Lenna van Ooijen
Lenna van Ooijen is a visual artist based in the Netherlands. She is fascinated by skin and loves researching different techniques to portray realistic looking skin using oil paint.
“I would describe my work as close to the skin. Tangible. Somewhat voyeuristic. Free.”
About Lenna van Ooijen
Starting from a young age, Lenna has been expressing herself through images. She spent one year at the HKU (University for the Arts Utrecht) because she wanted to work together with people and then started studying Visual Therapy. After graduating, she went to the Academy for Arts and Handicraft.
Nowadays Lenna works as visual artist and has a parttime job at an art supplies store. She has a fascination for skin and has dedicated herself to painting bellies over the past few years. By creating a cropped canvas or even sawing out parts of her painting, these body parts become warped and easy to translate into abstract paintings. The subtle colours, rich folds, deep shadows and small imperfections are built up layer by layer using Cobra oil paints.
She started painting bellies a few years ago due to her fascination with skin and to make a statement by showing so-called sitting folds. “So many people hide their body, hold in their stomachs and want to sit perfectly upright, even though everyone lounges on the couch every once in a while, with all their muscles relaxed. That is what I want to capture.”
Though Lenna’s portraits may not quite be the portraits we’re used to seeing, at the same time, they are exactly that: portraits. Lenna portrays people, but instead of depicting the characteristics of the face, she averts her gaze to the stomach of the subject. In identical square canvasses in modest proportions, Lenna invites you to take a peek into a gallery of other people’s body parts.
While her work may sound a little vulgar to some, it is everything but that. Lenna’s work is like a breath of fresh air between the tight, tanned stomachs you see on Instagram and in magazines. She shows pink, yellowish flesh, rolls, dimples and spots that might be slightly off-putting at first, but become very tender and full of expression the more you look at them.
Besides painting skin, Lenna is interested in colour and researches how to mix certain colours using different pigments. “I love working on a smaller scale (my belly series is on 10 x 10 cm canvasses) and use tiny mink hair brushes, including ones from Rembrandt.”
Most of Lenna’s inspiration for her paintings of skin comes from light, structure and folds. “The feeling of enthusiasm I feel when I see a belly that is folded in a way that it casts a shadow onto the belly button is indescribable. Omitting backgrounds, either by not painting one or by actually sawing it out of the picture works like zooming in on the shape and almost abstraction of the body part to me. I also really admire artists like Dorielle Caimi and Taegen McLarnen!”
Find out more about Lenna
A piece from Lenna's belly series. Oil on canvas.