Dark Silence In Suburbia

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Levi van Veluw

Drawings 2013

Collapsed Cabinet, 2013. Charcoal on paper, 73 x 51 cm.

Collapsed Cabinet, 2013. Charcoal on paper, 73 x 51 cm.

Writing Desk, 2013. Charcoal on paper, 73 x 51 cm.

This series of large and small drawings as well as installations includes various elements from Van Veluw’s boyhood bedroom. Whereas the previous series incorporated themes of control, order and structure, in these works we witness the disintegration of these elements. Order turns into chaos. Visions of collapsing desks, falling cupboards and exploding cabinets mark the moment of disruption. Human structures are affected by forces of nature such as gravity, water and wind and in this way realigned into a new, natural order of things.

Although these works play on our fascination for destruction and need for disorder, they do possess an inherent compositional equilibrium. The physics of falling objects has a logic that is bound by rules. Each image has been carefully composed by Van Veluw in preliminary drawing studies. The placement of each element was not left to coincidence but was a preconceived choice of the artist.

Family 2012

Family. Origin of the Beginning, 2012.  Wood blocks, 240 x 125 cm & 130 x 67 cm.

Depicted in this work is a room with 5 persons sitting at a table. These persons are Levi van Veluw and the members of his immediate family: his father, mother, brother and sister. As in certain earlier works, everything, including the whole interior space as well as all family members, is covered with thousands of dark brown wooden blocks.
At first sight, everyone seems to be sitting peacefully at the table, the picture of a perfect family unit. Yet this group of figures is positioned in an abstract environment, unrecognisable and therefore far removed from reality.
The awkward silence, dark colours and claustrophobic atmosphere suggest uncomfortable underlying tensions and emotions. The endless repetition of wooden blocks again stands for Van Veluw’s attempts to gain control over his immediate environment, in this case his own position within the family structure.

Drawing 2012

This drawing is a late addition to the Origin of the Beginning series and is Levi van Veluw’s first charcoal drawing. It is the precursor to what would later become a substantial series of drawings and the first piece in which human presence has disappeared.
Portrayed in this piece is a room with empty cabinets and 185 floating icosahedron-shaped objects. The room, again, is an abstracted version of Van Veluw’s childhood bedroom but, whereas in earlier works the wooden blocks are neatly ordered and affixed to all surface areas, in this drawing they have come detached and float freely in the space.
For the first time, the physical figure of the artist has disappeared in this ‘big bang’ of multiple floating objects. In the background, cupboards are vaguely discernible, suggesting that these objects had once been neatly ordered.


Automata, 2011. Windable, 50 x 35 x 35 cm.

Automata are objects that spring to life by ingenious mechanical means. This windable object is made from high quality walnut. The crouched figure inside and the cubes rotate slowly, powered by over a hundred small gears.
This work springs from Van Veluw’s youthful fascination for bizarre and unusual toys. As if hand-made by an eccentric 19th-century toymaker, this object is idiosyncratic in its completely asymmetrical form.
By opening the various odd-shaped doors, the viewer looks into a world animated by the figure of the artist. Covered by thousands of small wooden blocks, the maker and his surrounding (mental) space are once again integral to the work. 

Origin of the Beginning

Origin of the Beginning 1.2, 2011. Wooden blocks, 210 x 100 cm & 100 x 50 cm.

Origin of the Beginning is a series of installations, photographs and videos in which Levi van Veluw draws from his own childhood memories to thematically and narratively develop his oeuvre of self-portraits.
Three rooms are covered with tens of thousands of wooden blocks, balls and wooden slats. Each room is constructed as a life-size installation and is reworked in photographs and videos without the use of digital manipulation.
Portrayed in one piece are a desk, a table lamp and a bookcase. The edge of the table is charred and in the video version we see Van Veluw himself, covered from head to toe in wooden blocks, holding a lighter to this piece of furniture.
The works suggest a narrative world behind the portraits. On the one hand these works are a continuation of Van Veluw’s formal approach to self-portraiture, with their preoccupation for materiality, pattern and texture. Yet, at the same time, they are highly personal pieces as well. The repetitive structures seemingly express a ‘horror vacui’ and recall Van Veluw’s youth and his obsessive attempts to gain control over his life by controlling his surroundings. Dimly lit and dark in colour, the overriding tone of these pieces is claustrophobic and sombre, exuding a sense of loneliness.


Veneer I, 2009. Wood, 120 x 90 cm & 60 x 45 cm.

Veneer II, 2009. Wood, 120 x 90 cm & 60 x 45 cm.

Veneer III, 2009. Wood, 120 x 90 cm & 60 x 45 cm.

Veneer IV, 2009. Wood, 120 x 90 cm & 60 x 45 cm.

Natural Transfers

Natural Transfer III, 2009. 

Natural Transfer II, 2009.

Natural Transfer I, 2009.

