Ida Heylighen: “Art is made to stand out!”

by Madalina Dragos

the original language of the article is English

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“Colorful art steals the show – as it should. Art is made to stand out – and that’s what I like about it. My house is, just as my life, a showroom!”

These are the words of the Belgian artist Ida Heylighen, whom I present to you here, through her thoughts about art and its impact on her life.

Q: Back in time, you’ve been told that “you’re not creative enough,” my question to you is: How did you felt then and how do you feel now!?

When I was told to drop out of art school, I felt devastated. All my life I’ve been saying that I want to pursue an art career and be told I can’t, it was heartbreaking. I felt knocked down for a longer period. I skipped classes, stopped meeting friends, … Luckily I had just met my boyfriend (who is now my husband), he convinced me to try to follow my dreams.

Q: Now you are all-round art teacher, can you tell us what it means to be a teacher for you ” the artist”!?

My boyfriend is the one that came up with the art teacher-idea. And I’m still thankful for that. It was the best decision I’ve ever made as I love (!) being a teacher. My pupils inspire me every day, they question everything. I teach   teenagers who do not want to be an artist, they study sports, languages and/or science. Nothing artsy at all. But it’s them, questioning me and the (“non-existing”) importance of art that triggers me to be better. To teach them that art does matter to everyone!

Q: What is inspiring you during the creative process and to create?

In my opinion, I need the social interaction of my work as a teacher to grow as an artist. If I locked myself away in my atelier to paint all day, I would never feel the same or get triggered by other people and their insights.

I’m inspired by modern society, mostly by social media at the moment. It never ceases to amaze me. The technology itself, but especially the fact that people can (and will be) influenced by it. A couple of people I know are ‘influencers’, they create and post pictures of a luxurious lifestyle. A lifestyle they don’t really have – just to sell products.

Our society is materialistic, I’m too, but portraying yourself falsely takes it too far in my eyes. One of influencers I follow myself also, did fall in a depression and “burn-out” due to the pressure of social media. The life she displayed wasn’t her own, and she felt break down because she couldn’t live up to it..

Q: I think your art is amazing! And from what I’ve seen, with an expressionist palette, an abstractionist synthesis, pop-art roots, a sense of surrealism, your art is very deep and modern! Which of those faces of your art characterizes you the most as an artist!?

My art shows abstract people/figures with one (or more) realistic eyes – because no matter how hard you try, you can never fully hide your true self. Not online and not in real life.

I feel like the surrealism is my Belgian roots speaking, as Magritte is one of the most famous Belgian artists ever. I love pop-art for its meaning and bright colors – it’s really expressive. But I, myself, always describe my work as abstract with a small hint to realism. I’m not too confident about putting a label on my art, as I create without thinking through the style. Painting, for me, is about clearing my head. It’s putting all my thoughts and feelings onto canvas. For that I really (!!) appreciate your definition of my style – as I could never say something like that about my paintings myself. But if I had to choose, I’d pick expressionism. I love hearing other people interpretations of my art – as art should speak different to each one of us.

Ida’s publication in BAV’s Human Body is Art

Q: Looking back in art’s history do you believe that it is hard to be an artist or not and why!? 

Nowadays everyone can display their work on the internet, for everyone to see. But that makes it hard too. Millions of artists try to sell and show their work on social media or on their own website, but to reach the right people isn’t easy. Everyone with a brush (or laptop, or …) can call themselves an artist and who are we to debate it? 

In my opinion it’s the same level of difficult to be an artist now and/or in the past. The only true difference is that everyone may be an artist, despite race or gender.

­Q: What is the book and/or painting that changed your life?

When I read ‘Life doesn’t frighten me’ by Maya Angelou, accompanied with paintings of Basquiat, it truly touched me. The poems are ’simple’ but moving, and the paintings… The paintings fit perfect. Basquiat is one of my favorite artists of all time. He catches so much feelings in one painting. He amazes me every time.

It’s Basquiat who showed me that art doesn’t has to be ‘perfect’ as long as it shows emotions. I hope that my art does that as well – in some way.

