Bas Louter

Bas Louter recently concluded the exhibition, Dust at Kopeikin gallery in Los Angeles and is currently exhibiting Dust/Asphalt at Ambace and Rice in Seattle. A fitting title for Louter’s ethereally haunting visages–referencing perhaps the black soot of charcoal used to create his works, or the ashes and dust of human remains. Louters works uncannily examines the fleeting and transitory nature of existence, and humankind’s attempts to immortalize ourselves through representation and art. Louter notes, “What interested me most about these portraits was how elapsed eras can crop up in result, like time condensing in a flash of lighting. When this flash is over it seems all detail is lost, like the portrait is somehow haunted or hollow.” Time within these portraits is obfuscated– set within grainy washes of charcoal, in timeless voids devoid of setting or temporal indicators. Of this, Louter notes: “I am attracted to take things out of the past in the now, the actuality. In general I think time can be a non-chronological cycle, things from now can be old and things from the past can be contemporary. It’s my interest to question the way we look at these whole container of images.”

In a recent interview, Louter discusses the nature of his works, his creative process and sources of inspiration with DailyServing.com’s Sasha Lee.

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DUST (ASPHALT), Ambach and Rice, Seattle


SL: Can you talk a little bit about your creative process, from the inception of an idea for a work to its final creation?

BL: Well usually I don’t plan much ahead. I have my archive of images that is continuously growing, it’s the heart and starting point of all my work. Usually there is a bunch of images I am very attracted by, I don’t always know why. I use basically anything, pictures out of newspapers, stuff I find on the internet, images I find on Myspace and Facebook, or I compose my own images or will montage one.

Nomally for one exhibition there are about 4/5 different interests. The editing of the imagery is as important as the execution of a drawing, it’s a very intuitive process and it’s always a major challenge trying to avoid randomness, it should feel like everything belongs together no matter the differences in source.

SL: What’s a typical day in your studio like?

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DUST (ASPHALT), Ambach and Rice, Seattle

BL: I wake up, make a coffee and bike to my studio. In my studio I switch on my computer and check my mail. I start the day with stretching sheets of paper on wood. Basically I install, prepare and sometimes set up some new works in the morning. After a couple of hours I have to get out. Sometimes I go to the library or a store to buy art-materials, often I go the swimming-pool to swim laps. After this I return to my studio. The process of creating new works always seems terribly slow and the drying of ink (while the drawings are laying flat on the floor) requires both patience and order. I interrupt the working process continuously to do other art-related activities. It’s a way of working that enables me to keep enough distance from the works, it’s a way to give room for coincidences. Every three hours I will interrupt the working process and get back to it later.

SL: Your most recent work is predominantly portraiture. I read that the majority of them are “historically important,” – but primarily lost or forgotten. Can you talk about your process and criteria, as far as what you look for in a subject?

BL: I am attracted to taking things out of the past in the now, the actuality. In general I think time can be a non-chronological cycle, things from now can be old and things from the past can be contemporary. It’s my interest to question the way we look at these whole container of images.

What interested me most about these portraits was how elapsed eras can crop up in result, like time condensing in a flash of lighting. When this flash is over it seems all detail is lost, like the portrait is somehow haunted or hollow.

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JOHN THE REVELATOR, Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam

SL: Where and how do you typically discover your subjects?

BL: Mainly in public libraries.

SL: How does the nature of these “forgotten” visages interact with the large-scale of your works? Why did you decide to create their portraits in such a large-scale?

BL: The works are large-scale but made with charcoal and ink on paper. Monumental and fragile at the same time. I make large works because I want the works to be inescapable, to give the viewer a physical experience. I want to confront the viewer with the perception of time and transient in relation to collective imagery.

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Installation, Octagon, PAKT, Amsterdam

SL: Some of your works include abstract geometric, hard lined pieces in the installation, that seemingly contrast the diffused light of the figurative charcoal works. What do you think this bipolar juxtaposition evokes?

BL: I see these juxtapositions as crashes of two opposite worlds and they challenge the viewer to give new meaning to the historical narrative in my work.

SL: What relation do you think your work has to photographic imagery- whether similarities or fundamental differences?

BL: I use photography as a starting point for my works. The finished works have a gestural and grainy quality, they are real drawings. Although, you can compare them with old photo’s, but they are obviously consisting of charcoal, ink and paper.

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Max, 2008, charcoal and ink on paper, 97×143 cm

SL: What are some of your sources of inspiration, whether visual, ideological, musical, historical, philosophical….

BL: I get my inspiration out of novels, picture-books, movies and music. I love to read books from Yukio Mishima, Louis Ferdinand Celine, Jerzy Kosinski, J.G. Ballard, Klaus Mann, and Martin Amis. The picture-books that I use as a direct inspiration for my work are books with images from the early American entertainment-industry.

Some of the movies that I have seen which had a huge impact on my work are the early stuff from David Cronenberg like Scanners, The Brood, Rabid and Shivers, Blodd Simple from the Coen brothers and Seven Samurai from Kurosawa.

The music I am inspired by is Kool Keith, Linton Kwesi Jonhson, Kyuss and Joy Division.

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