Lode Laperre


The emotionalism of the brush technique

about the abstract contemporary paintings by Lode Laperre

Writing about the visual arts these days is akin to reporting live from one of the world's battlegrounds. While machine guns are being emptied in the background within the world of art a "new" fashion is being touted “again”, a "new" genre introduced.
The end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century appear to be characterized by the loss of unity. Confusion reigns. This artificial disorder has resulted in a multitude of styles and trends, ranging from conceptional art to video art and from installations to mixed media.

In recent years the pure art of painting has been dismissed as outmoded and the medium is constantly under siege. And because of that the contemporary painter finds himself in a vulnerable position. He ignores all forms of conceptual art as well as media in two and three dimensional shapes in order to expose his personality using the conventional components of paint and canvas.
Together with his fellow artists Lode Laperre epitomizes a permanent belief in the art of painting and stubbornly resists the virtual iconoclasm that overruns and falsifies today's visual arts. It is true that there are still many painters, but it seems there is little innovation. No matter how confusing and complex the times are, we need to be open to new developments; as technical know-how and the power of the imagination nearly always results in innovation. The craftsmanship of the painter expresses itself in this combination and he projects images (be it perceptions or fantasies) onto the canvas using primary techniques such as lines, colour, strokes, motion and rhythm. However, there is a single constant present that is used by the viewer, buyer or arts enthusiast: the expression of beauty, which then results in different emotions such as affection, fascination, admiration etc.
Art however is not merely beauty. Art is also there to offer or trigger thought processes to or in the viewer. The function of art is not always to please. Art therefore must be protected as a place for experiment.
The work of art may be looked at as the expression of what inspires the artist. It involves his personal history, unprocessed and stored in the subconscious mind, that the artist then brings into view. Art is not a representation of the superhuman or the inhumane, but art maximises everyday humaneness. Put differently, art does not point upwards, but it points around itself; a metaphor of our inner selves.

For his communication with the viewer Lode Laperre uses abstraction, in which the tension and coherence between form and content are essential. He attempts to cover the entire surface of the canvas with elements that, although not ordered in any hierarchy of sizes or strokes, are nevertheless the result of an elaborate painting and thinking process. Before continuing on the techniques used by Lode Laperre I would like to discuss the art of abstract painting in its historical context.

As a painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was one of the first to make the transition to abstraction, the move away from external representation. He did this not just as a painter but he also philosophised about the subject and this important moment for the development of the arts was marked by the publication of Kandinksy's thoughts when he wrote "Every work of art is the child of its time; often it is the mother of our emotions" and "Each period of a civilisation creates an art that is specific in it and which we will never see reborn". What does exist is an external similarity in works of art, originating from an absolute necessity. For example, the similarity in the intrinsic pursuance of goals that had been reached earlier, but had become forgotten. It means that the resemblance in inward mood from an entire period can result in the application of forms and ideas that had been used in an earlier period to realise the same aspirations.

So what is the viewer's take on all of this ?

These days the viewer is rarely capable of sensing the vibrations caused by abstract art. Overpowered by an explosion of images, the viewer rarely savours the intentions emanated by abstract art. It is my impression that the passive outlook can no longer hold the viewer's attention, because the abundance of images unsettles him and leaves no room for reflection.

The Polish-English author Stefan Themerson (1920-1988) is of the opinion that abstract art is not at all abstract, because it does not abstract something out of nothing. Instead it creates new things. It brings about new shapes and forms that do not refer to something else because they are themselves real. Themerson wrote that, "just as real as a particular tree, a specific organism, or a particular representative of a new type of mutants". He also states that the so-called abstract art of painting should be classified as a special case of realism art.

I have been frequenting museums and galleries for nearly 20 years and am often still amazed at the richness of contemporary painting. Generations of artists follow one another and although they may not appear to be a closely-knit group, they can sometimes be found in each other's vicinity or in group exhibitions, and they may be familiar with each other's work.

Lode Laperre is part of the latest generation of contemporary painters.

I first saw the works of Lode Laperre in July 1999 in Galerij KoenArt, in the scenic village of Watou (Belgium), best known for its Summer of Poetry. I was immediately impressed with the seemingly monochrome paintings (muddy green was the dominant colour then), which on closer inspection turned out to be the result of a multitude of layers of paint and a colourful diversity. What makes the art of painting attractive to Lode Laperre is the search for rhythm and mathematical abstract construction, combined with the repetition of a colour and the search for a technique to set the colour in motion.
If I were to describe the works of Lode Laperre in a single expression, I would call it "the emotionalism of the brush technique". People familiar with Lode's personality will no doubt use words such as correct, accurate, punctual, polite and organised. These words certainly describe Lode Laperre's personality, how he interacts with other people and how he has tastefully decorated his modern house. However, when he retires to his studio and the person Lode Laperre becomes the painter, he transforms. I know very well that the artist's studio is his inner sanctum; it is the place where he retires to grapple with thoughts, ideas and problems and to keep looking for ways to crystallize his ideas by letting the paint on the canvas do the talking.
When Lode Laperre first invited me visit his studio I was overwhelmed by a sudden change in style. From the comfortable living room he led me through the squeaky clean corridor and up the nice wooden stairs with metal handrail. When he opened the door to the studio I was looking at a 5 x 5 m space where seemingly a paint bomb had recently exploded. The linoleum on the floor was one thick layer of paint. The largest wall (plastered white) was covered with splashes and licks of paint. The radiator was smirched. I even noticed a puddle of water in one corner. It was immediately obvious that a painter was at work here, wrestling with his materials: paint brushes, rags, paint, etc.

