Country: Arequipa, Peru
I was born in 1976 and grew up in a small town near Antwerp, Belgium. I started to study photography while still in secondary school. Afterwards I continued my studies at the St. Lukas Superior School for Visual Arts in Brussels where I got my master degree in photography in 2002. At the beginning I wasn’t really that interested in the artistic side of it, I spend more time on documentary and reportage photography. While doing that I started traveling. So a few years later I met my wife in Peru and now I‘m still living here in Peru with my wife and my two teenage daughters. In 2011 I published a small documentary and satiric photobook about Peru.
(Au pied du – At the foot of Machu Picchu / Husson éditeur). After that I realized I wanted to do something else. I was bored by the fact that I always had tell my story with something in front of the lens. That’s why I learned how to draw and paint.Though my works are all hand-painted, basically they are collages or photomontages. I don’t think as a painter, for me the paint and the brushes are merely tools. I see myself more as a photo-editor. I recycle, combine and edit images I find on the internet and I try to convert them into an image I can communicate with.
What inspires you as an artist?
Sometimes I hear a phrase from a song or a movie and all of a sudden I see an image that goes with it. A fragment of a conversation I hear at the super market, a comment on facebook. Sometimes I see a portrait of somebody on the internet and I start imagining how the image could be more interesting and then I start shuffling on photoshop. As a working title for my complete body of work I use the term “normalicide”. So what I always try to do is to explore or even break through the boundary of what is called “normal” in our society. I’ve been living in South America for almost 13 years now but my biggest influence is still the world where I came from. The interesting thing is that I’m not living in that world anymore and that I observe everything from a distance, filtered through the internet.
We are obsessed with your figures and their overly-large, somewhat frightening, mouths. How did you develop your style?
In the Andean region the use of masks during folcloristic festivities is very widespread. Most of the mask in the Cusco region of Peru have these big, saturated smiling mouths. I simply love them. The faces I paint aren’t really faces, they function more as a mask. They try to cover up a potentially terrible situation and I think that is something which is happening all the time in our society. On social media it’s almost an obligation to show how perfect your life is. Genius kids, great jobs, super food, a nice body… The grotesque smiling mouths in my paintings are a reference to this phenomenon.
Do you feel your artwork reflects your personality in some way?
I tend to have quite a neurotic personality. The artistic process functions an outflow, it’s almost a kind of therapy for me. Therefore, yes I’m sure my artwork reflects my personality
Are the people in your art real people? People you might know or have seen somewhere? Or do re you make them up from your imagination?
They are based on photographs of real people but I almost always erase their face or combine parts of them mutually. Normally I start to work on something, beginning from a phrase which eventually becomes the title of the work. Then I start looking for images to construct the idea. So the people or the faces you see in my paintings merely work as mannequins.
What do you find most challenging as an artist?
Trying to explain to my wife why I‘m an artist and why I spend so much time on something that pays nothing.
Is there something or someone who influenced your work?
I think most of the influence is subconscious, but if I have to be specific I have to say that the Flemish primitives, James Ensor, Lars von trier, the Smiths, Joy Division and Captain Beefheart certainly had a big influence on me.
How do you want people to feel when they look at your work?
That’s up to them. But some people commented that my work is disturbing while others told me it was slightly brutal. I have to admit, they made me blush.
Where do you see your art in five years?
Part of an art collection of a multi-millionaire would be very nice.