Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wabi-sabi...Line and Spirit

Yves Leterme, "gestural genius" from Bruges, is exhibiting a series of new works in Yokohama, opening TODAY (July 2), which happily coincides with his current teaching tour of Japan.

"Line and Spirit" promises to be an exceptional exhibition with works from leading Japanese calligraphers (working in the Western calligraphic tradition) as well as 13 outstanding lettering artists from Belgium: Brody Neuenschwander, the 5 members of the Boudens family, Elmo Van Slingerland, Maud Bekaert, Veronique Vandevoorde, Jurgen Vercaemst, Veerle Missiaen, Lieve Cornil and of course Yves...who generously chats to Calligraffia and shares his thoughts about the exhibition and his new work.

The Power of Imagination

Julie: Yves, how did the "Line and Spirit" exhibition come to be?

Yves: Towards the end of 2007, Brody invited members of the Alphaclub in Japan to exhibit in the Art gallery Manna in Bruges, one of the very few galleries in Belgium to exhibit calligraphy on a regular basis. The Japanese calligraphers are very interested in Western calligraphy. They asked for some assistance and Denis Brown, Brody and I each gave advice to students, which was quite a daunting task for me, for I had to discuss and criticize works made by ladies I didn't know. Since then, things have changed: I've come to know some of them as they came over for the opening of the exhibition and took some workshops with me. It's incredible to see how quickly they make progress and how developed their sense for detail is.

Hiroko Shimizu and Minako Sando, two of their finest calligraphers, invited back some Belgian calligraphers for an exhibition in an enormous and wonderful gallery in Yokohama. We're thirteen in total, almost all of us living in Bruges or surroundings.

The Power of Imagination (detail)

J: I would imagine there were many considerations to be taken into account for this exhibition. Can you tell us what some of these might have been?

Y: Since the gallery is a very spacious room, we were asked to contribute some large works. A number of us usually work on a quite small scale, and I knew that this meant trouble for me as my work is more suited to a rather intimate interior. However, I decided to give it a try and to scale up. One immediately felt by looking at the interior that it was not meant for another calligraphy exhibition with the usual nicely framed work: we had to come up with some daring work, not necessarily avant-garde, but still....not the cute stuff. I knew Brody's work would fit in perfectly in that decor, but was at a loss as to what kind of work I would send in. It turned out that I'd be present at the opening of the exhibition, for it just happens to be at the start of my Japanese teaching tour. No possibility for hiding, I would have to face the crowd, so...I'd better come up with something decent!

The Three Fates

J: Yves, you are recognized and renown for your earthy gestural works...where did you draw inspiration from for this series?

Y: The exhibition's theme: Line and Spirit, may have been considered as a source for inspiration. I kept postponing these works, always being very happy if another commission came in, but it was always at the back of my mind. I suddenly came upon the Three Fates, the Moirai, who in ancient Greece spinned and cut the tread of Life. There I had it: Line and Spirit.

I made my first panel: the largest one (115 cm x 55 cm) on gessoed paper, using my beloved pigments and experimenting with poetic texts, photo-transfer, drawn lettering, gestural lettering and marks. It's the sort of work in which the eye can get lost as it wanders through the various parts.

The Three Fates (detail)

I have realized that I'm especially drawn towards things with patina, things which show they have lived (scratches, rust, old stones etc...) and that I spend a lot of time trying to get those things into my work.

Now there's a Japanese word for it: Wabi-sabi. I learned that word about a year ago and after further research, I found to my greatest joy that the description of that philosophy is exactly what I'm after. I couldn't say it any better than what has been written. (For those interested, read more about wabi-sabi here.)

Wabi-sabi 1

Wabi-sabi 1 (detail)

I decided to make some Wabi-sabi works, especially since they were meant for Japan. The words and sentences which are hidden in the work, mostly illegible, are drawn from the texts I read on Wabi-sabi. Like that, I tried to visualize immediately the content of the text.

Wabi-sabi 2

J: Your calligraphy and art in this series characterize the wabi-sabi aesthetics wonderfully - simplicity, effortlessness, quietness, familiarity and suggest a natural process of asperity...

Y: I realize it may not look that way, but I have spent a considerable amount of time in making these works, constantly judging if everything was in harmony with each other, re-framing things, adding things, erasing things, finding new ways of obtaining wabi-sabi effects....I spent hours looking at the works, worrying also if I was not carried away too much...straying away from good old decent calligraphy as we know it.

Wabi-sabi 2 (detail)

Yves, your works are inspirational, thank you for your time and generosity in sharing your thoughts and allowing us a glimpse of your latest series.

"Line and Spirit" is now showing at the
BankART Studio NYK

3 - 9 Kaigan-dori, Bashamachi, Yokohama, Japan

from 2nd - 14th July

And of course, if you would like to see more of Yve's stunning work, visit his website.