Upon first viewing Levi Van Veluw’s photography, my mind immediately drew parallels to the resurgence in the interest in the mask, and film-inspired disguise in contemporary photography, ranging from Gillian Wearing’s diaristic and macabre facial effigies of sorts, to Hanna Liden’s gothic black metal inclinations, or even Cindy Sherman’s self-portraiture. Van Veluw’s works seemed to function within this conversation; his experiments in obscuring and fundamentally altering his own visage seemed like the logical, humorous, conclusion to prior explorations within examining, and shifting, self-image. Surprisingly, Van Veluw dismisses the heavy conceptual framework of the mask, citing it as merely functioning for “religious” purposes or as “decoration/tradition.” In a way, his refusal to acknowledge his relationship to other similar artists is interesting; they become instead private, more ego-driven explorations of himself, like a young child painting his face for the first time and marveling at his own transformation. Perhaps this is fundamentally what introduces humor into the works—we voyeuristically watch Van Veluw make a fool of his face in new and surprising ways, time and time again.
(Interview continues below)
All images courtesy of the artist
SL: On your website it states that your self-portraiture are created and photographed yourself entirely in a one-man process. Can you talk a little bit about your creative process, as well as the technical aspects i.e., how do you create the abstractions on your face?
LV: The work is created through several combinations of ideas. I started experimenting with portraits a few years ago. After every photo, I analyze the work and discuss with myself what is good and what is not. Therefore it is not really a portrait, but more a series of experiments. Creating the work is a one-man process. It is very important that I make every decision while I am creating the work itself because the process is part of the work. The objects really exist on my head and not through the use of a computer.
The technical aspect is not as interesting as it looks. It is just what you see. I put the materials on my face with glue and tape, or draw patterns with ballpoints. It takes about 11 hours to create one photo. It has to be done within a time frame of 24 hours, as I can’t go to sleep before removing everything
Read the full studio visit on Beautiful/Decay