Isabelle Scheltjens had been interested in art since she was young. She studied at SISA, the Antwerp City Institute for Decorative Arts and Crafts. The magnificent glass design of her husband Dirk Neefs inspired Isabelle to work with the same material.
It took years of intense practicing and juxtaposing countless of pieces of coloured glass to refine her method and truly master the colour theory. She developed a unique glass-fusing technique, whereby pieces of glass in different colours, sizes and textures are melted together at approximately 800°C.
The colourful pieces of glass are like the dots of paint used by the pointillists: forming an abstract image up close, yet a dramatic and precise portrait from a distance.
Isabelle achieves striking optical effects with her technique: she captures the dance of light and colour in a way that a photograph transforms it into a black & white or sometimes a colourful portrait – the fascinating result of a process that relies on the perceptive ability of the eye and mind of the viewer.
Distance creates beauty
Isabelle Scheltjens has put an original and contemporary touch on classical pointillism. She developed a new way of portrait making, whereby thousands of pieces of glass in specific patterns optically form an image. Pointillists used small, distinct dots of pure colour on their canvases, placed in close proximity so that they would blur into new colours. Isabelle applies a similar technique, using layers of coloured glass instead of paint. She immersed herself in the understanding of colour and creates her portraits with maniacal intensity – featuring intricate detail, lighting and shadows.
Glass, a contradictory material
Isabelle uses glass in a masterly way, as does her husband and glass artist/artisan Dirk Neefs. Isabelle’s technique arises from Dirk’s passion for glass, which inspired her to explore the versatile material as an artistic medium. Glass unites several contrasting properties – resisting and fragile, transparent and opaque, light and heavy – making it perfect for expressing the ambiguous relationship between distance and proximity.
Keeping up appearances
Everything looks better from a distance than up close. Isabelle’s portraits require the participation of the viewer, as they change depending on the viewing position. Her art gives shape to the disparity between what something appears to be and what something is. The fragility of glass represents the transience of beauty.
The eye of the observer
Up close we view an abstract image, seemingly unfinished – a captivating combination of bright colours. When viewed at a distance, our eyes fuse the individual pieces of glass into one solid portrait. The time-consuming and laborious technique is the antithesis to the frantic pace of life in a ‘disposable’ society.
The poetry of dots
Although Isabelle’s modern-day pointillism requires technical craftsmanship, technique is merely a means to an end. The seemingly random forms and colours on the surface of the canvas come together to form a distinct, expressive, tactile image – pointillism reinvented and re-contextualized.