Pierre Liebaert — The liquid body

Interview: Bob Vanden Broeck


Let’s start with the naked man.

I like to depict transitions. The photograph of this man is part of my previous work. I advertised for models. They could be men or women but they had to be older people. But the only responses I got were from men. For me, this signifies the deep longing of someone to be captured by the camera. In that sense, photography is magical.

Due to the intimate aspect?

The camera is inviting. There is indeed a special intimacy between the model and the photographer. The person stands there naked and fragile in front of your camera. So I have to have a clear role, a framework in which I must behave consistently – otherwise the model will never show his inner self. Maybe this guy was thinking “Oh my God”. But how do you reflect this internal cry? I can do it thanks to photography. For this reason, to me the room the man is standing in symbolises the Garden of Eden.

So why does this photographic work belong to the past and why have you focused instead on painting in your new work?

A naked body is a secret that people share with you very directly for the camera. For a photographic work, I have to reduce this immensely layered connection to one action, a mechanical action. I wanted to make something more organic, something for which I would have to work in a more layered way. Photography can embrace chaos, can define and show something theatrical. But the way that I paint a particular reality also says something about the way I perceive that reality. I discovered intimacy in painting, in the placing of the hands on a canvas. That’s why I find it so important. The process whereby a painting is created is the skeleton of that image.

How important to you is the visibility of these layers?

Incredibly important. That’s why the painting series starts with the spear wound of Christ. You literally dive into the human body, but also into the body of the painting. And even into the body of the city in which the painting was created. Naples is a very vibrant city. The facades of the buildings almost rub against each other. There are lots of dark alleys. That informed this substantive work on the structural elements of Naples: light, blood, Christianity. The body of Christ is the gateway for the viewer to the stratified nature of this city. The painting becomes a liquid body. We wanted to make something sensual. I’m sure that you’d like to lick the painting, or at least touch it. Have you ever tried smelling the paint?

© Pierre Liebaert
© Pierre Liebaert
© Giammarco Falcone / Pierre Liebaert