Lorena Kloosterboer is a Dutch-Argentine realist artist focusing on contemporary still lifes painted in acrylics. She currently lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium.
This description is the correct presentation of the artist, yet it doesn’t do any justice to what Lorena is doing.
In today’s art world, it takes a certain courage to focus mainly on a humble subject matter of still life — a genre that is more associated with the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Old Masters than with contemporary art.
Since its origins in in sixteenth century Antwerp, the still life as a genre has always been considered as a minor form of artistic expression: merely a depiction of the familiar object, isolated or in a group. Yet because the still life was not associated with a complex meaning of more esteemed genres, such as portraiture or history painting, it offered the perfect means for 20th century avant garde artists to transform into a vital form of contemporary expression.
Then comes her choice of Photorealism, a type of realist painting based on a photographic way of seeing that still provoke debates of whether this popular art genre holds an enduring significance. Yet one cannot ignore what many people admire about the genre which is the skill of the artists to do something we cannot while marveling at such an accurate representation of reality.
Finally, it’s a combination of all the above with her preferred choice of acrylics as a painting medium. Although the main difference between oils and acrylics is drying time, working with acrylics can be very frustrating — just because the fast drying doesn’t give enough time to mix all the subtle colour variations available with oils. Being a sworn oil painter myself, I have huge respect for those artists who master this unforgiving medium — and Lorena certainly one of those masters. She also wrote a book on a topic: Painting in Acrylics: The Indispensable Guide — published in the U.S., Canada, UK, Netherlands and Spain. That wouldn’t be the only thing she writes about; being a prolific writer and art curator, she also writes monthly art reviews, catalogs and publication projects for PoetsArtists.
I met Lorena in London — where she was promoting the publication of her book in UK. To my delight, it didn’t take me a long time to discover that Lorena is extremely well read person. To me, it means a person who thoughtfully read from a wide variety of genres — not limited, but definitely including the classics — in such a way that allows them to converse about the human experience intelligently. We bonded immediately through our conversations, and there was yet another thing I came to appreciate about Lorena: her straightforwardness. Although she certainly doesn’t take prisoners and doesn’t suffer fools, she manages to do it in a classy and highly entertaining way.
Not long after our initial meeting in London, I flew to Belgium to visit her studio in a heart of Antwerp. The studio is situated in her home, sporting high ceilings, large windows, space for bookcases, a desk and several easels. It’s relatively quiet despite the central location — and Lorena told me that the hushed isolation is the best part of it.
“I love being by myself, I love being the one who decides what I listen to, and I love knowing I have everything I need to be creative and productive right there, in one space.”
Although young Lorena was painting and drawing since her childhood, her ambition as a teenager was to become a fashion designer. Through twists and turns of life she ended up studying at a classical art institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at 19.
“This school, a quiet oasis located inside the thick colonial walls of a Catholic convent in the city center, offered a comprehensive curriculum ranging from painting, drawing, and sculpture to etching, morphology, and composition. During my first year I won a major national award (I received a certificate signed by the then military regime’s minister of culture) and I sold my first piece of art during the end-of-year students gallery exhibition.”
Learning how to deal with cultural difficulties, receiving high grades, and the achievements made her realize that art would always be an important part of her life. Although she isn’t sure where her creative energy comes from, it has became her driving force.
“I could just be blunt and say I am an artist because that’s the thing I am best at — but perhaps that’s not entirely true. Maybe it’s my need for solitude that paved the way, a need for introspection and self-sufficiency — there’s no better place to be alone and reinvent myself than in my studio. There’s also a burning desire to find out where my limitations lie regarding my skills.
And, on a darker note, I could add that making art is, in my mind, the least aggressive, least destructive way I can live my life.”
Because Lorena is a planner, she likes the fact that there are many steps to creating her elaborate paintings. She reveals that, on average, she loses her interest easily so she appreciates knowing how every part of the process leads to the next one. All are interconnected and dependent on each other, and she enjoys every step. However, her favourite part is the one special moment:
“It happens all the time — I fall in love with a new composition, a new idea, a colour scheme, a detail. It also happens when I feel the flow, that state of electrified absorption, when the only existing element is the creative now. I like to believe these emotions — the infatuation, passion, and fascination — saturate my paintings and become a gateway to a silent dialogue between my artwork and the viewer. “
Her least favourite part of the process is deciding at what point a painting is finished.
“Sometimes I get so absorbed by a piece I cannot easily let it go — much like a love affair you know is over but still, you can’t quite let go of. “
I was interested in what brushes she is using for her precise work. I would imagine that her paintings would require the brushes of intimidating size of a human hair, but majority of them are just average small brushes. When I commented on that, Lorena, without as much as lifting an eyebrow, delivered the statement it is not the size of the tool that matters, but how one uses it. She doesn’t have specific preferences when it comes to her tools, but when it comes to her tech gadgets, the picture is different.
“I don’t think I could live without my computer, printer, and digital camera anymore. They have not only radically changed and improved the way I create but have liberated me from tedious, frustrating work as well as a dependency on professional photographers, film development, post office, print shop, etc. The Internet allows me to feast my eyes on an amazing array of exquisite art on, as well as connect with the art world and fellow artists, kindred spirits, and collectors in particular.”
