I grew up, fascinated by architecture and interior design magazines. I formed collections, which in turn led to entities.
As an artist, I work the collage not simply as a juxtaposition or assemblage of images and/or objects but as an intricate web of colours and reflections. The technique evolves and the story unfolds throughout the painstaking process as each piece, some of them as small as a one millimeter diameter circle, adds to the overall composition.
The Beauty Trap
What man has done to perfect nature,
quipped Harry Winston, the famous jeweller and gemologist, whose passion for diamonds has been well documented. Boastful, perhaps – nature after all seems superior in all respects – but there is a truth in man’s ability to hew out of the rocks and dig up from the soil rough stones that once polished, reveal their ultimate splendour. And sparkle they do! For centuries, with techniques becoming increasingly sophisticated, man has managed to cut and polish precious and semi-precious stones to a near perfect state. Brilliantisme, the artist calls it, the skill to bring out the sparkle in matter. The appeal of the minerals was so great that since ancient times and across cultures, they have been bestowed with mystical powers and are whispered to protect, empower, heal but also harm, bring misfortune or put a curse. Each stone was endued with a spiritual soul, beyond the shiny surface, and into the depth of its transparency.
The Beauty Trap, as the work is titled, recycles desire into desire, from the attraction to gems to that of art. The collage captures the battle between the material and the spiritual worlds, plays on the transience of ownership, and questions then nature of superficiality as opposed to the soul at the heart of all matter.
Brilliantisme seeks to reconnect with the deeper aesthetic, philosophical and historical perception of beauty and to recognize beauty as an essential human need. Beauty shows respect and gratitude for our very existence. The Beauty Trap constitutes a first reflection on this subject.
The Beauty Trap is a large scale collage of paper cut-outs from printed materials such as magazines and auction catalogues of jewellery and gems. Hundreds and hundreds of images were used to find the right tones. Even the tiniest piece reflects the hue of a precious or semi-precious stone, turning the arrangement into a brilliantly coloured scenery with infinite shades and subtle graduations. The title refers to the controversial concept of beauty that in contemporary times has been equalled with attractive, decorative or shallow. However, there is more to beauty than meets the eye. Umberto Eco in his twin publications On Beauty and On Ugliness alludes to the changing and elusive nature of both notions. In our rational world that shuns emotional and fantastical expressions, the meanings have but shifted and are more rooted in reality rather than the imagination. Our fascination with crime series, serial killers and murder investigations is akin to the medieval attraction to fabulous monsters and other ghastly creatures. When celebrating beautiful people, our present admiration is far removed from the sophisticated emotions that Dante describes upon viewing his great love, Beatrice. As in ancient Greece, he links beauty with morality using words as pure, lovely, virtuous, and gracious.
Her bearing is so noble and sincere,
people can hardly call to mind her ways
before they sigh in reveries of love.
Beauty cannot be captured and cannot be owned. It is a quality and not a subject nor an object. Many writers have expressed their disappointment, disillusionment or frustration when beauty escapes them:
The flower that smiles to-dayPercy Bysshe Shelley, The Flower That Smiles Today
All that we wish to stay
Tempts and then flies.
‘And when I go to get a glimpse of you,
beauty, what meets me dies in memory.
And when you’re near, Love tells me what to do,
he says, “if perishing disturbs you, flee!”
Dante understands that, in order to overcome the temporality of beauty as in death and decay, we have to find solace in inner beauty:
[…]Dante, La Vita Nuova
because the pleasure of her lovingness,
once it had left our sense of sight behind,
became great spiritual beauty then,
Dazzled or intoxicated, the trappings of beauty often spelled the disgrace or even fall of man. Lazarus Siakos uses archetypal language to tackle the idea of fatal attraction. At the centre, woman balances precariously on the egg – the beginning of life -, while hidden within the foliage are predators. Water, the flow of memory and consciousness, runs through the composition and the scenery. Eco’s ugly likeable sea monster leaps out from the sea to catch the drops of the waterfall. The sunset with its vivid colours lures the viewer and draws him further and further in toward a promised Garden of Eden where flowers blossom, paradisiacal birds sing and the treacherous snake patiently awaits and eyes the visitor. Each gem holds in its core a microcosm that tells the history of the world, a universe that exudes energy translated into vibrations as in colour and in sound. The ever changing shades produce a seductive melody that winds itself through the landscape, the sounds of the jungle that reverberate. The Beauty Trap is a work that fills the senses. It tantalizes ownership.
We end with another quote from Dante’s Purgatorio describing the Sapphire Sea that underlines the importance to the creative imagination of gems:
Sweet hue of eastern sapphire, that was spread
O’ver the serene aspect of the pure air, […]