Lieven Lefere : "Because it's in my nature"

vr 10 - vr 24.03.2017

MI Galerie
23, Rue Chapon
75003 Parijs


Urbanautica is pleased to announce the exhibition 'because it's in my nature', curated by Dieter Debruyne, which focuses on the work of Belgian visual artists Lieven Lefere, Isabel Devos and Jasper Léonard. All three artists are fascinated by the symbolic duality of man / nature dialectic. Isabel Devos' ready-made remnants of nature translate themselves into the possibility of a landscape. The abstractions can be traced back into a focus and investigation on the explicit border between nature and human culture, but also as a research between photography and painting. As a posthumous tribute to the understanding of Le Corbusier Lieven Lefere built a viewing device that allows us to look at the horizon in a different way. He wants to emphasize that the landscape and thus the horizon is a product of the interaction between the built and the unbuilt. Just like the photographic image is always the result of the interaction between frame and object or between device and reality. The “in‐camera” manipulations resulting in a psychedelic imagery are in fact on‐the‐ spot technical interventions that seem digital. In this way, Jasper Leonard plays with the viewer's knowledge of contemporary photography in this digitalized world.

Lieven Lefere began to observe photography as a child with his grandfather: a local photographer and the owner of a photography shop. «Each grandchild got a Nikon reflex camera for their 12th birthday. I remember clearly the day it was given to me. Nowadays it is quite normal to have a mobile phone or an Ipad for young people, but back then it was something really special to have a reflex camera as a present». Early shots were nothing important «I remember loading my first film and taking my camera to the field next to the banquet hall. I shot a whole film of horses that were shitting». Later on he went to the Academy to find his own language and trying to overcome the formal canons. But also theoretical classes were important to learn more about authors that have remained meaningful such as Sartre and Kurosawa. Still the best teachers were those who kept on saying «You are not there yet and clearly explaining to me why afterwards». Nowadays Lieven Lefere has better defined his field. «Photography is in a way always only a limited, artificial copy of reality, a simulacrum. My images expose this mechanism by being representations of representations of reality, or simulacra squared. Through this evident unmasking of the medium the question of the ‘true image’ is made explicit. It is in the abstracting reconstruction of the reconstruction, in documenting the simulation that I try to find the key to make latent aspects, such as the control apparatus present in all social layers, visible.» We could say that his work questions the truth about perception, or in his words «the ability to remember and the status of an image in relation to what we call reality».

It all starts sometime. Not everyone remembers it, but some do. «The real passion for photography grew when I was studying advertising. I never cared much about school and I had no clue where my education was heading. My teacher of digital photography gave us the assignment to make a series about depth, repetition, contrast, diagonals… At that point in time my world suddenly changed». Jasper Léonard loved the creative aspect of ‘advertising’, the fact of coming up with new and better solutions for problems. Then, during his dissertation, he discovers inspiring works from the 20’s and 30’s. «Back then photography was a ‘new canvas’ for people to capture parts of reality». What attracted him was that loss of faith in rationality and the consequent search for new horizons. The next step is almost natural. «I felt the need to alter camera - lenses. As photography these days is a ‘package of marketing’ you buy [...] I started off with making lens attachments for cameras and lenses. It started with a piece of mirror that I mounted in front of my lens. This is how I created images in one location, with parts of the visual field mixed in one photograph.. This was only a starting point, in total I created around eight working attachments or lenses for cameras. One of them was just a big spoon, which reflects a ‘fish eye’ image of the photographer and camera. This lens is basically a “selfie machine”.» In the last years Léonard have kept altering lenses in his personal works. Using technology to disrupt the limits of photography, as a technique itself, to expand its creative possibilities.

I first met Isabel Devos through her contemplative landscapes. At that time I felt she was pushing the viewer on the border between human and nature to a point that made possible to imagine landscapes from single traces of water on sluices and shores, ready-made details, crops of reality. An expanded view of the world, a further dimension, more open and contemplative. As well said by Dieter Debruyne «by isolating these parts from its context, a peculiar and abstract image arises, referring to the possibility of a landscape and the multi-layered characteristics of a painting». This is not just meant to re-discover the universe in a microcosm; in this act of recognition of the beauty of nature there is something redeeming. «Because it’s in our nature, humans tempt to control nature by building waterways, sluices and artificial lakes. Hence nature reacts on these borders by leaving remnants behind.» The impact of certain artists is inevitable. The cross-references to the color field research of Rohtko, the dull and somewhat dramatic palette of William Congdom landscapes, the attention on daily subjects of Richter, and the ability to mislead the viewer and to cause distraction on “what it is” of Rudolf Stingel. All these elements feed Isabel Devos's vision, an expressive synthesis of rare beauty.

All these artistic trajectories - that intersect for the first time in Paris for the exhibition ‘because it’s in my nature’ curated by Dieter Debruyne - question our relation with the medium. Whether it’s alchemical processes that aim to re-engineer the tool, to explain the simulation mechanisms and its constructs, or to challenge the perception and its representations, there is no doubt that the border of the language has not yet been fully explored. And it’s probably in our unavoidable nature to keep on searching...



10.03.2017: Opening at 19:00 MI Galerie, Rue de Chapon 23, 75003 Paris
Exhibition runs from 11.03.2017 to 23.03.2017

29.03.2017: Photo Lunch Talk with Lieven Lefere
At Paris College of Art, 15 Rue Fénelon, 75010 Paris.


Isabel Devos (
Lieven Lefere (
Jasper Léonard (
Mi Galerie (
Paris College of Art (
Urbanautica Belgium (