Erik van Lieshout (b. 1968)


Image from China by Allen & Overy
Year: 2004
Material: Drawing chalk and mixed techniques on paper
Dimensions: 150 × 183 cm

Erik van Lieshout started out as a painter after he finished his education at the AKV St. Joost School of Art and Design in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, but he earned his fame with his provocative, candid and personal videos in which he openly deals with current topics such as tolerance, violence, drugs and sex. He does not shy away from controversial topics. For example, in 2003 at the Venice Biennale he discussed Moroccan youth culture with his film Respect and two years later, his film Awakening brought the controversial ideas of Pim Fortuyn forward. He usually presents the films, which are both documentary and staged in nature, in self-made, room-filling installations.

There aren’t many artists in the Netherlands who take such a consistent and profound interest in sociopolitical themes with regards to their work. There are even fewer who dare open up in this way. Many colleagues are particularly committed to producing pleasant, decorative paintings. Van Lieshout tries to analyse his subject of interest in all sorts of ways in order to get to the core. To this end, he is willing to participate extensively in his research. His idiosyncratic attitude makes him one of the most interesting Dutch artists of the past few years.

While working on such a project, Van Lieshout usually creates a large number of cartoonish drawings. He uses them as a starting point for the idea, to support his research or to deal with problems that arise during the filming. The drawings vary from quickly made rough sketches in charcoal and studies and collages with tape to impressive, elaborate sheets that can be several square metres in size.

The drawing China was created during the making of the video Fantasy Me in 2004. In the video, Van Lieshout gets involved with a shy girl named Tessa during his four-month stay in China. By often hanging out with her and her friends, they mutually educate one another: he teaches her English and talks about feminism, while she teaches him Kung Fu. Ultimately, an impossible love develops between them. Given the photographic composition, this drawing was probably made from a photo or a film still. It shows the typical drawing style of Van Lieshout; fast, direct, with only a few colours that add some structure to the abundantly present, scratched lines.

Image from China by Allen & Overy