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Rens Lipsius (Soest, Netherlands, 20 Sept. 1960) is a self-taught artist who converted his childhood’s fascination with nature and science to camera and brush, to the arts. He started working from his first studio, a converted garage in his home town Soest, at the age of 16.
After leaving high school he went to work in a factory for graphic materials until he entered the St. Joost Academy in 1979. He only stayed a short time realizing that the education as an artist couldn’t come from such institute.
January 1981 he left for Paris where he started working in advertisement photography and eventually he set up his own studio. Working on national and international campaigns and editorial work for Vogue, Vogue Enfant, Figaro Madame etc.
This allowed him to be economically independent and to continue his practice as an ‘enfant terrible’ of the art.
Under the title of Jungle Heroes he started portraits of contemporary composers. Franco Donatoni, Sylvano Bussotti, Elliott Carter, Hugues Dufourt, Gerard Grisey etc. etc. They all had their specific plant. In addition to this he made portraits of musicians.
In 1985 he moved into an abandoned factory in Villa Riberolle, Paris, against the cemetery of Pere Lachaise, which he converted in 1985-1987 into his first Ideal Artist House. This would allow him to his photo and painting studio working simultaneously.
In this studio he built the Lightwall (1985), a wall built only to receive light from a long window to the south.
By then he had started attending classes of Pierre Boulez at the College de France and he followed Boulez to the IRCAM, where he met number of other composers, many of whom he would do their portrait and exchange with on a regular base.
In Villa Riberolle he painted his first polyptych (300x 500 cm, 12 panels, 1987-’88).
In 1989 he bought a large gentleman’s farm in Friesland (Frisia), Netherlands, of which he converted the pyramidal barn into a large studio. Two years (1989-1991) he spent here by himself in his words “surrounded by light and material “. It is here that he painted the second polyptych Great Winter Landscape (Acrylic, pencil on paper glued on linen, 300x460 cm) and he started working on open-ended series. He wanted the works “to grow into the surrounding space “.
The time spent here would lay the foundations for his work and from here on light and material would be the main ingredients.
In 1992 he moved to New York and set up his studio to Varickstreet in a printers building of west-Soho, he referred to as The Light Box.
His work was very well received by John Coplans, co-founder of art forum and artist himself. Many galleries visited his studio: Annina Nosei, Lelong etc. but Lipsius had decided by then to remain away from any representation by galleries, questioning the functioning of the art market. He developed a statement towards the art market through his Ideal Artist House concepts. (I.A.H.) In those concepts he questions the role of art.
1992-2008. In New York he worked on major series: Big Blues, The Diptychs, The Light Rays, Studies after Rembrandt, Wandering Profiles, In Blue drowned portraits, Waterreflections, Large Standing Figures and Abstract Panels.
This last one is an open-ended series of 20 figures and 40 abstract panels of 244x122 cm each, 8x4 feet. The figures he had painted at night with the available city light and the abstract panels in day light on the floor.
They were shown in Paris in the I.A.H. nr 5 as an installation with photography, digital art (Everchanging Tryptichs etc.), and video. The panels he sees as unfolding spaces “each space its’ own quality and solitude”.
It is while working on this series that he started the series of Roses & Cauliflowers, small paintings of 30x30 cm (12”x12”) each exploring through an array of materials the corresponding theme.
Simultaneously he continued working in his Paris’ studio, where he painted the “Fall” Polyptich (2002-2005, oil on linen, 300x460 cm).
In 1999 he bought again a farm in the Netherlands, Friesland, where he did the Land-art project, Light Observation Field (L.O.F.). It is nearby Robert Smithson’s Broken Circle and Dennis Oppenheim’s Canceled crops land –art works.
It is a 65 x 125 m rectangle traced exactly north-south into the Frisian landscape by equalizing the earth surface and seeding it with 24 biological grasses, and by digging ditches and planting 100 oaks around its boundary lines. By 2012 nature had made a real frame for the observation of light changes.
2005-2007, From an observation post Lipsius made 1000 photographs with blocked light meter over a period of time, one year, and he made a 12 hours film Optical fingers touching the landscape which were presented in front of the Large Standing Figure and Abstract Panels paintings.
In 2008 he did a similar project on the Astrid Park in Bruges (Belgium).
The outcome was used for a dance piece called One hour in the park by the New York based dance companythe Bang Group and its director David Parker.
In the prolongation of the L.O.F. Lipsius designed and built a prefab house, The Cuckoo House, I.A.H nr. 6, where part of these photographs were installed and visitors were invited to stay upstairs in rooms overlooking the field.
