The art of metal

Metal and fire, the material and element he got to know during his first practical job experiences as a foundry worker, caracterize the originality of Leunens’ work. It would have been a logical consequence that the choice of that material would lead him to participate in the new efforts made by the iron sculptors. Yet, Leunens did not take this direction, because when he started his experiments, he was already a painter. When he wished to abandon traditional ways of painting, which he came to consider obsolete, he nevertheless always respected the pictorial means of expression as he developed new techniques which, to his sense, were better adapted to the style of the modern world.

Guillaume Leunens begins his experimentation with metal in the 1960s. He uses a large sheet of aluminum on a wooden framework as a canvas. He developed several methods to paint with metal on aluminum. Most probably, he found his technique while he worked in foundries in the Germans workcamps. The result is spectacular, among his finest works. He also creates sculptures with floor bases or wall bases, with the same technique. He even succeeded in artworks of metal on canvas and metal on paper.

His techniques for metal on paper and metal on canvas are his best kept secrets that he has never shared. In the workshop where he creates his artwork, nobody is allowed to enter. He enjoys painting the woman, the mother and her child and the conception of life, probably because of his youth without his mother. He is also obsessed by space and everything that this entails. He has an avant-guardiste vision. He is known as the painter of the night and space.

After participating at the World Exposition in Montreal in 1967, while he exhibited in New York, two professors of Harvard University asked him if he would, with his technique of metal on aluminum, perform two works representative of healthy and cancerous cells and provided him with images of cells they had captured on slides. He creates two great works, one for each type of cell, and the professors were greatly impressed by the similarity of Leunens works with real cells.

During the mid-1970s, he began to use another technique on his works in aluminum: monotypes that reveal the harmony of lines. Leunens also uses this technique on paper, demonstrating his versatility as an artist. « Monotypes » are the result of a surprising and fascinating new personal technique: the hands of Leunens the artist painter forces metal (aluminum) to behave as an oil color. However, the « monotype » name is given incorrectly according to some, since it suggests a link with the graphic art which is totally absent. In the work of Leunens, the paintings are undoubtedly abstract and another name should be used.

Hardworking, Guillaume Leunens would create an artwork for days, then when the work is complete, he looks at it and if it doesn’t measure up to his standards, he would destroy it and starts over again or just simply invent another technique. His determination, his patience, but especially his passion for his art and his vision of the universe are the main qualities which have allowed Guillaume Leunens to fulfill his dream.

He always fought for his art, pushing his own boundaries; he always wanted to do better. He was at the forefront during his lifetime and is always today. He also took with him all his secrets. On his death bed he said: « My son, several have tried to imitate me, but nobody has ever succeeded. There are still going to try but they will not succeed.  » His works will continue to vibrate all the emotions that this passionate man of night and life was able to infuse his art.

His inspiration has been fuelled by his experiences as a worker-artist in the Belgian Brabant. He was fascinated by fire and metal, the day in the factory; at night, these images were pursuing him for his creative efforts. In these moments, the mastery of man over matter finally pushed him to the artistic triumph.

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