Portrait and nude art have been fascinating me for a long time. I am interested in discovering what is hiding behind a face, especially in the eyes, which to my mind open the doors to the soul.
I find it interesting to scrutinize a face or a body, to observe the personality traits, the contours, to discover wrinkles and imperfections and to express my emotions through my work, with the greatest respect for the human being.
And when she adds: “I don’t draw characters, but souls”, she gives you a key – her key – to interpret her works. It is therefore not surprising to learn that she was Roby Hoffman’s pupil, a painter who succeeds in causing even monochrome paintings to vibrate with sensitivity.
The portraits she draws – one could also say that she paints them – are faces, but also bodies. One should not search for the formal beauty of a classical portrait which immediately generates authority or charm, sorrow or joy. The artist’s means are diverse, combine: the Indian ink line changes into wash painting, meets the oil pastel, is sometimes enhanced by gouache whereas the charcoal will bring volume and even movement to the nude. And the abstraction will feed on mixed techniques.
The portraits’ central element are the eyes, which catch the beholder’s look. The white of the eyes springs up in the shadow of the eyebrows. The eyes, mirrors of our soul, break through this shadow, liven up a face sketched with a thin line and send back the visitor to himself, to his own queries. The intangible look reflects the invisible act of thinking, the invisible inner mystery which scrutinizes you while you question it. Claudine Mertens’ portraits, inspired by documents that feature on current events or fuelled by the imagination, are the fruit of an inner contemplation which spontaneously springs out when it has ripened from an invisible and yet creative sap, like a bud opening in the spring.
Albert Moxhet May 2018
Albert Moxhet graduated in Philosophy and Literature, is Associated Professor at the University of Liège, author, art chronicler, art critic in the audio-visual and print media, lecturer)
She explores human faces and bodies – also dog faces – with a lot of commitment and intensity, committing them to paper in swift lines using ink, charcoal, fineliner or oil chalk, mostly with a reduced colourfulness. She likes to use a soft, often shaky line management. Sometimes, this line also differs from the exact outlines of the face, seeming to walk arbitrary paths. This technique clearly shows that Claudine Mertens’ purpose is not to picture a physiognomic correct copy of a person, but to portray striking features. She does not draw portraits of individual persons, but timeless character heads. … / …
But a classical beauty is not to be found, it does not interest the artist. Rather, the objective is to show how the inner state of mind is reflected in the outer reality. Emotional states become visible in this reality – but a universal interpretation cannot be read off. Rather the faces and bodies actually serve as a screen for projecting own feelings. The viewer may discover features that seem well-known or even familiar to him, perhaps also some characteristics. Claudine Mertens gives as few individual features as required and as much emotional or mental states as possible to the persons she depicts. What she wants to express and wherefore she would like to sharpen our eye is always the human essence.
Alexandra Simon-Tönges, art historian, germany