Levi Van Veluw was selected for ITS in 2007, freshly out of ARTEZ. He presented a powerful series of self-portraits for ITS PHOTO, our international photo contest at the time. His project used everyday objects like ballpoints, yogurt and cellar tape to frame unique performances with his own body as the installation.
Since graduating in 2007 from ARTEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem and participating in ITS, Levi van Veluw has produced multi-disciplinary works from his studio in Amsterdam that include scenographic installations, photographs, films, sculptures, paintings and drawings. This varied body of work has been showcased in many different locations across Europe and the United States, earning him a number of nominations and awards.
In addition to his work in his individual practice, Levi van Veluw has also worked on commissions for private clients. In 2014-2021 for instance, Van Veluw created Hermès a life-sized site-specific installations for their main windows in Shanghai, New York, Geneva, Copenhagen and Barcelona.
We talked with him about choosing the right media to communicate the right message, dreams as a child, developing huge installations and his ITS experience.
You are a multidisciplinary artist. Is there a media that you feel most powerfully communicates your message?
That totally depends. When making work for a new exhibition I always intend to create a variety of mediums to express the general concept. Installation work can fully immerse the visitor into the work, but it will not give much space to reflect. Sculptural work, video and drawings however is observed more objectively, which will give you more space to experience the material, shape and interpret the concept. But personally I prefer making installation work, especially because it is always a challenge to create such a work, therefore it makes it special and rare.
Some of us dream of becoming firefighters or magicians and end up discovering another calling. Have you always felt you wanted to be an artist?
As a child I didn’t know what it meant to be an artist. I was always interested in making things, but had more the idea to be an inventor than an artist. Even when I started art school I had e a very limited idea what it meant to be an artist. I always thought you would only make paintings. During my education it was a great discovery that it was possible to use every medium you could think of.
When graduated I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to be an artist, it is quite a choice to make in my opinion. In the end I became an artist for the most simple reason, it gives me the most freedom to make whatever I want.
Sanctum in Tenuta dello Scompiglio was a massive installation about religion, the architecture of the spiritual and how immaterial values are assigned to material objects. Sanctum became even bigger at HEM in Zaandam, as a semi-permanent installation that will be on display until 2025.
Can you tell us about the genesis of this art piece and the difficulties you encountered to develop such a huge installation?
After my first installations re-designing complete environments became a huge ambition.
To create such an installation you need to collaborate with an institute or museum. Therefore I always keep my eye open and speak out this ambition. When an opportunity arises I let myself get inspired by the architecture of the space and try to integrate this with the concepts I’m working on. For this installation it is important to know the my grandfather was a minister, and from my early youth I have been fascinated with the church and its rituals. Not only the complexity, conviction and certainty with which the faith was proclaimed in the congregation and the stark visual language of its practice made me sensitive to the visual vernacular of religious seduction.
The interior of the Tabernacle consisted of 3 spaces: the Forecourt, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, sacred in ascending gradation.
Like the Tabernacle, this installation features symmetry and harmony, to express the strive for divine perfection and reflect the divine holiness through the careful gradations of the three phases. As such, he plays with the age-old composition of the religious structure and thereby lures the spectator deeper and deeper into the Sanctuary. Is this an opening to a new world in which religion, again, plays an important role? Or does the artist use existing symbolisms to lure the mind into a new religion? These are questions I leave the spectator with.
Any future projects in the pipeline you can share with us?
For now I am woking on a solo at Gallery Rosenfeld in London that was postponed 2 times during covid, but will open beginning of May. In October I will have a solo with new work at Gallery Ron Mandos Amsterdam, and I’m working on a big exhibition for a Dutch Museum.
Looking back at ITS, what did it represent for you?
It is already a long time ago, but it was a great experience. When just graduated it felt special to be part of such a group. I mainly gave a lot of energy and confidence to create new work.
Cover photo credits: Levi Van Veluw Sanctum photo by Guido Mencari