Home Chennai From bling to black, Olaf Van Cleef’s new inspiration

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    Artist Olaf Van Cleef is back to share his affordable Black and White collection and plans for Bhutan

    Fans of Dutch artist Olaf Van Cleef are no strangers to his unique style that combines expert brushstrokes and water colours with kitchy elements like chocolate wrappers and Swarovski crystals. A counsellor with Cartier, Van Cleef’s love of India (he’s been visiting since the age of 13) and of jewellery inspired him to start painting and embellishing Hindu gods (“your gods have more diamonds than Christ”), many of which adorn the puja rooms of his clients around the country. But now, the 64-year-old is on the lookout for new ideas.

    Monochrome outlook
    First off the brush is his Black and White collection. Stark yet intricate, the paintings are a drastic departure from his usual style. In fact, at a recent exhibition in Pondicherry, Van Cleef said he had people asking him, “What is this sacrilege?” He admits: “This style is totally out-of-the-box for me. But I love the juxtaposition of black and white and, moreover, I wanted to create a collection that everyone can afford.” The paintings, which cost Rs. 25,000, are on sale at the Van Cleef Hall in Pondicherry.

    Piety and penises
    Up next is an exhibition in Bhutan (in September next year) and a commission of 30 paintings for the Bhutanese royal family. While he plans to feature a few Buddhas—a request from the Queen Mother—he will also indulge his irreverent side and feature some “bejewelled penises”. “The penis may be taboo in India, but it’s not so in Bhutan. There, it’s a symbol of happiness and family. In fact, there are giant paintings of them outside homes with several children,” he laughs.

    Van Cleef Hall is available on rent. Details: 9786698256

    —Surya Praphulla Kumar

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