/ Story of Portraits

Jean Claude Wouters

About the

Text:Jean Claude Wouters

If I have dance, filmed, draw and paint, it is mainly to avoid to commerce with words.

At the end of the 90s,
I had this weird aim to express (or reveal) the light of the people.
The light being our true nature.

The material was where to start:
What is light sensitive in our world?
Film negatives and photographic paper.

To express the inner light, the appearance had to disappear.

I started to rephotograph and rephotograph again a portrait, with different technics, this for four years.
Then I found a method, rephotographing through lenses where the light of the sky reflected itself.

The result is a mix of the portrait, the face, and the light of the sky.
In the process, I use only day light, and several negatives,
the appearance disappearing.
There is one negative at the end, and this one is the matrix for the unique print.

Later, through my studies of zen /t’chan,
I realised the portraits, or at least my pure intention put in the process of the portraits,
was in adequacy with the fundamental of it.

Houei Neng asking, “What was your face before your parents conceived you?”
This question is a mind opening bomb,
and the portrait is part of the answer.
It has been a while I wanted to exhibit a portrait and a planet together,
because it is all the same.
We are.

I don’t have portraits to exhibit.
I do portraits on commission.
It is part of my spiritual journey, the process takes three weeks.
The portrait is a discreet image, light grey as is the wall,
the person can look at it when she feels the need to center herself.
It is a support for some sort of meditation.

In general, when people pass by a portrait they don’t see it.
So, if he wants, the owner can tell the guest, here is a portrait.
And if the viewer has some sensitivity, a particular human feeling mount in him,
and this feeling, is the same all over the world.

Courtesy of the artist.

When I exhibited in NYC for the first time, 2005.

At Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery, the vice president for Women’s Wear of Bloomingdale's, Stephanie Solomon came, and was overwhelmed by the portraits. She was 55 years old, and considered it had an impact on the way she considered life. (NYC is tough on working women) We became friends.

When Bloomingdale’s decided in 2007 to make an event in their flagship store making fashion designers and visual artists meet, she proposed me to the committee.They would propose the pack of artist to each designer who would choose which one to work with.

So I was one of the Ten artists chosen.The first one was Marc Jacobs.
Discovering the file, Marc Jacobs was convinced and we made his portrait in his office at Louis Vuitton in Paris.

I had filmed him in the same building 7 years earlier for a Louis Vuitton’s film for the 150 years of the brand.

We occupied all the shop windows at Bloomingdale’s, 25 meters, with a portrait, a buddha, three large nudes and his new collection on display.
The great thing was to see sunny New York City reflecting in the windows.

Five years later, the assistant of Marc Jacobs called me in Los Angeles, asking about the portrait, Marc wanted it back for his home. The portrait had been on display in Marc Jacobs Corner at Bloomingdale’s all that time. The portrait had disappear… For sure, some decorator thought this light grey rectangle was of no interest and put it with the garbage, this is my opinion. Not sad about it, it goes with my spirit of “discretion”.

In 2005, I had ten portraits and nudes left from the exhibition at Ariel Meyerowitz. I didn’t want to have them back so quickly to Brussels. Bloomingdale’s had just opened a trendy store in Soho, on Broadway, with a dedicated large corner for creative brands like Viktor & Ralph and Martin Margiela. Stephanie Solomon proposed to hang the portraits there for six months.
Except for the store clerks and a few kids, hundred of thousands of people passed by without noticing them.
Again, a great experience for me.

Marc-J, Jean Claude Wouters, Paris.
Courtesy of the artist.

Jean Claude Wouters:Light of Void

2022.11.23 - 2023.09.03

ALIEN Art Centre

Curatorship and Setting-up
Yaman Shao, Jérôme Neutres


With the support of

Marc-J, Jean Claude Wouters, Paris.