Q: Do you want to be the muse of an artist whether if he is alive or dead?

I’m a big fan of old rock bands such as Guns ’n Roses, The Doors, Pink Floyd, … If I could be one their muses, I’d be honored. I’d rather be the muse of a band than a muse to a painter, as I’d love to get free tickets to a concert!

Q: Do you have a pet?

I have two dogs, a Podenco (rescued from Spain) and an Italian greyhound.

Q:What color do you like?

My house is made of concrete and black steel, it’s really minimalistic. There are no other colors inside, except for a golden kitchen, and the art. I like muted tones like beige, black and white but in art I like bold and bright colors. 

“Art is made to stand out!” – and that’s what I like about it. My house is, just as my life, a showroom. Colorful art steals the show – as it should!

Visual analysisby Madalina Dragos.

Ida’s favorite subjects are compositions with characters and genre painting, or compositions in that appears animals . The character painted, the most, by Ida is the “woman” presented in a reversed vision from the inside to the outside catching the viewer into the middle of all the emotions through the “eye” of the subject!

The compositions of Ida have a strong emotional dynamism thru the fact that the characters have suggestive forces, by synthesizing all the forms, she thus annihilates the realism inviting in the inner world painted by her. I quote Ida: “I paint women, mostly abstract but with realistic eye, because we are not things. Women are strong and should be treated as such. Everyone should look us in the eye and acknowledge that are as important as men.

Ida, thru her compositions let the viewer to imagine the continuation of the characters’ bodies outside the plastic space. In this way the viewer becomes part of the painted world.

The “full-empty” ratio it is used to compensate for the lack of the perspective with a preponderance of a “full”. There where isn’t a domination of the “full”, Ida approaches a pictoriality in the backgrounds through by wide, chromatically vibrated brushstrokes or by graphic overlays. The lines used by Ida are firm, mostly wavy, which join together each other causing shapes that can be imagined by the viewer, the latter do not necessarily coincide with the artist’s intention. Through the modulated line, wavy or not, which is repeated rhythmically in the vertical or spiral direction, which has become a personal way of Ida to create accents, she highlights the essential by making visible the tension movements inside the characters painted by her.

The details are small, the forms simplified until to their synthesis, but expressive and full of suggestions, creating around them personal symbols, individualizing the existing characters in the artist’s compositions.

Ida has a bright color palette, using spectral colors instead of local colors. She spreads the color on large surfaces, in flat spots, alternating with pictorial details in which the brush strokes are intertwined.

Ida’s colors do not imitate reality, they are symbolic, with chromatic contrasts but also with refined accords. With a strong emotional impact, the colors used by Ida oscillate between warm and cold.

With her palette and the way she uses all the elements of plastic language, Ida creates symbols through which she expresses her ideas and feelings.

The achromatism appears in her compositions to give depth, in the background or as a center of interest, emphasizing deep meanings of the emotions of the painted characters, which the viewer is invited to discover!

Ida has in her composition intense chromatic contrasts, reminiscent of expressionists, along with a surreal feeling by creating symbols and placing in the same plastic space some elements from nature. She is attracted to ideas and symbols, uses all the elements of plastic language in this sense, transforms the flat surface into the pictorial through graphic overlays, makes background games, synthesizes to abstraction, individualizes and highlights certain characteristics of the painted characters.

Her characters have expressive poses, with roots in the imaginative, placed centrally or not, can sometimes be melancholic, dramatic or relentless.

With her spontaneous and forceful brush strokes, Ida create in the same time an atmosphere of inner agitation but also of meditative silence.

The linear rhythm becomes very dynamic, where the difference is to a greater extent in favor of the empty space, creating an atmosphere of restlessness thru movement.

We cannot overlook the single eye that covers a large part of the head at some of the characters painted by Ida and the symbolism of this. The absorption of the being by the external world and a vigilance always directed towards the outside, it almost leaves the body heading towards the object of perception.

Metaphorically, the eyes painted by Ida represent the desire in some cases, but also the universe or the inner world in other cases of the characters that appear in her compositions.

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