While we are on a topic of the Internet, I asked whether she relies on it to seek new opportunities for her career. She surprised me somewhat by telling that, besides from subscribing to email services that announce juried shows, she doesn’t seek any opportunities. This is mainly because to her, it feels like asking for favors.
“I don’t feel comfortable promoting myself, I suffer a deep-seated aversion to tooting my own horn that I have never been able to overcome despite reading plenty of artist’s guidebooks — and by now, I don’t even try to anymore. I’m envious of artists who speak easily about their art and accomplishments, effortlessly turning a chat into a P.R. discourse. In contrast, I prefer to let my art speak for itself and hope those that are interested will start up a real conversation.
For the sake of having my work out there, I post my art on social media and my website, and my paintings take part in several exhibitions each year — both physical and online — but that’s about it.”
Although she doesn’t spend much time on seeking opportunities, she points out it doesn’t mean she can bypass navigating the art world.
“To me, it’s like traversing a jungle of good and bad, joyful and distressing situations. As an artist, it is of vital necessity to deal with it as best as I can — my reputation is very important.
One of the more challenging parts of navigating the art world is digesting the bullshit, which is most often unrelated to the art itself. I’m talking about snippy remarks and baseless advice, arrogant and patronizing attitudes, pointless competitive behavior (as if there’s a race going on) and unproductive comparisons (as if we all walk the same path). All these behaviors are not only unnecessary but gobble up energy better spent on constructive things.
On the positive side, the art world gives so much back — not only in terms of sales and patronage but also in terms of friendships, a sense of belonging, and support.”
Returning to the subject of artwork, we agree that to let the work to speak for itself is the hope that all artists have in common. Individually, the aim is different — so I had to ask what does Lorena hopes her work should convey?
“In my paintings I seek to capture the fascinating interactions between colors, light, shadows, textures and reflections, and unite them in visual poetry. I want my still lifes to be elegant and serene, highlighting the beauty of the subject matter.
Symbolic messages within the subject matter may well go unnoticed by viewers, but I hope they prompt some — even if on a subconscious level — to pursue personal growth, wisdom, and a sense of connection through the serenity and beauty I try to convey.”
On influence, Lorena said her work is the reflection of her own perspective on life.
“I’m a realist. I mean, my outlook on life is that: I see most of humanity failing at focusing on important things and seemingly incapable of making the right decisions for the wellbeing of us all. While my work doesn’t offer sociopolitical commentary, I try to present a visual antidote to the harshness, difficulties, and negativity life inevitably throws at us.”
While there is a lot to be said about the negativity coming from outside environment, I was more interested to have a closer look at Lorena’s thoughts about dealing with negativity from within — the Nemesis of all professional artists. Her approach to rough patches was as methodical as her working routine.
“From my perspective, there are three kinds of rough patches; skill-based, social/external, and internal/personal. I try to differentiate between them and evaluate as clearheaded as I can to find the right remedies.
When a painting isn’t working, I try to assess whether it’s fixable — questioning whether it’s worth putting more energy into the failed love affair — or whether I need to be brave, accept my losses, and just roller over it to start afresh. Once I make a decision, I go for it — that makes me feel better.
Some rough patches are caused by an external event that just leaves me sad, insecure, or despondent. I try to discover the underlying reason for this state of mind. Once I pinpoint the cause — which can be a negative comment, a rejection, or a disappointment — I can talk myself up again. The trigger is more often than not unimportant.
When I hit a rough patch, when self-doubt creeps in and I end up wondering why I even bother creating art — all artists go through this, surely — I usually try to talk myself out of it using logic. We all go through solitary moments of despair, uncertainty, and depression. If the rough patch is persistent and my confidence takes a deep dive, I always turn to my best friend who invariably knows how to boost my self-esteem by telling me that I have absolutely nothing to prove, advising me to keep on doing what I’m doing, no matter what, which always gives me positive energy.”
Looking around Lorena’s studio, it is not difficult to see the source of her inspiration and feel the positive energy emanating from it. Most of the ceramics and glass pieces she uses in her compositions are from her personal collection, the beautiful objects that she lives with on a daily basis. I wanted to know more about her love affaire with inanimate objects.
“In painting the inanimate objects, I not only seek to highlight their splendor but also pay tribute to the highly skilled, often anonymous artisans who created said pieces.
I’m also moved by the splendor of the natural world and often portray birds because of their incredible diversity of plumage (pattern, color, and arrangement of feathers), that makes even common varieties, such as the house sparrow, a real pleasure and challenge to paint.
Pairing inanimate objects with living creatures gives a twist to the concept of still life painting, and I love the juxtaposition between cold, hard, shiny surfaces and warm, soft, organic textures.”
Finally, the big question — if she had to choose one piece that represents her as an artist, a work she is proud of?
“Ah, that’s a difficult question. I believe all my paintings represent who I am, both as an artist and a person. I really pour my heart and soul into my work. Hence, I like to believe they all show some small part of the best I have to offer of myself.
If I have to choose just one painting to represent me, it would be Tempus ad Requiem V. It stands among three or four pieces that I’m most proud of, but Tempus ad Requiem V has a special place in my heart because it marks an important personal transition.”
She doesn’t reveal what that transition was about, but she doesn’t need to. As I gaze at her work, it suddenly becomes clear to me that her intense focus on the objects which lacks importance is the very base of life that ‘importance’ constantly overlooks. It is the moment when, in our search for bigger and better experiences, we stop to appreciate what has been right in front of us all along.