Leon Engelen was born in 1943 in Bree (Belgium). He grew up in the middle of an at that
time virgin nature, in which there were a lot of beautiful little farms. Although he was creative,
he didn't excel in painting. But unconsciously he absorbed his environment. Gradually he got
a vision and became more mature, so that nowadays he can revive the survivals of his youth
in his paintings.
According to Leon, there should be two in the art of painting, the painter and the spectator.
The painter creates something the spectator may complete. When this interaction is
accomplished, the painter's intention has succeeded. In traditional painting the interaction is
on the level of the image. The spectator should see an image in which he believes, that
conjures him a whole world. In abstract painting the interaction is fundamentally different,
because not the image itself but the ideas are emphasized. The spectator isn't confronted
with an image but with an idea. When you work in an abstract way, you reach people who
think in an abstract way. Interaction is very important; without interaction there is no art, but
just an artist.
Leon has attended the painting academy for several years. In 1968 he left it, because he
didn't agree with the trends in it. He was no longer allowed to paint, but has to work with
paintrollers and to splash with paint. In 1974 he started painting on chalk canvas; that's linen
he prepares himself, which gives him other possibilities. The paint soaks into the priming-coat
and can be painted over immediately. This technique, as old as the art of painting itself, has
dropped out of use during the last 100 years.
Leon's starting-point is reality. A subject catches his interest, he starts painting it and during
that process things are added to it; what he sees is what he wants to see. Everything Leon
looks at is automatically reduced to a painting subject. He can no longer look at something
in a normal way. In front of him he sees immediately the drawing, the structure and the
colours he'll need. He looks at everything as a painting subject. He simply can't look at them
in another way, not even at things he isn't interested in for painting.
Leon's work is linked to that of landscape and animal painter of the previous centuries. In
former times there was a painters' community, in which strong mutual ties existed and in
which techniques and ideas were exchanged. Leon can't take advantage of such a feed-back;
he had to find it all by himself, which makes him more or less apart. Moreover he specialized
himself in painting bricks and tiles.
According to Leon, the art of painting will follow its own path; he thinks it's nonsense to
push it in a certain direction. It will be the side-slips, who become determining. But Leon
doesn't know if he can count himself to that category. He paints what he thinks he ought to
paint, in a certain manner, as good as he can do it. One has to accept it or not, whether you
think it's beautiful or not.
Click here to link to artist's website