The unexpected is perhaps the best way to describe the photography of Dutch artist, Levi van Veluw. Juxtaposing self-portraiture with landscape, van Veluw’s work challenges us to both re-examine the way we look at art and the way we define aesthetic beauty.
In the landscape series, van Veluw references what has historically been viewed as an aesthetically beautiful and heroic subject matter in art – the romantic landscape. Yet van Veluw’s landscape is not landscape as our eyes have been trained to see landscape. Using his own face as the canvas, van Veluw’s landscapes are rugged, imperfect, and uninviting. It is as if we are looking at a man ravaged by nature. As such, the works become a sort of metaphorical landscape of the psyche.
van Veluw’s light series explores a similar theme, only the landscape has been replaced by neon-lit lines and cubes that evoke a robotic digital quality. The irony is not lost. After all, the reality of digital alterations [Photoshop anyone?], begs the question, Is today’s aesthetic distorted by digital enhancement?
Whether van Veluw’s work means to ask this question or not, there can be no doubt that his refusal to depict a conventional aesthetic leads us to question the concept of beauty.