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Emilie Lauwers

Emilie Lauwers, Visual ArtistEmilie Lauwers was born in 1984 near Gent, Belgium.

Like many babies, she had both hands closed when she was born. Her parents say, when they opened the first hand, there was a small pencil in it. When they opened the second, they found an eraser. All grown up now, she doesn’t like the part about the eraser. In her current atelier, in the many shelves with ink and paint and crayons, there is no eraser to be found. The pencil, though, is always somewhere near.

Emilie went to art school from the age of 14. In secondary school, she found herself in Stefaan Van Tieghem’s class—the wizard made her draw straight lines freehand. It helped when he said the pencil was supposed to cross the paper slowly, like a heavy ship crossing the channel. He taught her to think like an apple when drawing an apple, to erase the light into a page filled with charcoal. Next, Tom De Klippel took her to the countryside to paint landscapes, to find out how many colors are called ‘green’. She was initiated in art history by Gilbert Decouvreur, who would put a record of Oum Kalthoum in the background while talking about daylight falling through a well-shaped window for hours.

At the age of 16, suffering a rainy Belgian summer, she wrote and illustrated her first children’s book —a project that received much attention from the press. Since then, she has illustrated more then 20 titles from different writers, experimenting with different materials and styles, learning the craft by experience, by making mistakes, and doing better next time. Her work has been edited by The House of Books, De Eenhoorn, vzw Hardscore, and Die Keure. Mostly, she works on small paper, but she loves to get totally lost on large surfaces. Drawing for her is an easy way to express. The pencil usually does what she wants it to do, while the laptop, the camera, and all other technological devices usually have a stubborn mind of their own. They are slow and need to be tamed throughout the working process.

Emilie studied Graphic Design at Hogeschool Sint-Lucas Gent. She intended to study illustration, but somewhere along the road fell in love with typography. She learned a lot from passionate people like Lucas Devriendt, Peter Van de Cotte, Michael Bussaer, and Erwin Clauws. She learned the rules and how not to use them. In the same high school, her Literature teacher Lieven Tavernier read out ‘Winterreise’ while the snow was falling outside our classroom windows, and Jeroen Laureyns taught her that, by asking the right questions, she could find answers to almost everything. Since graduation in 2006, she has been designing every day for several clients in the artistic scene in Belgium and abroad, companies like Arjan van Dijk Groep, Flanders Operastudio, and Middagconcerten vzw, as well as individual artists. Her designs are typified by suggestive images, combined with straight, grid-based typography.

Emilie grew up in a home full of music and books, always surrounded by singers. With a father who changed from a career as an animator of movies to director of opera, and a mother who devours books and all kinds of knowledge, she took off with a backpack full of information.

Always work from a circle to a point.

The best we can do in life is our best.

Emilie is convinced that all forms of art, apart from technique, in the end are the same.They’re all about composition and light. They’re all about telling a story and evoking emotion. She tends to choose black and white over color. Gray scales suit her best, as she is used to having a certain melancholic cloud somewhere nearby. But, when a bunch of children order a wall painting, she will use all the colors the rainbow has to offer. She likes to take on any challenge in the field of visual art. She usually says ‘yes’ first and then thinks of how to realize something later. When she was a young teenager, legendary voice-teacher Vera Rosza took both her hands and whispered ‘Patience is the secret word’. This is a lesson she often needs to remind herself off.

She has this phrase of one of Tom Wait’s songs in the back of her mind at all times:

Luck is when opportunity meets with preparation.

She believes in wishes.

Emilie regularly works as a photographer for the Flanders Operastudio, Studio Minne, and Rideau de Bruxelles. Whether she photographs a family or an opera performance, she is an intuitive observer at all times, capturing a story in an image. Having spent most of her life in and around theaters—and working as a staff member at Flanders Operastudio for many years—she might not know a single opera by name, but she can hum along to every aria. She has made press and promotional photography and portraits for several (musical) ensembles (one of them being Frédéric Dussenne’s company L’acteur et l’écrit, in who’s presence she learned to be an invisible, respectful photographer). She never uses the flashlight.

Emilie was the assistant of Brussels-based scenographer Lionel Lesire, who taught her that when you ask a female singer for her shoe-size, you should always buy shoes for her that are slightly larger then what she claims to need—along many other far more important things about theatre, scenography, and life in general—and who compared Emilie to a camel because she could work all day without eating or drinking. After this, she has made scenographies for Junge Kammeroper Köln, Flanders Operastudio, vzw Hardscore, a.o; She is currently working on a new scenography for the Flanders Operastudio and a scenography for New European Opera that will première in Italy. She has successfully combined forces with directors such as Vincent van den Elshout, who was crazy enough to give her enormous carte blanches throughout the past seven years, and Benoît De Leersnyder, with whom she has created several performances in a ‘tandem’ kind of way.

Now at the age of 28, turning more and more towards projects of her own, towards creating for the sake of creation rather than for filling in someone’s order, she found the wavelength of baritone Christian Luján, with whom she created the performance ‘Une triste Figure’, combining live music and live drawing inspired by the story of Don Quichotte.

Emilie lives together with architect Alessandro Ranno, with whom she is currently working on a large-scale architecture/photography project.

All the above matters to her, but nothing compares to spending a silly Wednesday-afternoon with her 3-year-old daughter.

For more on Emilie Lauwers and her work, visit her website at www.emilielauwers.be.