Either you’ll be intrigued by the fascinating way Dutchman Levi van Veluw applies materials on his face, neck and head — or you’ll be kind of appalled by this weird appearance. But in any case, there is more than something about his art. Ever wanted to know how carpet, pebbles or ballpoint drawings feel on the skin? Levi tells PingMag all about it.
Written By Verena
First, when did you start with your art? And why?
I was born in the Netherlands in a small town named Hoevelaken in 1985, and graduated cum laude from ArtEZ’ School of Arts in 2007. I started out mainly wanting to be a painter, but during my time studying I started experimenting with other mediums such as video art and photography. The self-portraits started as a practical choice, but developed as a main concept in the last three years.
“Gravel” from the “Material Transfer” series: pebbles in an unfamiliar context…
… and “Blocks” patterns meticulously drawn, from the “Ballpoint” series.
We’re curious: What’s the concept for the Ballpoint, Material Transfers and Landscapes series where you apply these materials on your face and head?
First, the photo series are self-portraits, drawn and photographed by myself: a one-man process. I modify the face as object; combining it with other stylistic elements to create a third visual object of great visual impact. The work you see therefore is not a portrait, but an information-rich image of colour, form, texture and content.
Can’t see the forest for the trees in the landscape painting: “Landscape III.”
The Material Transfer series were all completed and photographed within 24 hours and without any digital manipulation. I used familiar elements such as cheap carpet, pebble stones and sterling wood in a new context to let it all result in a confusing conflict between the objects’ normal associations and the new values assigned to it in the works. Although it seems as if the actual material is the object of my observation, it is in fact their metaphoric use in daily life what interests me most: the signification people attach to the things that surround them.
Landscapes is a four-piece series that reinterprets the traditional landscape painting, removing plots of grass, clusters of trees, babbling brooks from their intimate two-dimensional formats and transposing them onto the three-dimensional contours of my face. It’s supposed to be a fresh twist to the obsession inherent in the romantic landscape of recreating the world and simultaneously being part of it.
So about the Ballpoint series: How do you get such precise lines with a felt pen? It doesn’t smear… Do you prepare the face with something before? And how long does it take to cover your head approximately?
First, I had to degrease my skin with alcohol. And it takes about nine hours to create the drawing while constantly looking in the mirror. In the end, you just need a lot of patience, and discipline. However, it doesn’t have to be perfect since imperfection is part of the work.
Wow, nine hours! How does it feel? Is it like a meditation? What do you feel while applying the ink?
When I start, I feel very uncertain about my work and myself. It is very confrontational to create an autonomous work directly onto yourself. So I have to motivate myself every time to go through.
Sometimes it is very frustrating, because nobody tells you what to do and there is nobody who supports you to go through. But I have to make all the choices while I create the drawing, so it is not really like a meditation. When everything is finished, I am always really tired.
No wonder. Do you see it as performance?
It is important for me that everything happened for real. The end result is not only an end result, but contains a short creative history. The image contains the process of creating the work itself. In that way, it is a performance, but not a live performance; more an acquisition of it.
OK. What is so fascinating for you about art on the body surface?
For me, it is not about body art. I use myself as a object, and it’s an always available and very direct way to express my ideas.
True, no need to buy a canvas. Being one of the oldest art forms, you find an interesting angle to modernise it…
I think art is always about re-interpreting the past in a different way, and not about making unique things.
Yes, that’s pop. How do you select the material?
A very serious “Yoghurt” look! From the older works.
The materials are part of the concept. For example, the carpet is part of the idea to re-interpret and introduce the material with all of its associations, thus changing all of its values.
Interesting. And how does it actually feel on your skin?
We meant to ask: Why are you always looking so serious in the photos?
I tried to look as neutral as possible, because it is not about making a portrait of a person. The person is looking towards nothing, not expressing anything. In that way you are not revealed to anybody and the image stays more believable.
Lastly, about your inspiration: What would be your favourite artist at the moment?
Thank you, Levi for the theoretical insights in your intriguing art!