"Biking through town a couple of months ago, we were struck by a poster depicting a young man's head and nude shoulders, his hair neatly combed into a sharp side part," say the Amsterdam fashion duo Viktor & Rolf of their first run-in with 24-year-old artist Levi van Veluw's self-portraits. "The angelic effect of his features was put on edge by the fact that his entire face was covered in blue dots, meticulously drawn on his pale skin with a ballpoint pen. Van Veluw uses his skin as his canvas, transforming himself into a sculpture--or something way beyond. We were drawn to his work because we feel close to his highly personal approach." Van Veluw, who lives an hour outside of Amsterdam in Arnhem, considers his art pieces not so much photography as performances captured with a camera.
That makes sense since each one of his ballpoint pen self-portraits (there are six in total, including puzzle-piece, spiral, and checkerboard designs covering his face, neck, and shoulders) took nine hours to create. "I don't even have a concept beyond the medium before I start," van Veluw explains. "I just stand in front of a mirror." In the past few years, the artist has gone well beyond using simple ink to frame his face. He's explored everything from yogurt, carpet strips, and pebbles to model-landscape supplies with a miniature train running on a track around his head. Van Veluw is very precise about the materials he uses. "I like to pick things that are quite ordinary, like pieces of carpet or pen," he says. "They don't have any associations yet, so you can rip them out of context. That makes the transformations easier." Van Veluw has also been toying lately with backlight foil, electronic ink, and video. It's hard to know if his work is self-expression, self-erasure, or if it just gives him the chance to do a lot of crazy things with his face.
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