The paint process Lode Laperre used at the time is the result of the art as he sees it and method required to get there. More often than not he works with ready-made canvas and he recently prefers smaller sizes: 40 x 40 cm, 24 x 30 cm and 40 x 45 cm, but that tends to change from time to time.

The acrylic paint is transferred straight from the pots of paint to a pallet (a plank of wood), in the traditional order of colours. Music plays in the background, or at least for the start of the painting. Lode prefers not to paint on an immaculate white canvas, he usually adds layers of paint, perhaps remnants from an earlier session, to a canvas before he begins a new painting.

When I was there I witnessed the creation of the painting titled “Kringloop” (“Sequence”). For a long time Lode Laperre felt his paintings did not necessarily need titles, and the assignment of titles occurs spontaneously.

With a large wide brush, dipped in water first and acrylic paint next, he applies large brush strokes to the canvas. Because of the fierceness and verve with which he does this, the edges are painted as a matter of course. The paint is fairly wet when applied and in order to speed up the drying he holds the painting close to an electric radiator. After the first layer has sufficiently hardened, he adds a film of lightblue paint, dries it again and next adds a layer of ochre. It is all part of a new beginning, of the artist getting acclimatized in his studio, of the artist getting re-acquainted with his materials (e.g. after a few days of non-painting). Lode Laperre finds this initial process very important: as if successful, it provides the motivation and the desire to continue.
The painting is then subjected to several processes: adding layers of paint (this time yellow and brown), followed by more drying.
It is clear that his materials (the paint) are very important to Lode Laperre. Different periods are characterised by different colours and in recent years these have been shades of green. Initially, this resulted in paintings that were almost monochrome and, at least at first sight, did not appear to contain much contrast, but on closer inspection turned out to contain a variety of colours, because he is not afraid to combine complementary colours, although this is not done on purpose.
The painting is now hanging on the wall.
A pattern is beginning to emerge; the artist is getting a clearer idea of the direction he wants to go in. Paint is now being applied with more purpose, with streaks. He takes a few steps back to have another look. He rotates the canvas several times; the orientation of the painting is important. After using various shades of blue, red, and yellow, he ultimately reverts back to green. The canvas gets wet quickly and has to be dried time and time again.

As Lode Laperre creates one painting at a time, this way of working takes up a lot of time. Every layer contributes at least a little bit to the end result. A field of tension comes to the fore between the shades of green, and also between the complementary colours.
Taking a break is essential to have an overview of the painting so far. He already knows which areas he's satisfied with and which areas need more work.
Whereas until now layers were applied to the entire canvas, from now on he works on specific areas of the painting. Sections are perfected, be it with a brush or with a wet rag. This is driven by intuition and the painting changes frequently. If something looks promising he dries the painting immediately and continues. A structure begins to emerge, a tension of hues. He now treats the painting with a wet cloth, then uses the brush again. Then he appears to have a break-through; for minutes he stares at the work in progress, then quickly adds some strokes, rotates the canvas, and dries it.
He feels that the yellow, green and turquoise colours are too densely concentrated in one area of the painting, and so on impulse and in a circular motion he adds complementary red to the top left corner of the painting. It is a daring move, but it works. He appears satisfied with the current state of the painting, in which the colours seem to cancel each other out. The large strokes in the bottom half of the painting were too noticeable, and he smudges them to make them less conspicuous.
As the painting progresses, he uses the large brush more often. The process is intensive in thought as well as action.

While he's painting Lode Laperre does not want to look at any other works. His field of vision must be clear and he does not want to be influenced by anything. As an artist he wants his work to be original. Art is creating added value, which sets it apart from craft. A painting must contain something new. A pigment, line, rhythms. That is its added value and it creates a personal satisfaction. If he is not satisfied with the end result, the canvas will get reused for a new painting.

The paintings of Lode Laperre are best left unframed. In many cases, a frame makes a painting more beautiful, even adorns it, but he does not want that. For Lode Laperre, painting is the perfect way to embrace anarchy and to dwell in a universe without laws, rules, regulations, or conventions.
He realises that he puts increasingly more distance between himself and academics, and cherishes the experiment and dices with the unaesthetic and illogical, and this challenges the artistic establishment. That is a prerequisite in order to push back ones frontiers. It is a form of rebellion against ordinary life. Above all, it means the creation of freedom in which the established order does not need to be complied with. Not just the emotionalism of the brush technique therefore, but also a gentle anarchy against the existence.

Jan Van Herreweghe