Artist Q&A: Ief Peeters

There are alot of different types of painters. I guess what I mean is people create for different reasons. It’s one of the things we think makes each artist so great. Each unique view adds a precious piece to the mosaic of expression we are all a part of. For the Belgium artist Ief Peeters it’s a desire to express one’s perception of reality. “Molding it according to one’s own insight and desire, with the means at hand.” Not making art to please the wishes and wants of the spectator. Instead why not dare to step into a dialogue with the audience. Only using texture, form, colour and light. It’s up to the spectator to enter inside this artistic conversation. The intention is to go further then what was immediately visible. To “show the frailty of the concept and the model.”

Though his focus is primary portraits, he paints various subjects and styles. All of which have this beautiful depth to them. That depth was what attracted us to his work. An accomplished student, artist, and teacher. Ief Peeters lives the art life. Teaching commissioned painting, drawing and expositions at the Art Academy are part of his professional life. In his creative life he paints what he chooses, as well as doing commissions from as far as the United States and Canada. Intelligent and calculated in what he chooses to portray in his work, his perspective is all his own. The talented Ief Peeters. Let’s see what he has to say.

Is the deconstructed style to bring focus to specific parts of your pieces?

Indeed it is. That is exactly the point of the exercise. By leaving out features, the negative shape of the limbs in this last series of drawings, it appeals to the perception and fantasy of the spectator. The ‘shadowy’ parts consist of a strong clair-obscur. They function as a build up, and try to catch the attention of the spectator for a bit longer. So to speak, it was an attempt to create somekind of a game, an interaction if you will, between the duality of the empty and ‘flatter’ line parts and the volume in the faces. Light vs. dark and line vs. volume. Those parts accentuate one another.

How long have you been painting?

Ha! As long as I can remember, there were colour pencils laying about everywhere. Drawing on paper, on the floor, and – much to the dismay of my parents – even on the walls of the house. Also, some of the teachers in high school weren’t very amused when class was over, since some of the desks had a new pattern. Using oil paint came much later, during and after art college. Since the handling and working with oil paint is something you don’t learn overnight, it took years of practice to be able to apply it in the kind of way the results were something I was more or less satisfied with.

What is it about portraits, and “portraying the vulnerability behind the presumptuous glance?”

Well, in my honest opinion, portraiture is something one could and should discuss about for hours. This artform has such a long history and tradition.. not only in the ‘why?’ but also the ‘how?’. A long time ago portraiture art was the preserve and privilege of those who had the financial means to commission them. When one takes a look at the amazing portraits created by Caravaggio, Velázquez, Ingres…I can’t but stand in awe for such insight in how they managed to portray their patrons. Portraits are as close to the human condition as possible. They can show us a wide range of emotions, ranging from the subdued to the boisterous, and everything in between. And I do think that showing the vulnerability is a risk being taken. As an artist as well as the art you show, your model, the fact you decided to show. Because when it comes to it, you are also showing yourself through the art you and long story short: in the end it is the spectator who decides if it works.

What was the initial inspiration for the style you’ve used as of late?

Well, there were periods in which I played around with lots of colour, to create contrasts. To stimulate the eyes of the spectator to move across the canvas. However, at one given moment last December, a decision was made to leave all colour away, after taking a long look at one drawing in my sketchbook and thinking it could actually work quite well by itself. Black. White. Form. Contrast. And shadows. Despite so many artists claiming they create original pieces..that’s a load of bullshit, because in one way or another, ones insight is influenced by impressions you take with you before expressing yourself in a work of art. Doesn’t matter if it is being latent or rather manifest. Picasso and Braque would have never created their cubist pieces without the art of Cézanne. And he, in his turn, would have never started his analytic approach without the fuel of the Impressionists. And so on. Art history can and should be seen as a pedigree. One style or movement feeds the other. Interaction, you know? This last series of drawings I made can be perceived as the derivative combination of so many styles and artists …and without a doubt I would have to mention Klimt, Mucha, Schiele, Delaroche, Spilliaert, Gérôme and Caravaggio. Absolute geniuses who had a tremendous impact on my approach to art.

Do you have people you know model for you?

Absolutely. I have to mention Nele, Céline and Angela. Fantastic people to work with. I have known them for quite some time, and they know perfectly what I look for in a pose or look. We arrange a photoshoot, so directions can be given and tell them what is being looked for. Lighting, pose and look. That’s what it comes down to. And just a fraction of the photos are used as a reference. Even though no projector is being used to ‘track and trace’, I do use the print outs as a guide. Sometimes a grid is used, and sometimes it’s just freehand sketching.

Who are some of the artists you enjoy right now?

There are so many styles and artists whom I respect and get touched by. A few names were already mentioned earlier. Going to a museum or exposition..or even reading about and enjoying pieces by artists like Bernini, Richter, Kiefer, Corot, Pollock, Klein, Duchamp, Derain, ..and so many more is always such a pleasure.

How does teaching effect you work?

Well, I teach drawing, painting and art history, and the interaction with the students and some of the colleagues is an absolute pleasure. The different approach to what art can or should be yields quite some interesting and lively discussions. Also, it is such a gratification to see people create, and assist them in the process of finding their own signature. Hands down, if one can say he or she doesn’t see their job as work…that is something to feel very lucky about . Observing my students at work, it motivates not to stick to just one subject. And to keep experimenting. Just..do. You know?

The absence of color allows one to focus on the subtleties in each piece. What would you say your intent is with that technique?

As in so many cases, less is more. And your observation is spot on. In this series the emphasis is set on the form, while the chiaroscuro focuses on the facial expression. It is so much fun to play with these contrasts, and I hope it catches the attention of the spectator for a bit longer. Even though this way of working doesn’t have to become the ‘leitmotif’ of what is to come.

How would you describe your work?

A passion. And it would be unimaginable never to be able to draw or paint again. It’s very difficult to put a name to it.. but without doubt it is a melting pot of so many influences. Obviously there is a bias ttowards figurative art, and influenced by classical poses. This is such a difficult question..I have never given it that much thought at all, if I’m honest. Let’s stick to and eclectic contemporary figurative style.

Any advice for other artist.

Stop mucking about, and do. Even if one fails a lot in their attempts. Frustration is inherent to the process. So if one is always content with what one makes, you’re doing it wrong. And yes, those hundreds of failed attempts one has when starting out..they do serve a purpose. In time it will yield work you can be completely not unhappy with.

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