The quest for the perfect masterpiece

An interview with Christiane Vleugels

We sat down with Christian Vleugels, who told us all about her selection by ‘The IBEX Collection’, the largest active and private collection of hyperrealistic art.


Christiane, tell us how you were selected for this prestigious international project?

The collective selected more than 2,000 artists from around the world, whose work meets all the criteria of the hyperrealism genre in portrait painting. The organisers visited 450 (!) artists in person to take a closer look at their work. They ended up retaining 28 artists, after which another six were eliminated because they ultimately did not fulfil all the criteria. I was one of the 22 artists in the final selection. 


What were the expectations?

Every artist was given the challenge to create a Masterpiece that was inspired by their own feelings and fantasy. We were given two years’ time to create this work, during which time we would receive financial support from the IBEX Collection. This places a lot of pressure on you, however. Some of my colleagues, and I myself, made the mistake of wanting to prove what they were capable of. They created complicated compositions and even deviated from their usual genre, which had led to their selection. As a result, some of these masterpieces did not meet the expectations of their sponsor. These colleagues were given a second chance, however, and they are now all working on their actual Masterpiece.


The IBEX Collectionis organising a big group show in New York. What can we expect to see?

The group show opens on 19 September on 5thAvenue in New York. I was recently informed that my Masterpiece, which is titled ‘Muse’, will not be featured in this exhibition, because it deviated too much from my original proposal. At the start of the project, they told me that it would be interesting to see which country the artist who created the masterpiece came from. I had the idea to create a typically ‘Belgian’, even ‘Antwerp’ work. This led me to develop a large allegorical composition, that referred to Rubens’ compositions. This type of composition is considered rather old-fashioned, and even though the set-up is perfect, my masterpiece was too far removed from my body of work as a whole. The IBEX Collection decided to keep Muse, however, for other projects.


Are you currently working on a second Masterpiece?

Yes, I am, one that is much closer to my heart. The quest to create this work proved a serious challenge. For starters, because you are continuously aware of the great expectations. So I won’t be showing a work in New York this year. I will attend the opening as an honorary guest, however, and they have included me in all the documentation and brochures. Because this exhibition is the first of several exhibitions. Venues have already been booked in Hong Kong and Singapore, and my intention is to have my Masterpiece included in these exhibitions.


The Early Birds Art Gallery in Knokke is currently exhibiting one of your works, called ‘Mind over Matter’. Where did you get the inspiration for this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that humans only use 1/100thof their brain capacity. And by telekinesis, that allows people who can tap into an additional part of their brain to manipulate objects without touching them. I am convinced that we shape a large part of our life ourselves, in line with our convictions. A positive mindset attracts positive situations. I decided to use the same terracotta clay for the photoshoot that is used to produce bricks. The clay partly dried, making the model look as if he is melting the brick, by concentrating on it. He controls the matter with his mind, if you will.


The work conveys a wonderful message.

It does. The underlying message is ‘keep a positive mindset. Whatever happens, you always have a choice, make the most of it!’.


What are your future plans and ambitions?

I intend to continue working on my new Masterpiece. I’ve had plenty of new ideas since then, which were developed during photo shoots. Plenty of plans to continue working for another ten years at least. Clearly, I don’t suffer from a lack of inspiration.

I’m very hopeful about the future, because I feel that I have a lot of support, even though it took me a while before I was able to appreciate this ‘interference’. While financial freedom may seem nice, it also creates a huge amount of pressure. Although I find it’s often the artist himself who creates this pressure, because he feels bound by a contract, in a sense. Once I got over this idea, I was able to work more freely, from the heart. I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity. I’m one of two women artists who are participating in this grand project, which is quite something!


In any event, we are very curious and we wish you plenty of creative inspiration!

July 14, 2019