Maarten Castelein, a selection of images from his body of works.
Q: As a portrait maker, are you going to discover and reach out for the one being portrayed, or do you let the person portrayed come to you?
A: I believe it is up to me to discover the person to portray. In any case, because I am a curious person, I go and discover the model. I love to detect the overall shape, look at particularities and touch with my eyes the body of the person as if it was a new landscape to look at.
Q: Does being unclothed in a portrait automatically frame the portrayed person in a sexual light?
A: Not at all. When I draw, I do not see the body or the person as a possible sexual encounter. You could compare it to a big vegetable or huge unidentified object that I am trying to draw, I do not see a sexual body in front of me. If I would draw with a sexual appetite, I believe I could not put down on paper the person he/she truly is. A drawing demands a lot of concentration.
Q: Lies the truth of portraiture in the seek to idealise the potential of a figure, or represent that figure in a more identifiable, realistic light?
A: For me it is about capturing the most defining features as honestly as possible. I’m not interested in making the model look better than he/she is, but trying to be as close as possible to reality. I do admit that sometimes I have been convinced about a final drawing although I didn’t capture the person truly as he/she was.
Q: When do you see the soul of the person portrayed in the image? What is the most important quality to possess as a portrait maker?
A: This is one of the most recurrent questions I have been asking myself since I started making portraits. Today, my answer is that you need to see the soul of the person portrayed through the eyes. Of course the overall shape of the head, the distances between nose, mouth, eyes (etc) have to be correct, but the true essence of a person, the soul, appears when the artist can find that sparkle/strength in his/her drawing. That is, for me, the most important quality to possess as a portrait maker, to capture the soul/energy in the eyes of the model.
Once a model made fun of me because I only drew his eyes, he thought I was not being serious. But to me the essence of a portrait is in the eyes, the rest is less important.
Q: Thesis: In the current way of living, the artist is indirectly asked to also assume a digital 2D identity. My work, for example, shows a lot of bare skin. But that is against the guidelines of many social media platforms because a lot of skin in an image is deemed explicit or sexual. I wonder how I can exist digitally as an artist if this guideline generalises the way of looking at unclothed bodies. Not everyone looks at bodies in a sexually objectified way. How do you feel about this digital trend?
A: Luckily, I haven’t been censored yet on Instagram, for example. I think many photographers are restricted by this censorship, although I did post drawings with boobs, bottoms and genitals visible. I hope people will understand more and more that showing skin is not necessarily a sexual thing and that we don’t have to be afraid to show our bodies as they are. I’ve read an article about team players in sports not showering together naked anymore because they are afraid to show their bodies or, more specifically, their genitals. I think that is a pity; the human body is such a beautiful piece of nature, like any oak tree, all bodies are shaped differently but they are all beautiful.
I love to discover the human body, time and time again, with my models. As I have been a fashion designer for more than 15 years, it is almost something sacred to me to see a model/person naked, without clothes, with no signs other than just his/her skin/body.
Q: Do you use a (recurring) conscious strategy to arrive at an image? How does your working method help determine the image?