, Rafik Schami, Nord Süd Verlag, CH 96 (translated into German, Dutch, American, Korean, French, Spanish, Taiwanese)
-Das Glückliche Schaf, Ursel Scheffer, Nord Süd Verlag, CH 97 (translated into German, Dutch, American, Korean, French, Spanish,Taiwanese)
-Lila und Albin, Rafik Schami, Nord Süd Verlag, CH 99 (translated into German, Dutch, American, Korean, French, Spanish, Taiwanese, Danish)
-Die Reise ins Weinachtsland, Jo Pestum, bibliofil edition, Edition Schmitz, D 02
-To knapper i hånden, Dorthe De Neergaard, Peoples Press, DK 06
-Bogen om vind og vejr, Peter AG, Branner & Korch, DK 06
-Hypsipyle, Alma, DK 07
-Godnat og sov godt, Peter A.G. Nielsen, Branner & Korch, DK 07
-Manden i mosen & Galgebakkken & Fuldmåne, Michèle Simonsen, Alinea, DK 08
-To ting man aldrig kan vide, Dorthe de Neergaard, Rosinante, DK 08
-Med eller uden bryster, Dorthe de Neergaard, Rosinante,DK,09
-Tabernabo, Rosinante, DK10
-En engel under trappen, Cadeau,DK11 
-Der Schnabelsteher, RAFSchami, genudgivelse, Nord-süd-verlag, D13
-Stjerneskud og slumpetræf, PoulLarsen, Følfod, 14
-Otto og Lea 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, Charlotte Karrebæk, Dansklærerforeningens Forlag 14 indtil 19
-Mona Morgenglad, Marianne Verge, Gyldendal 15
-Jubilæumsantologi Bent Haller, Rosinante 16
-Læs!Læs!Læs!, Trine May & Susanne Arne Hansen, Dansklærerforeningens Forlag 19 

Magazine illustrations 
-DK: Samvirke, LVU fagbladet, DGI fagbladet, Danske Landbrugsmedier, Kiropraktikkens Fremme, Efterskolen, Frie Skoler, 
FAO, Offentlig Ledelse
-FR: Pomme D’api 
-BE: Libelle

-Illustrationer til affaldsortering Arwos, Aabenraa 16 &17

Scholarships and awards
-Scholarship for the 9-month stay at the Academy of Bratislava from De Vlaamse Gemeenschap 1990 
-The Child Study Chilren’s Book Commitee 96, Book of the Year, USA til bogen Der Schnabelsteher 
-Prix de la Lecture à deux voix 96, Frankrig til bogen Der Schnabelsteher 
-Met Vlag en wimpel, Holland 97 til bogen Der Traumdieb 
-1997 Storytelling World awards, named an honor book, USA til bogen Der Traumdieb, The Best Books of 2002 for the book Alberto y Lila 
-Scholarship from Kunstrådet for the book To knapper i hånden 05 
-Marienborgpuljen for the book To knapper i hånden 06 
-Honary list illustratorprice 2006 with the book Bogen om vind og vejr 07 
-Scholarship from Autorkontoen 07 
-Scholarship from kunstrådet for the book To ting man aldrig kan vide 07 
-Scholarship for a illustrator workshop in South Korea, Busan 13  

With support from the ministry of culture
-Exhibition Herning Museum, Els Cools & Kasper Salto, DK 03 
-Center for Børnelitteratur København, 14 illustratorer “H.C. Andersen again”, DK 04 
-Reading campaign at Hald Hovedgaard with short stories and illustrations on milk cartonsThise Mejeri, DK 05 
-Dance theatre “Bagerst i Skuffen”, inspiered by my paintings: “Skuffedulle”, “lampe”, “En Tvivlsom Samtale” og “Nybegynder”,
composed by 'sART Dansekompagniet DK 14-15