Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sam Dillemans - Authors


Sam Dillemans - Authors, a set on Flickr.
Remarkable expo of more than 300 portraits of known authors (creators), painted between 2010 and 2012 by Belgian expressionist painter Sam Dillemans; superb work and quite a few original painting techniques. A ingenious creator of masterpieces of the plastic arts. (I shot the photographs on a Canon PowerShot S110, and when its battery died, I did the rest with... an iPhone 5! Pas mal...) 

I didn't quite like expressionism in the past. I found it to be an articulation of some form of anger, or a cover-up for the ...lack of painting skills! I'd never think of Ingres or any of the Flemish primitives of the 15th Century becoming expressionist. These artists were genuine masters of the strictly visual aesthetic painting craft and sketching skills. On the other hand, Rouault's head of Jesus (that I first saw at the museum of beaux arts in Ghent) seemed to me a peculiar waste of paint.

Sam Dillemans - Humo Magazine
First time I saw Sam Dillemans in a Woestijnvis documentary, I was struck by his power, obsession, self-criticism, tense motivation, persistence, personality in general, but I wasn't sure I liked his work, nor was I capable of totally grasping what he said about the arts and his canvasses. I even thought he was being slightly pretentious, not to mention arrogant. After visiting the 'Authors' I felt otherwise. I am not an art critic, nor I know that much about visual arts, but I have 'painted' amateur stuff all my life to know how extremely difficult it is, and how much skill you need, to paint meaningful portraits. Looking at Dillemans portraits I became more than convinced that the man is a talented painter who didn't get to that by an intricate play of nature and inherited information stored in a few thousand chemical connections in his genetic double helix, but by an immense motivation to become one of the great Masters, and by sheer hard labor, an insanely hard toil that often insulates and isolates him from the rest of the world for years. 'The hardest struggle is standing in front of a white canvas', Picasso once said, and Dillemans added, 'if it was so for him, imagine how hard it's gonna be for the rest of us'. This is a struggle that Dillemans fights every single day that he spends in his atelier. At the same time, he exercises (boxing) like an obsessed too, to maintain his physical strength and health condition, and make sure he lives to become 90, and continue painting until then. By doing that, to be able to potentially reach the perfection of a Michelangelo, or a Rubens. He sets his targets that high indeed, because only then will he be able to achieve the excellence he is after. Only hard work can lead to the answer. I said that again and again...

In 'Authors', Dillemans painted famous creators and artists, literature, visual, performing. He calls them all 'authors' by virtue of the meaning of the word in English. Reminds me of Jobs's campaign 'Think Different' in the nineties. Besides, few of the characters used in that campaign (Callas, Picasso, etc...) are also among Dillemans's portraits. By definition, such painting subjects had a huge personality, each one of them, men or women. Writers, poets, performers or plastic and visual artists. It almost seems to you like magic, when you look real close at any of the Dillemans Authors, and typically feel like lost in the thousands of colors and dry brush strokes of paint mass, forming quite a plastic texture on top of the canvas, and then, very clearly, like out of nowhere, you recognise the personality (not just the figure) of the painted subject by the play and relative position of few equally sophisticated as simple strokes of Dillemans's brush on decisive positions of the underlying canvas. It's a cause of awe for the viewer. And adoration of the Master.

The expo runs until Sunday June 16th. Don't miss it!

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