By Keri Douglas, writer, photographer and communications consultant in Washington, D.C.
Stephane Lefebvre, a painter from Brussels, is like a magician who brings ancient cultures forward to the present with the ease only an illusionist can accomplish leaving the viewer reaching forward to touch the canvas — wondering out loud, “C’est vrai?” He responds, “Oui.”
In the style of idealism and costumbrism, Lefebvre reveals hidden stories, people, and cultures and customs in life that make us human. Authentic colors and textures found in ancient relics resting in lofty museums capture Lefebvre’s imagination spurring a visit to a lost village long ago rubbed off the map.
Leaving the luxury of the modern world in Europe, Lefebvre travels to discover a sophistication and naturalism found in indigenous communities.
Mysteries abound in his collection of paintings from Peru, ensuring the viewer will inquire… who is this? where is this? what is happening?. Lefebvre’s portraits with rich brown leathered faces stare melancholy out into time.
The landscapes are powerful statements of nature intermingled with the softness of the eternal search for the answers of life. Mummies, sarcophaguses, secret burial sites are hidden and then revealed. In many of the paintings, a small gold plaque cut in half is stuck on the canvas.
Lefebvre hides the other half of the plaque in a secret place in the location of the painting. It is his belief that this allows the collector “to be one in communion” with the painting and it offers an opportunity for the collector to experience the location. Lefebvre is a powerful storyteller with a palette of paint.
Studying the masters, including Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Thomas Cole, Frederic Church and inspired by author Mario Vargas Llosa, Lefebvre observes and creates naturally. Having studied agriculture, Lefebvre completely switched his path in life to become an artist when he first stepped foot in Peru. He instantly knew that his purpose in life was to reveal the ephemeral beautify found in indigenous communities; Peru is a natural perfect fit.
For the last 30 years, he has witnessed and preserved timeless cultures either lost in time or on the verge of being lost from the world’s memory. Lefebvre passionately states, “An artist must do as he sees.”
His current exhibit of paintings from his travels to Peru are on exhibit at the Embassy of Peru, 1700 Massachusetts Avenue NW until Tuesday, May 17, 2011.