Pieter Léon Vermeersch (°1984) is an artist living and working in Leuven, Belgium. His work deals with the tension between the concepts of utopia and dystopia.
The dystopian predictions by authors like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell about worlds without privacy which are dominated by the increasing power of authoritarian regimes and/ or big companies, are becoming a reality. The concept of utopia on the other hand has been dismissed after the failures of the 20th century.
The future has never been more unpredictable. New technologies like artificial intelligence and 3D (nano-) printing have the potential to shake our society to its core.
Now more than ever, there is a need for the power of the imaginative mind to see where we want to take our world and our cities. A society without a vision for the future is a society without a soul.
The buildings Pieter Léon Vermeersch designs are not real buildings. They are buildings that, by their imaginative character, make us reflect about the world. They depict architecture and the city as viewed through the lens of the artist.
“A society without a vision for the future is a society without a soul.”
Pieter Léon Vermeersch graduated in 2007 at the Sint-Lukas Art University in Brussels with the degree of Master in Visual Arts.
In 2006 he won the Michel Leën Award, granted by the Creative Club of Belgium. This is the most important award in Belgium for students who study any field related to visual communication.
After his studies Pieter is working as an independent designer and artist. In 2011 he followed a year long program in sculpture at the LUCA Art University to further enhance his skills.
In 2010 and 2012 he was selected for an art show at BOZAR, Center for Fine Arts in Brussels, the number one museum in Belgium for contemporary arts.
Selected Art Shows
- Ljubljana Group Art Show by WARP, 2019
- Solo Art Show “Beautiful Dystopia” at Aporia Gallery in Brussels – 2018
- There’s always more to see – Museum M Leuven – Selected “Open M” artist. 4 artworks shown – 2017
- Set-Off Group Exhibition – Molens Van Orshoven Leuven – 2012
- Final Exhibition “Canvascollectie/ La Collection Rtbf 2012” at BOZAR Museum for Fine Arts in Brussels – 2012
- Final exhibion “Canvascollectie/ La Collection Rtbf 2010” at BOZAR Museum for Fine Arts in Brussels – after a selection out of more then 8000 artists – 2010
Awards and Selections
Invited Artist WARP Ljubljana Presentation and Art Show 2019
Selected for the international Artist Village in Eindhoven 2018
Open M selected artist M Museum Leuven 2017
Canvascollectie final selection BOZAR Center for Fine Arts Brussels 2012
Canvascollectie final selection BOZAR Center for Fine Arts Brussels 2010
Creative Club of Belgium Michel Leën Award winner 2006
About the Process
The concept comes first. It is my believe that a strong concept can elevate a project to heights it could otherwise never reach. Looking for a good concept is a long process wherein I look at a lot of work of other artists and listen to audio-books and podcasts. These podcasts and audio-books can be about a great number of topics, from philosophy (Sam Harris), to history (Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari), to architecture (99% Invisible).
The next step consists of writing my ideas down whenever they come to my mind and making little sketches out of them, two postage stamps in size. I scan all these sketches and I put them on my computer to categorize and rank them.
After sampling all these ideas and letting them have “idea sex“, this means trying to combine two ideas into a new one, I gather the best ideas and try them out.
The artworks I make for printing on high quality paper are entirely made with the computer. My workflow uses software like Sketchup, 3ds Max, Vray, Phoenix, World Machine, Illustrator and Photoshop. For my wooden scale model I first designed everything on the computer and then used a laser-cutter to cut out the more then 1800 different pieces.
Since I am a perfectionist I have a tendency to loose myself in details no one will ever see, so I always try to make a deadline for myself. I do this by giving a friend some money that he can donate to a charity in case I miss my deadline.
When the complete drawing is done I export everything to a software package like 3ds Max to apply the materials onto the drawing.
The next step involves putting light on the scene with a simulation of a real-life sky or some individual lights. Often I try a lot of different lights and compare and rank them.
All the artworks are meant to be printed on a very high quality German etching paper from Hahnemühle glued onto an aluminum dibond. I design a “floating” frame to go around the print and I consider this to be a part of the artwork.
About my Inspiration
My main sources of inspiration are the work of other artists, books and podcasts. If there is a general theme to my work, it would the greater concept of our society and its future.
Below are some examples of people who have been inspirational to me.
Aldous Huxley is best known for his book ‘Brave New World’, in which he describes a future society in which people have no pain or bad feelings because of the availability of a perfect drug that puts a person in a constant happy mood.
The main character wants to escape this society because he is a misfit. After finding himself in all kinds of adventures he kills himself at the end of the story.
The book puts into question if a life with no highs and lows is worth living.
I think that highs and lows in our mood are an essential part of our life. Feeling pain makes you want to solve the problem that causes the pain. Pain is the source of growth in that regard. And I believe that growth is one of the main sources of happiness. So a life without pain would probably be empty.
All of this makes me think about what kind of the future society we want to live in. In the west most of us have all the material goods we want, but we still have a very hard time finding fulfillment and happiness.
Antonia Sant’Elia is a key member of the Futurist movement in Italy. I think his designs are an unparalleled marvel, even tho his drawings often consist of only a few lines. He is a true master of architectural composition.
Sam Harris is an American neuroscientist and philosopher. A few of the topics he writes about are ‘Free Will’, ‘Philosophy of Mind’ and’ Artificial Intelligence’.
I think there are not many people who represent the voice of reason so eloquent. He states that problems in society are not the consequence of bad people, because people who do bad things on purpose are very rare. Instead the cause of the problems is rather bad ideas, which can be very contageous. Therefore he encourages to have more conversation.
Arthur C. Clarke, the famous science-fiction novel writer, wrote a book in 1956 called ‘The City and the Stars’, in which he describes a city that has been in existence for 1 billion years. The city is virtual by nature and the information of its shape and content is stored in central memory banks which are managed by an artificial intelligence. The material of the city feels like real material but is actually virtual. The people live in small rooms without any visible corners which can be turned into projection walls for a virtual reality world in which they can immerse themselves. People don’t really die, they are simply reborn after a certain period of time.
The main character manages to leave the city after a long struggle and comes into contact with a tribe of people who are living a primitive life. He eventually comes to appreciate the natural way of living of this people and sees the value of possibility of death.
First I think it is just unbelievable that Arthur C. Clarke described such a city in 1956 when modern computers were still 30 years ahead in the future.
Secondly I think the story is a very interesting reflection on what life means for us in a technological society. After all we are just naked apes and we are nearing a moment where we will be able to surpass our biological limits. Will we still be human? Will it be an improvement or a decline?
I first discovered the richness of Arab geometric patterns in the Bou Inania Madrasa in Meknes, Morocco. This is a religious school from the 14th century.
The repeating patterns which are carved in the stone walls show an enormous variety in beautiful shapes and complexities. These patterns that inspire me to create my own patterns and to make three-dimensional worlds out of them.
I think the vision from Étienne-Louis Boullée, the French visionary and architect from the 18th century, is great because he has such an imaginative mind. In his drawings he imagines a science driven vision for the future that reflects the changes that were going on in his time.
One of his designs is a gigantic library that stores all the knowledge in the world and surprisingly resembles a modern library. In another design he proposes a gigantic 150 meter tall monument for Isaac Newton who passed away 50 years earlier. In this highly original monument people can experience the universe and the newly found laws of nature inside a giant dome.