I am reporting here below the transcription of an interview I have arranged with the Belgian painter Monique De Rae, who, for the first time, is having a personal exhibit in Mantua: 60 oil canvases focused on the Blue-eyed Lady.
The exhibit is taking place at the Francesco Gonzaga Museum from 14 June to 30 August 2020.

 

Dear Monique, can you introduce yourself and explain the purpose of being in Mantova ?

Hello to everyone. I am Monique De Rae from Belgium. I am an artist and it is indeed a great pleasure for me to welcome you at my exhibition of The Bleu-eyed Lady or La Signora dagli Occhi Blue. It is an exhibition of 60 oil paintings during this summer period in the well-known Francesco Gonzaga Museum situated in the beautiful and historical city of Mantova.

We all suffered in the past period of time of this lockdown due to Covid-19 and I believe that this exhibition will be for everybody an excellent opportunity to relax a bit your mind. This exhibition is special and something that you have never seen before.

Did you paint “The Blue-eyed Lady” from Day 1 ?

When I was a little girl, painting was always more than a pastime for me. Even today, it is still a real passion that drives me each day to pick-up my brushes. In all my art works, perfection is an absolute must. I have spent years passionately painting flowers and animals using watercolor and oil, always colorful, detailed and realistic. I have continued this until suddenly my destiny took a different path with “The Bleu-eyed Lady”.
The influence of “The Blue-eyed Lady” into my life has been radical.

Can you tell me why that changed your life ?

The influence of “The Blue-eyed Lady” was very radical to me because she set aside my previous techniques and also my style of paintings changed completely. The realistic style that I always have used changed into surrealism or even more into philosophic surrealism.
I need to admit that “The Blue-eyed Lady” was my breakthrough and changed completely my way looking to the art of painting and to the world.

The evident question would be now: who or what is “The Blue-eyed Lady” ?

As you probably know very well, all artists dream in their life’s of creating an art that bears or carries their own stamp and recognizable signature. The challenge though is to create something of your own – as your own entity – and also something that creates an effect inside of the viewer that makes him laugh or provokes a good feeling. If you obtain these effects as an artist with your public, than you have achieved your goal !!

But, I must say, it is not an easy task at all to create something that stands out in today’s world in which we are overwhelmed with rapid changes, with a continuous flow of news updates and information provided by social media.

But,… it is possible… and I will say to many young artists: “Sometimes your muse is close to you, even right under your nose !!”

That was what happened to me.

Art is often bound by certain conventions and techniques. However, sometimes you need to “break-out” and create something that is different !

Most of the people think when I talk about “The Blue-eyed Lady”, it is all about a woman with blue eyes. That is not true!

“The Blue-eyed Lady” is a creation and not something of my imagination.

Please be more specific: who is “The Blue-eyed Lady” ?

“The Blue-eyed Lady” is a dog. My dog and her name was “Lady”. A name that suited her very well. Lady was a very beautiful, apricot-colored, proud and gentle giant poodle: a big standard poodle.

For more than 15 years I shared my life with her. She was very special. My dog always looked as though she was regarding to the world with two big question marks in her eyes.
The distinctive way that she was clipped and the colorful little bow on her head made many people smile.
Thousands of photos were taken of Lady by many people worldwide. This special attention that Lady attracted, inspired me to paint her portrait.

What was your first art work of “The Blue-eyed Lady” ?

First of all, I took several photo’s of the Lady in a sitting pose and then I made a drawing and based on that I made an oil painting.
I painted her in this sitting pose and in a surrealistic way but stylish and colored her yellow. I painted her unusual eyes in deep blue color and at that moment The Blue-eyed Lady was born.
During the exhibition in Mantova, you can admire a photo of my dog, the drawing and the first painting.

This drawing model is the basis and is used in each oil painting throughout the entire collection.

Did you just say that you use the same drawing from the sitting Lady in each of all your oil paintings ?

Yes. Indeed, “The Blue-eyed Lady” is always in the same sitting position without moving and looking to you with her deep blue eyes.

How do you start on an oil painting of “The Blue-eyed lady and what is your inspiration ?

