About Laodan (1)

Some of you questionned me about my identity. I guess the time has come to say some words about myself.

My personal experience in painting dates from my childhood.
Being a unique child painting has always been something of a refuge that was compensating in some way for the need of socialization. The result of Flemish immigration in Walloonia was indeed, for a Flemish child, to drastically limit socialization with Walloon kids and it ensued thus that I socialized mostly with trees, dirt and with paint, with the paint material on the canvas instead of with other children.

I had the exceptional chance to have the great WATKINE (1) as master in my teens. He taught me the love of nature and also the freedom to play with colors. By the time I attended university in Brussels, as young provincial, I was attracted by SOMVILLE (2) and attended some of his classes at the Boitsfort Academy of Arts, I did not expect that 12 years later I would befriend one of his colleagues TIMPER.
The decade between SOMVILLE and TIMPER (3), both culturally Latins, has been the most influential in my life. It has been a kind of jumping out or perhaps of dropout of society's conventions, seeing with Castaneda's (4) Don Juan and learning with Krishnamurti (5) to appreciate the higher plane of harmony's perpetual change.

JIPI (6), the Flemish shaman, showed me how to let lines and colors go where they want free of interference from one self's will. It also was a time of group painting with PIERROT, STEURS and others culminating with free expression at the "BRASSERIE" (7) that in the end pitifully fell in Walloon pessimism. This is when I quit the maelstrom and tried to immerse myself in Belgian society's decision making. But this proved to be too much non-sense for me and I left a few years later to land in China in 1986 where I stayed 16 years digesting the philosophical pleasures of insipidity, learning the taste of water and its natural movement down the slopes.

During those years, oh irony, Xiaohong (8) taught me the roots of European classicism and helped me to appreciate technical rigor which I discovered "en masse" at the hands of Chinese painters.
Today I appreciate a work well done technically but I believe that technique and art remain two different things. You need indeed to master the technique in which you express yourself but this technique does not transform automatically what you express into art.
Without technique what you express seems inachieved and without intellectual content it is as if what you express were shallow.

(1) Watkyne: Jacques Vandewattyne: Walloon folk-art painter, author of the folk-art manifesto and activist advocating a philosophy of "simple living" .

(2) Roger Somville, Belgian contemporary painter, realist activist wanting to counter the influence of abstract art. He intended to put man at the center of his art. He struggled against the growing tendency of modern painting's loss of sense and its dehumanization.

(3) Paul Timper, Walloon contemporary painter and potter.

(4) Castaneda's works contain descriptions of paranormal experiences, several psychological techniques, Toltec magic rituals, shamanism and experiences with psychoactive drugs (e.g. Peyote). Although they started out with the premise of anthropology, his works became a mixture of story, religion, and philosophy.

(5) Krishnamurti is regarded as one of the greatest religious teachers of all time. He did not expound any specific philosophy or religion, but spoke of the everyday matters that concern all human beings. He belonged to no religion, sect or country, nor did he subscribe to any school of political or ideological thought. Instead, he stated that these are the very factors that divide us from one another and bring about personal and social conflict and ultimately war.

(6) Jipi, Jean-Paul Dhaenens, by the end of the sixties he was professor of painting at the Academy of Ghent but he then left everything to live the life of a shaman.

(7) "la Brasserie": a cultural and artistic center founded in Ellezelles/Belgium in 1980 that attracted many of those creatives personages who were living along the language border from France to well over Brussels.

(8) Xiaohong Huo: Piano professor at "China National University of Nationalities" in Beijing till 1989 when we married.

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