The ever-bustling art scene in Brussels is having a come-back after the pandemic and one of the exhibitions not to miss is most definitely ‘IMMENSITIES” by the artist Tamar Levi, up in Art Base (29 rue des Sables Zandstraat, 1000 Bruxelles) until the 10th of October. The collection of around twenty paintings on her travels from Greece to Belgium was painted during the lockdown in Belgium, with the goal to create a window to the world for the viewer and evoke the feeling of freedom. On the occasion of the exhibition and intrigued by Tamar’s life and work, we spoke with the artist who first described to us more how it came to exhibition itself.
‘Due to the pandemic, studio spaces were closed so I painted these twenty canvases during lockdown in my apartment with my family right on top of me. The close quarters inspired a response to the pandemic in my art: I made the landscapes more expansive, and more of an escape view, to create more windows in people’s homes. That’s why the collection is called IMMENSITIES, it’s the big idea of freedom through my painted landscapes, freedom for the viewer’s minds and souls to expand into wide open spaces.’
And indeed, when you look at the pieces in the exhibition, you have this feeling of expansion and freedom, achieved not only by the lines of the strokes but also the fact that the painting doesn’t end with a frame – it flows over it and includes it in itself, breaking all the boundaries and creating a unique sculptural depth for the viewer.
‘My original idea of painting on the frame aims to draw the viewer into the scene, in a sculptural way. This provides the art collector with immediacy for hanging. The bespoke frames provide deep dimensionality. This allows the viewer to step into a scene. Another window for their home.’
And to make this new window view as beautiful as possible, Tamar spent a lot of time carefully choosing the right frames for the paintings to have the perfect match.
‘To prepare for this collection I hunted for the biggest and most beautiful antique frames from markets and auction houses in Athens, Greece and Brussels, Belgium. Then I affixed and painted both canvases and frame simultaneously.’
Tamar is already known to the Brussels audience through her several solo exhibitions and illustrations of books for children, with this exhibition being special for her as it build ups on all the work so far. Having always done drawings in her sketchbook and later illustrations for children’s books, she was now able to go back to those sketchbooks and find the original ideas behind the shapes for this painting collection.
‘I have always done drawings I normally illustrate in pen and ink in a minimalist zen continuous line style, however this collection is unusual for me; it was created with a bespoke mix of bright colours. I think of it as being in the Fauvist tradition of colour practice. These were worked on for months in colour theory research and applied as mixed media with oil pastels to create a cohesion in the collection and a sense of many dimensions in the image. The oil pastel on top of acrylic creates a link between my illustration work and my painting work.’
Growing up in Alaska, Tamar never expected to be based at the heart of European politics. She fell in love with a Greek man, whose career brought them here and then she fell in love with the city as well, with Brussels parks being now one of her main motifs.
‘I just cannot stop painting these parks. Is it some kind of secret that Brussels has over seventy parks and they are gorgeous and characterful and joyous too?’
But Tamar’s fascination with Brussels doesn’t stop there. She sees Brussels as a buffet of nature and culture, exploring the city, museums and all aspects of art.
‘So far I have been exploring the comic book culture, which fits right in with my previous work and current graphic novel project. But I haven’t even started the adventure of discovering the dance culture, which I’m told is a very rich treasure here. I’m sure the talent on the dance scene will inspire some dance-related series of paintings…’
These are just some of the things that inspire this talented and energetic artist whose drive to create keeps moving her forward at all times, so we were very excited to hear about her upcoming projects and exhibitions.
‘My continuous line portraits of women, which were displayed with the European Parliament’s Feminist Forum, will be on exhibit again, this time at the upcoming TEDx conference here in Brussels. I’m really excited to share these portraits with a wider audience. Also, there’s this graphic novel I’ve been working on for 15 years now which I’m illustrating all in one line (but it has to be the right line!). Two years ago I performed the first chapter, all in one line, with live music to accompany the performance art, and so perhaps it’s time to work on the second chapter’s live performance?’
In the near future, Tamar will also start artistic workshops which we are sure will be a success. And if you would like to meet the artist, visit the gallery this Sunday, 4 October, between 2 and 6 pm and have a first-hand experience, enjoying the views Tamar created.
Interview by Iva Galovic. You can follow Iva on instagram for more interesting Brussels stories.