Lode Laperre


Interview with Lode Laperre

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces – Lode Laperre

In Bob Smit Gallery in Rotterdam I saw work by the Belgian artist Lode Laperre: beautiful crackle (craquelé) paintings built up in many layers and sculptures, ‘Coprolites’, which have a close relationship with the paintings. About that relationship and how the works came about, I had a conversation with the artist.

Lode Laperre, living in Stasegem, near Kortrijk (Belgium), went to the Far East 20 years ago for the first time. He visited Thailand, got the taste, and went to India and various other countries in Southeast Asia in the following years. He found a completely different culture that extended to all areas of life. “I was actually not surprised. I received confirmation of what I suspected: there is a break between the Western and Eastern interpretation of images.“


Attention to detail

He saw great attention to detail in paintings and sculptures in temples and non-religious buildings from the East. “At a distance you see the overall architecture. If you come closer, you will see new layers. The picture is fresher and new. If you then stand with your nose in front of a panel, you will see a particularly fine relief, sometimes also calligraphy or miniature paintings. Each time you are surprised by something new. If you go to a building in the west, you will not see it that way. What first presents itself is only confirmed.“

That has to do with philosophy, among other things, he says. “People in the Far East find it important to see a detail within a larger whole. You see universal forms that each time get a different expression. There is not one truth there, there are multiple truths. Religion (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, etc.) is more tolerant. The people there can switch faster. You will find that in art as well.“



Laperre, back from his travels, did not immediately start working differently. “I was searching. I started to focus more, to deal more consciously with fragments and aspects of images.” At a certain point in time, it was also expressed in his own work and he allowed it in his visual language. He developed various techniques, sometimes as a ‘type of scientific’ research with which he could realize a fusion between Eastern and Western ways of expression in paintings. One of those new techniques was the crackle (craquelé). “I did a lot of experiments. For example, in oil painting it did not work at all. Acrylic paint offered more perspectives: I alternated pasty paint layers with liquid ones and in this way caused ‘frictions’ between paint layers with different densities and viscosity. Frictions can also be stirred up by, for example, creating wind. Then I open all the windows of my studio. Or by manipulating the heating: you can stretch or accelerate the drying time. During these processes you get up with your work and you go to sleep with it; you ‘keep watch’ over it.“

Craquelé is mainly seen on old paintings. “For us it is a symbol of the loss of aesthetics. A very long time ago in my teens I saw in a museum in Bruges a portrait of Rogier van der Weyden and another painting of his hand that was overgrown with craquelé. I liked the last painting better. Even then that had an aesthetic added value for me. Here one will do everything to stop this crackle process. This is not the case in the East. A similar work will not be restored, consciously. One finds transience just as beautiful as the emergence of something new. This translates into the attitude in society towards, for example, older people. These are often regarded as written off. There, and also in Africa, the older you become, the more you are respected and the more you are asked for advice.“


Letting go

An important aspect in Laperre’s work is the letting go. Processes and techniques, such as the crackle, often arise in his paintings by ‘not acting’. In this connection, Taoism has the concept of ‘Wu Wei’. “That means ‘acting by not acting’. It is a very active concept. It means very consciously letting go of something. With us, inaction stands for passivity, in the East it means to take distance so that something can develop.“

“To what extent do you have to check the process or let it go completely? You seem to have little hold on craquelé. But in the course of time I have learned how developing a coarse or fine texture can be influenced or controlled. And even if a painting is partially or completely cured, I sometimes intervene by, for example, cutting very cautious craquelures in the paint skin or scratching out pieces of paint. I do not throw away those removed paint residues. The yellow paint sculpture at the exhibition in Rotterdam was thus created from pieces of scratched paintings.“


Visual memory

Because his paintings consist of many layers, he sometimes makes the decision, if there is a certain color to be added, for example red, to do this not by applying an extra coat of paint, but by scraping away paint layers until the red color appears. “Over time I have developed a kind of visual memory, so I remember which colors are located in which places in the underpaintings. And the application or removal of layers of paint, creation or destruction, I see as equal actions in the creation of my paintings and sculptures.“



His paint sculptures and paintings are one and indivisible together. “One has arisen from the other and is inextricably linked to it. The concept of ‘reincarnation’, again from the east, pops up. Everything is constantly being recreated.” The oriental conception of ecology also ties in with this. “In the east you see a lot of pollution in the public space. But where a plastic bag ends up with us on the landfill after being used once or twice, it is reused almost to infinity in Asia.“

The sculptures have the name ‘Coprolites’. Coprolite is fossilized faeces, fossil excrement. “An important study object in archeology. One can see how a certain society lived in the past. What people ate and drank. I sometimes have a thought experiment that someone could see later on my sculptures what type of painter I was.“

Laperre finds it important to have a certain attitude as an artist. “Not the arrogance to rewrite art, but the ambition to interpret art history, to reveal something or to illuminate, preferably in correlation with what is happening in society.”


Key work

Does he have a key work, a work that served as a turning point? Laperre: “An art critic once remarked that during my entire career I only worked on one painting. According to him, all paintings in the meantime were steps towards the ultimate painting. Initially I thought it was a strange remark. I did think about it. And the more I thought about it, I had to acknowledge that he was right. Because I actually make a continuous story in images. The starting point of a painting is the end point of the previous painting. Yet every new work must reveal a new fact. Even though that is sometimes a minimal element. So every work of mine is actually a key work on the way to the next. Frans Boenders was the name of this critic, a Belgian of Dutch descent, who once had a cultural talk show on Dutch TV.“

Lode Laperre has always been drawing. When asked as a child what he wanted to be, he said ‘draftsman’. “I suppose that I meant ‘artist’. But I probably did not know that word yet. My father made sculptures and was calligrapher. He had a passion for special, high-quality paper types. Because I always wanted to draw, I often searched the whole house in search of drawing material. That forced him to be ingenious in finding places to hide his precious paper.“

At the end of April Laperre has an exhibition at the TRAKART Museum in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. An interdisciplinary project, music and visual art, a tribute to the French composer Olivier Messiaen. “‘Quatuor pour la fin du temps’ is a composition by Messiaen that was first performed in captivity in Poland during the Second World War. I worked on a cycle of 8 paintings for this project for six months, in which I converted sounds into colors based on synaesthesia, the mixing or association of sensory perceptions. The initiative comes from an American cellist who formed a quartet with a pianist and clarinetist from Bulgaria and a violinist from Portugal. The try out takes place in Antwerp.”



Finally, how would he formulate his philosophy? “With me there is an interaction between visual language and philosophy with plenty of room for reflection and contemplation in the work itself. The layers of paint are a metaphor for mental layers that can also take shape in – or are inspired by – for example text or music. With Etienne Vermeersch, a philosopher, I had at one point an exchange of views about the plagiarism by a well-known Belgian artist. In that connection he challenged me to paint his portrait. Although I never make portraits (except for a long time ago, during my studies at the academy), I accepted the challenge. I like to push boundaries for myself. That is always satisfying. The result was excellent, and the portrait was later printed in a page size in the newspaper ‘De Morgen’". But be assured, “in my oeuvre I will always adhere to and continue to develop the abstract imagery.“

Walter van Teeffelen