Lode Laperre


About the abstract paintings by Lode Laperre

Traditionally, painting is directly associated with easel painting with a two-dimensional surface. At least this is how people generally think. It is a question of space. To break free from the confines of space and medium, Eastern artists incorporate into paintings a spiritual quality and perfect techniques informed by Zen and various ways of expression. Their ultimate goal is to accentuate spirituality and three-dimensionality beyond existing conditions. With the exception of the relative achievement of the Song paintings of one thousand years ago, works and experiments after the Song Dynasty have mostly failed in this respect.

To think beyond medium is a revolt and revolution against the concept and expression of space in traditional painting. Few artists are paying attention to the extension of space, and even when they are, they seek space within the confines of the canvas. By ‘extension of space’, I do not mean the traditional concept of depth, but the realization of limitlessness on the painting surface. Certainly, there have been artists who thicken the texture by creating impasto or building up layers of paint, but this is not the concept of space I am referring to.

Performance art and installation art emerged in the West after the baptism of modernism and conceptual revolution. In Western art, they arose as an opposition to modernism. In the East, however, abstract concepts have been rendered figuratively. The dialectical harmony of man and nature, man and society, is understood by the concept of moderation, whose focus on complementary union harks back to the concept of coordination and balance in Chinese philosophy. Of the numerous Eastern artists exploring new possibilities, only a few have succeeded in making breakthroughs. 

Among the artworks I have seen, Lode Laperre’s has touched on the points raised above. For one thing, the abstraction in his work is open to interpretation. Its extremely rich texture, derived from the endeavour to encapsulate as many skills and expressions as possible on the canvas, constitutes a balance and harmony that broaden the scope of the work. This is obvious. Moreover, his work has a balanced composition that brings East and West, the modern and the traditional, into a complementary relationship. He is perhaps the only Western artist I know who has the capability to extract the concept of spirituality from Eastern art while referring to the history of Western art, and create purely modern works. He is a very Eastern, and very Western artist!

Traditional Western oil painting and Eastern ink painting are common in that their focus is not the material, which is even more apparent in performance art and installation art. Like Zen Buddhism, their goal is to finally abandon materiality, instead of creating for the work’s sake. Today’s art has actually been characterized by decorative excess. It is only a ‘performance of art‘, which is far from what art really is. Lode Laperre’s abstractions are not in this category. Although they have a different language and a relatively small size, they have perfectly coalesced East and West in their expression of emotions, beauty, and spiritual values. Its form and content represent the artist’s attempt to establish a new relationship with the society and the public. 

The cultural environment in Asia is changing. Concepts such as re-Sinicization or re-Japanization, proposed in a bitter struggle to overtake Europe and America with new expressions and experiences, reveal a kind of anxiety. The back and forth development of the concept of art epitomizes that of the larger society. To act purely on impulse and fantasies without a sincere dedication to art is destined to fail. Artists indeed must have unconventional views, and precisely for this reason, they must make effort to return to tradition. Laperre’s antagonism to dogmatism, hierarchy, and stylization may shed some light on the question of artists’ self-discipline. Many artists have been contriving a style. In their oblivion of life as the origin of art, they cultivate a strong sense of subversion as a revolution of style or tradition, and thereby lose their eyes of introspection. This absurdity is happening in both East and West. Life is art. Repeated subversion without lyrical pathos leads to a loss of beauty. 

The last time I saw Lode Laperre, he was almost reticent, while his paintings were assimilated seamlessly into the Zen space in the authentic Chinese style. If not reminded, no one would have known that their creator is a Belgian artist. I returned to the gallery time and again to observe closely, attempting to probe into his mind and heart beneath the painting surface. I believe that he has an Eastern soul, I believe that he has eyes looking inward, and I believe that he has brought skills and spiritual quality into a perfect union. This is how his work moves with a profundity beyond the calm surface.

Robin Chen