I have a series of water colours, which I once created for my art studies as part of my final project on the ‘still-life’ theme. In French a still-life is referred to as nature morte (dead nature), hence I broached the subject of death in these water colours. People, for the most part, prefer to avoid the topic of death, but I also see love in it and I emphasise the close tie with what is precarious and valuable in life.
My classmates were funny enough yet somewhat shocked by it. They found it strange that I turned up with a water colour of a revolver. I derived satisfaction from painting a revolver. It went very well, being able to paint a water colour without basing it on a pencil drawing. It was put straight on paper, which was quite fun since it is a difficult technique, which I had mastered quite well.
I had taken a monkey skeleton as a point of departure, an orang-utan, I believe, from the Royal Middle Africa Museum. I painted the skeleton as it appeared in the museum. Typically I would not provide it with a background, to me it wasn’t necessary, twaddle. But I had to comply with what was expected in art school. Years later skulls and skeletons became more prevalent in fashion. When I look at it now, it occurs to me that Paul Delvaux also painted a lot of skeletons. Whilst the painting of revolvers provided me with cheerful enjoyment, the painting of skeletons conjured up fond peace and quiet in me.
I love them because I find them beautiful and to me this theme refers to wanting to hold on to beauty, as opposed to the thought of the transience of beauty as it is often shown in paintings depicting death. I have always drawn butterflies. We used to have a lot of them in the garden. Once I had caught them all and put them into a single bowl. The following day they were all dead and wasted away, after which we never again had as many butterflies in the garden and I never caught any more butterflies again.
The impala and the leopard
This is a reproduction of a death scene from the Africa Museum. The leopard bites the impala in the neck as vampires do their victims, whereby the vital force is transferred from the impala to the leopard through the blood. It also makes me think how kissing a man in the neck nourishes and revitalises me.