When I have an idea, I think it over and over until it takes a graphical form in my mind and afterwards, I just start the painting on canvas. From that moment, it is just a combination of blending and light impasto techniques.
My source of inspiration is in fact our daily life mentioned in newspapers, journals, essays, social books, lectures given by sociologists, radio, television and social networks.

What makes “The Blue-eyed Lady” and the paintings so special ?

“The Blue-eyed Lady” is much more than just a yellow dog with blue eyes that let you smile.
The compositions are extremely simple and the colors pure and vivid. That means that the oil paintings have a lively character and a distinctive style. This combination with the blue eyes will attract everybody’s attention. I will say more: they will attract you like a magnet and like an unspoken communication between her and you.
Once that people have encountered “The Blue-eyed Lady”, she will never be forgotten.

Even until today, I am often surprised about the influence that “The Blue-eyed Lady” has on people. Her penetrating look is devastating and makes you stop for a moment and then you will think about the particular situation in which “The Blue-eyed Lady” is depicted.

Because,… every painting tells a proper story.

You mentioned a story ? Which topics is talking about and what themes are represented in your artistic research ?

The stories in the paintings are all about our life, the way we are living in our squared globe.

My art is a reflection of our society. It brings you face to face with numerous social aspects.

I can give you some examples of topics handled by “The Blue-eyed Lady”:
The Homeless

Pollution of the seas
Starvation in the 21st century
Water: the blue gold
The fight against global warming
The transparent person
Internet of things
Robots: the future of our farms
The arms trade
… and so on…

And more importantly, “The Blue-eyed Lady” is not just looking to our society from a distance, but she is also giving her opinion on it in her own way “to the point”.

This combination of painting and literature is unique. That is also the reason when I mentioned that this exhibition is special !

I would like to emphasize to the visitors of the Francesco Gonzaga Museum to be sure to take enough time because the exhibition displays 60 oil paintings with their respective 60 stories and each time in two languages: Italian and English.

The 60 selected paintings are out of the private collection, of nearly 130 oil paintings.

You just mentioned: private collection ! Does that mean that you are not selling your art work ?

That is indeed a question that many people are asking me and there are two reasons:
First of all: Every painting has its own story, so these are all independent works, but all together they provide a real document of historical interest of the way we lived in the 20th and today in the 21st century.
So, I would like to keep all the paintings together.
Secondly, the Lady wants to share her stories with everybody on the planet as a reflection of the age and that is important.

What is the “The Blue-eyed Lady” representing and why is her existence so important ?

In recent decades our world has been plunged into a maelstrom, slowly at first but then faster and faster. “The Blue-eyed Lady” show you many problems facing mankind today for which it is hard to find solutions today. Nowadays, we observe things around us, but we don’t understand these no longer.
It is only if, me as an artist you stand back a bit, that you can notice the speed and the danger. Yes, our world is facing many issues. But I suppose that it is wrong to think that we are unable to solve the problems of this world. After all, we are smart, far-sighted and social. And I am convinced that if all of us work together, then surely things will get better and not worse.

I hope that “The Blue-eyed Lady” helps people to see these developments more clearly and understand them better.

Thanks to “The Blue-eyed Lady”, I am able to shed more light on a lot of social issues, problems and even am able to criticize them. So, my second hope is that “The Blue-eyed Lady” will encourage people to take an interest in the real problems of our world, stimulate discussions and criticism and finally the goal is to obtain changes that will lead to sustainable solutions to the issues in our today’s world.

Expressing these social issues in a simple manner in such a way that everybody can understand was not an easy task.
“The Blue-eyed Lady” tries to touch her observers in their hearts however without hurting them.

Anyway, “The Blue-eyed Lady” transformed me into an artist with a social conscience and she adsorbs all my attention and as a coincidence, she became my life’s work.

Is there anything else that you would like to communicate to the visitors of your exhibition at the museum ?

Yes, I would like to say: “let yourself be fascinated by “The Blue-eyed Lady”.
She will certainly charm you, bring back memories, give you food for thoughts, material for discussion and, – that is may be the most important thing – she makes you smile !

I hope that “The Blue-eyed Lady” remains in the heart of everyone who gets to know and love her.

Dear Mrs Monique De Rae, thank you for the interview.

 

To know more about the Mantuan exhibit, please check the dedicated page.

Interview to Belgian painter Monique De Rae
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