Pieter Vermeersch

Pieter Vermeersch

What he does with natural stone is unseen. His paintings give it an extra dimension that is just beautiful. This calls for an interview with this artist of the stone age.
How did natural stone sneak into your work, which up until then had mainly consisted of abstract paintings on canvas and walls?

My paintings, wall artworks, and installations evoked an image that remained rather immaterial. I felt a need to bring a kind of tangibility to my work. This was achieved in different ways, one which was by introducing natural stone as a carrier. To me, a stone is a crystallisation of time and space, a material echo of immaterial.  This dimension in marble fascinates me tremendously.

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What can you, as a mortal artist, add to such a timeless piece of natural stone?

A piece of stone is so grand, so sublime, so layered, born so infinitely far away in time that it is almost impossible to fathom. I try to activate this intangibility of natural stone by adding a trace of paint or a touch of the brush. A layer of temporariness confronting the infiniteness in matter. Natural stone is one of my ways of introducing matter in my work. My earlier paintings were ephemeral; my wall paintings almost made architecture disappear. By bringing matter into my work, I pull it back into the here and now. It becomes something concrete again. At the same time, it is also an existential confrontation with intangible time. The insignificance of the brushstroke versus that immense endlessness.

How do you decide what to paint on a natural stone?

Sometimes marble is activated by gradual colour transitions, sometimes by a touch of paint containing a certain speed and directness. The smaller pieces of marble would push me to apply the fast touch, while the bigger slabs would force me to create a space.  Sometimes I even had to paint over the marbling in some places: I wanted to cover up its material dimension again with an ephemeral image here and there. Like a confrontation of two worlds. Both processes are completely different. Those direct touches of paint can be applied relatively fast, but the larger atmospheric colour planes take much longer. I first need to go through a slow analytical process before I can effectively start painting the marble. The point of departure of these painted ‘time images’ is still always quasi-abstract pictures from reality. I convert them into their negatives so that the colours invert and reality becomes unrecognisable. Those pictures are the starting point of these gradual colour accelerations. 

Natural stone as we know it from architectural applications does not occur in nature, not like that. Is making this invisible aspect visible something important in your work?

Making something invisible visible, or vice versa, is indeed a process that fascinates me. It’s through human intervention that the natural stone’s remarkable patterns are revealed. What is made visible or where exactly the cut is made is pure coincidence. The abstract time image that is revealed is random. Just like the creation of the natural stone itself. Everything you see is one complex geological accident accumulated over the course of millions of years. Chance has been objectified, it has literally been petrified into something concrete, tangible. At the same time, those slabs of cut marble also contain a kind of abstraction that reminds me of certain forms of painting. They are like accidental tables; not so much landscapes, but rather abstract images.

In what direction do you see your work evolving?

I recently combined wall paintings with a big triptych and architectonic elements that included partially painted marble for a gallery show at ProjecteSD in Barcelona. New elements are showing up in my imagery, which I feel is becoming freer. My work is becoming a cosmos with painted elements as well as three-dimensional images, where matter and illusion, but also time and space, play an enormous role. New layers are constantly being added to my works. The manner in which they are arranged in relation to each other in an exhibition is, in itself, already a new layer. And they can still function independently, not just as part of something bigger.

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