CHENNAI: Olaf Van Cleef, who is based in Paris, has a style of painting that is based on abstract pointillism and tachisme. His technique consists of softening the irregular dabs of bright watercolours with multiple dots in white. His use of metallic paper and Swarovsky crystals only add beauty to his paintings. Olaf’s style of tachisme, which he acquired from having painted using his fingers, is characterised by spontaneous lines resembling calligraphy. On the sidelines of his art exhibition in the city, he spoke to CE about his work, hobbies and more.
You are a regular visitor to India. What makes you come here so often?
I visit India twice a year. I remember the first exhibition I had in India was in 2004. It’s the people of India to whom I’m attracted to. Unlike France, there is a wide unity in diversity in India and people are highly spiritual. And I really like that. I’ve a Facebook page and 50 per cent of those who liked it are Indians, and 5 per cent French. When I upload a picture on my page — a painting of a god or goddess — I find that many Indian youngsters like the post. What I feel is that the young Indian of today is the customer of tomorrow.
What’s your preferred medium and why?
I use water colours and I paint for pleasure. I work in Cartier, which is the largest company in the world, and whenever I find time, I paint. I paint abstract because it’s easy. However, it involves a lot of imagination. A good artist is one who combines imagination, symbolism and reality.
Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where one can view your work?
It’s olafvancleef.org. But that’s my website. I interact with my audience through Facebook and LinkedIn.
Do you have any favorite artist(s)? If yes, what draws you to that person’s work?
A lot actually. I find Ravi Varma’s paintings highly inspirational. Besides Ravi Varma, there are artists like Paritosh Sen and Jamini Roy. I like their work because they take the onlooker on a dream journey. Their art works enthrall the viewer and that’s what art is supposed to do.
Have you ever designed any artwork for an author? If not, would this be something you’d be interested in doing?
No, I haven’t. An artist is always supposed to grow, so I wouldn’t mind doing that.
Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone and discovered a whole new genre of art? How did it turn out?
Artists are supposed to experiment. Being associated with a jewellery house, I use a lot of crystals in my art works. I use chocolate paper for decoration. So, your garbage becomes my gold. I started with abstract, but when I have an exhibition in India, I work on painting images of dieties. Next year, I have an exhibition in Thimphu and I have come up with Buddhist paintings. It was interesting to work on them.
Do you have any interesting hobbies or a fun story about an experience involving your artwork?
I like travelling. As far as a fun story about my art work is concerned, I once painted the image of lord Ayyappa showing Abhayahasta (the palm with fingers pointing upwards) on the left hand, but a customer refused to buy the painting because of that. (Smiles)
Any message to young aspiring artists?
Evolution in one’s work is important. One must be experimental, creative and try to convey a message to society through art.