In the same province he built another I.A.H. nr.9, Prikkedam, a six-room dwelling with six paintings. Groundfloor there were no doors so that one could always see from one room into the other a part of a painting. He designed the surrounding park, an Ideal Artist Pond, Terrace and Shower.
In 1999 Lipsius was appointed director of the American ICAR Foundation (Institute for the collaboration of Art and Research) and used his newly built studio in Paris, the I.A.H. nr. 5, as a platform to show museum like exhibitions by artists John Coplans, Dennis Oppenheim, Vito Acconci, William Delottie, JCJ Vanderheijden and a special project with the ENSBA from Paris and three of its professors: Marc Pataut, Patrick Faigenbaum and Jean-Francois Chevrier. He combines it with interviews between the artists and himself or others. Also he programmed a number of concerts during those exhibitions (the Alice Ader ensemble, the violinist Latica Honda Rosenberg, pianist Eldar Nebolsin in between others played here).
Close to his love for music he pursued voice-studies with Daniel Ferro (Juilliard school director of the voice department). He made the German Lied the heart of his repertoire, thus combining his love for poetry and music.
The I.A.H. nr 8 New York was sold in 2012 as a total work by Raphaël de Niro, a 3.300 sq. ft. (300 m2) penthouse on 3 floors in NoHo , he had designed including the furniture and part of the paintings and photographs.
I.A.H. nr 10, the conversion of one of the oldest canal houses of Amsterdam on the prominent Herengracht into a modern space ready to show art. It was presented to the public in December 2012. Currently it functions under the banner of The Merchant House as a public art gallery.
For all the different I.A.Houses he had designed from tables, to closets , stairs and handrails and in 2013 he started presenting them as Objets Dérivés.
From 2018 on he initiates The Program without a Program in Paris, in the I.AH. nr. 5 at 159 quai de Valmy, on the canal Saint Martin. This program presents in an unusual way works or projects or events crossing his path of an artist. May it be works by himself or by other artists, projects he works on or comes across and often themes turning around environmental and market critical thinking. Very often it is accompanied by concerts.
In I.A.H. nr. 5 Paris, he worked again on the theme of Waterreflections (2018-2020, 8 x 200x 122 cm and 180 x 122 cm panels), painted a large number of Roses & Cauliflowers (30x30 cm, 2017-2020) and DNA-AND series of (2019, 3x 200x122 cm) organic materials from the artist glued in between a white gesso-prepared linen and raw canvas. A series of Trees and Shadows (2019 30 x 40 cm) and “Figures” (2018-2019, 40x30 cm).
In October 2018 Lipsius was invited to come and work in the bush of Zimbabwe. He did so in support of nature conservation. The invitation came from Untamed Travelling, a leading tour operator for safaris in the Netherlands and African Bush Camps, a leading lodge in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia. He left for two trips between January-May 2019
This exceptional invitation tied in with his childhood fascination for nature, when he wanted to become an ethologist, reading the stories of Dr. Livingstone and drawing patiently in the natural surroundings of the village where he grew up. That’s where the roots of his art lie.
In Zimbabwe, he worked in a temporary studio, ready to adapt all approaches of painting. Initially, he had no idea how it would work out with the somewhat restricted means he had, but he did manage to create this body of work, through improvising and using all the material he had at his disposal in a very unusual way.
He produced 100 studies in oil. Lithographs were made from those studies and proceeds from the sales went in support of nature conservation.
The results were published in the Zimbabwe book given with each sold lithograph which carries the corresponding page number, so that everyone could see where it sits in the chronology of the production.
These studies have taken a unique place in his oeuvre.
- "Ideal Artist House". STUDIO RENS LIPSIUS. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- "IAH Leidijk". STUDIO RENS LIPSIUS. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- "IAH Bleeckerstreet". STUDIO RENS LIPSIUS. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- "Painting Roses & Cauliflowers". STUDIO RENS LIPSIUS. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- "IAH Light Observation Field". STUDIO RENS LIPSIUS. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- "Rens Lipsius, fondateur de l'Institute for Cooperation of Art and Research (ICAR) - Rens Lipsius, qui vient de quitter ses fonctions de directeur à ICAR France, fait le point après trois ans d'activité. - Art Aujourd'hui". www.artaujourdhui.info. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- House, The Merchant. "The Merchant House | Amsterdam". Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- "EXPOSITION RENS LIPSIUS - RENS LIPSIUS STUDIO - du 8 février 2020 au 9 février 2020". ParisBouge (in français). Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- ""J'installe mon atelier dans la brousse du Zimbabwe pour contrer le braconnage de masse", Rens Lipsius". MySweetimmo (in français). 2019-01-15. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- "chefing s'engage aux côtés d'Artist In the Bush". Chefing Traiteur (in français). 2019-11-22. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
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