Levi van Veluw is a young multidisciplinary artist living and working in the Netherlands. He has won a number of accolades and been featured in a slew of magazines within the last two years for his ostentatious refashionings of his face, entitled Landscapes. In each of his series, he painstakingly obscures his likeness, in increasingly elaborate disguises. Earlier works include ridiculous wiring closed of ears and popsicle sticks applied to now Quasimodo like eyes to simply and humorously change the face.
Upon first viewing Levi van Veluw’s works, I couldn’t help but compare his disguised self-portraiture 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 seem to function within this conversation; his experiments in obscuring and fundamentally altering his own visage seem like the logical, humorous, conclusion to prior explorations within examining, and shifting, self-image.
In a recent conversation with the artist, 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. His works become comedic, self-absorbed endeavors, with the endless presenting and representing of his own face becoming the sole focus of his practice. In this sense, van Veluw’s practice is an apt metaphor for the creative process itself; laying bare an artist’s inherent vain and narcissistic impulses to both recreate and abstract their own identities.
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.