This series of work originates from the idea of transforming the face through the use of a material that is already present, rather than using an external element. Simply applying hair to the contours of the head transforms the portrait and the associations conjured up by the materials themselves.
Hair becomes a strange and macabre material with a claustrophobic effect, rather than an aspect of human beauty.  


Monere, 2009. Fiberglass, 2,5 x  1,8 x 0,8 m.

The adjective ‘monumental’ is often used to refer to an object of extraordinary size and power. Similarly, Levi van Veluw’s first sculptural piece Monere is designed to provoke a feeling of respect and awe in the viewer.
Produced in fibreglass and plaster, this large sculptural piece forms part of the interior architecture in which it is installed. The suggestion that it is part of the very structure of the building, together with the scale of the piece and the serene way in which it looks down on visitors from above, all help conjure up the sense of it being a monument.
In this piece Van Veluw is interested in how monuments, with their sense of gravitas, manage to automatically provoke a submissive and deferential reaction in the viewer. This happens even when one is not aware of what the monument is commemorating.
Although possessing sculptural characteristics, the angle from which the head is viewed in ‘Monere’ is similar to the one in Van Veluw’s previous self-portrait photographs. The head is ‘cut-off’. It protrudes from the wall onto which it is installed and is in this way not a autonomous three-dimensional object. In this sense this work serves as an intermediary step between his early photographs and the artist’s later free-standing sculptures. 


Light I, 2009. 

Light II, 2009.

Light III, 2009.

For the Light series, Van Veluw covered his head with strips of light-generating foil. Photographed in total darkness, the highly radiant bright blue light produced by this material, allows it to stand out like an autonomous object. The features of Van Veluw’s face have disappeared, only its shape remains discernible through the mass of light strips.
Light becomes form and exists independently from its base, the original subject. This ‘invisibility’ of the human subject informs the formal qualities of these images.


Landscape I, 2008.

Landscape II, 2008.

Landscape III, 2008.

Landscape IV, 2008.

This four-piece series reinterprets the traditional landscape painting. Plots of land, clusters of trees and babbling brooks are removed from their intimate two-dimensional format and transposed onto the three-dimensional contours of the artist’s own face. A fresh and surreal twist is given to romantic landscape painting’s obsession of recreating the world while simultaneously also being part of it.
In this way the romantic landscape genre is re-examined from the perspective of self-portraiture. The series consists of four photographs and one short experimental video.

Material Transfers

Carpet, 2008.

Gravel, 2007.

Sterling Wood, 2008.

In the Material Transfer series, Levi van Veluw utilises commonplace materials such as strips of carpet, pebble stones and sterling board chips. By applying these materials to his head and face he emphasises their aesthetic and formal qualities.
This subverts the metaphoric meaning we usually assign to them in daily life. In this way Van Veluw focuses attention on how we perceive and experience the objects and materials around us.


Block, 2007.

Dots, 2006.

Hair, 2007.

Lines, 2006.

Puzzle, 2006.

Spirals, 2007.

The Ballpoint series is Levi van Veluw’s first official pre-conceived series of work.The marks made with a ballpoint pen, something we are all familiar with, are given a new context. Whereas one would expect to see make-up applied to the face, this is not the case with the lines produced with a ballpoint. By removing it from its original context and introducing it into a new one, the associations conjured up by the ballpoint line change into something new and unexpected.

Each work was created in a single day. Sitting in front of the mirror, pen in hand, Van Veluw slowly creates the pattern he has envisaged. Levi van Veluw is simultaneously the author and the object of these elemental transfers. Setting up the camera and positioning himself in front of it, he takes the photograph by remote control.

Older Work





Levi van Veluw started making self-portraits at the art academy in Arnhem in 2004. The choice to use himself as a subject in his work was predominantly a practical one. Without needing anyone else to assist him, he was able to experiment freely and at length.
The works of this period were produced impulsively without any predetermined concept. Through the process of experimentation and analysis, certain basic formal characteristics that define Levi van Veluw’s self-portraiture are already brought to the fore: the angle from which the photograph is taken; the formal approach and the use of his own face and head, as well as the usage of common objects and materials.
The work does not aim to portray the artist himself, but rather to explore his formal features, the shape and contours of his head. Through the reinterpretation of the aforementioned elements, the artist creates a third new image with a powerful visual impact.
The finished work is not a portrait as such, but a formal arrangement characterised by colour, pattern, shape and texture. The image contains the history of a short creative process, in which the artist continuously shifts his position between subject and object.

The four photographs presented here are the final result of at least 30 different self-portrait explorations. 


Levi van Veluw was born in the Dutch town of Hoevelaken in 1985
and studied at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem. Since
graduating in 2007, Levi van Veluw has produced multi-disciplinary
works that includes photographs, videos, sculptures, installations
and drawings. This varied body of work has been showcased in many
different locations across Europe and the United States, earning him
a number of nominations and awards.

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