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Laura Limbourg: E30022
by Judit Krijgh-Bozsan
Born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1996, Laura Limbourg relocated to the Czech Republic with her family at an early age. The influences of growing up in a multi-lingual environment, exposed to the cultural and social differences of Western and Central Europe were formative in priming her to become an in-depth observer, and continue to fuel Limbourg’s artistic curiosity in exploring social conduct, interpersonal relationships, as well as individual and collective value systems across cultures. A deeply engaged artist, Limbourg’s works reflect upon and draw inspiration from the often-contrasting impressions she encounters and absorbs throughout her extensive travels and day-to-day life as an artist. Through the intimate world that comes to life on her canvases, we witness the continuous unfolding of Limbourg’s growing sense of identity and awareness as both an artist and a citizen of the world.
Limbourg’s compositions, inhabited by imaginary characters, symbolic creatures as well as real-world friends and idols, tend to merge multiple time layers and geographies.
Mixing and matching real world experiences and fantasies, the artist curates a highly idiosyncratic narrative, opening up the space to new possibilities and connections. This is how a palm tree, studded with dragon fruits from Guatemala, planted in a ceramic vessel inspired by her Southeast Asian travels, and standing atop a Formula One checkered flag becomes transfigured into a surreal assemblage of past impressions interwoven with her intimately encoded pictorial
In her most recent body of work, self-reflection takes center stage as Limbourg takes on an introspective approach by adopting an autobiographical thematic direction. Scenes from pursuing her passions and interests, such as flying an airplane, playing tennis, or cheering on Charles Leclerc, become intermingled with childhood memories as well as encounters with friends and fellow artists around the world, as she explores multiple facets self-perception and social awareness, alongside themes of group behavioral phenomena such as collaboration or competitiveness. The independent yet intricately intertwined storylines unfurl across her canvases as pages of a visual diary.
Imbued with an air of luminosity reminiscent of the transparence of watercolors, her compositions are a result of Limbourg’s gestural immediacy. Working swiftly on large scale without the use of a primer, the artist applies diluted acrylic paint directly onto the canvas, resulting in a light-weight aquarelle-esque appearance.
The artist’s work absorbs her powerful stream of creative energy, which is just as palpable in her sculptural works. Vases and vessels are a frequently recurring motive in Limbourg’s compositions and take on varying shapes and ornamentation depending on their relative symbolic role, from examples inspired by her visit to Taiwan’s Yingge District, to Bohemian designs from her mother’s kitchen window in Prague. Her vases rendered in cement contrast the fragility of the female shape with a tough material essence – a duality that strong, modern women, such as Limbourg herself, embody.
In her “Cadmium-series”, produced during a recent residency in Miami, the artist applies a sheer red veil of aqueous pigment to her multi-color compositions, some newly painted but some earlier works as well. As part of this highly expressive and almost ritualistic gestural experiment, Limbourg layers translucent gradations of multiple shades of red, applying Cadmium Red (corresponding to hexadecimal color code #e30022) as final closure. A color of contrasting forces, universally speaking, red evokes emotional associations with passion and love but also with violence and anger. In nature, the color red helps to attract attention and may signal a potential threat (e.g., fire or blood) or an opportunity (e.g., a ripe fruit), which our neural systems are hardwired to perceive.
A poetic metaphor for a protective shield, the red guise references the idea of holding up a mask to conceal one’s insecurities, much akin to the world of social media, where myriads of feature-perfecting filters are at one’s disposal to help achieve newly evolved collective ideals of beauty.
In our increasingly computerized world, especially within our post-pandemic context, where new norms of social interactions have been established, online engagement and consumption have opened up a new dimension of globally shared virtual culture. In a Truman Show-like way, the points of reference become defined by the value systems and expectations of this novel public space, where participants seem to be renegotiating the frameworks of Sigmund Freud’s century-old tripartite model of the human psyche. In the matrix of instant connectedness, where the social gaze is constant, interlinked and omnipresent, the pressure to belong and live up to can be overpowering. Opinions are formed at unprecedented speed, and the impact potential of the smallest mistake or blemish on one’s reputation is accordingly magnified. Artists, too, become vulnerable as they are being watched, spotted, judged, and criticized, whilst the system of credentialization has been redistributed to an influencer-biased public realm, and confined to a monetizable measure of likes, shares and follows.
Whilst offering protection, Limbourg’s Cadmium cover also implements a barrier. Though it creates perfected uniformity across the compositions, it at the same time also distances the viewer. By superimposing a layer to be penetrated in order to access the true essence of the colorful expression of the world as seen by the artist herself, the artist infuses the works with a luring air of mystery.