"The Best Art In The World"
BY NATE THOMASON, January 2023
What is authentic? What is artificial? These are the questions that Beligan photographer Jonas Leriche examines in otherworldly imagery that is equal parts dreamlike and futuristic. Utilizing talented makeup artists and a vast assortment of materials to capture his surreal, figurative photos, it’s hard to wrap your head around just how he creates them without relying on digital programs afterwards. Everything you see is completely analog and the product of weeks of planning and creative direction. In this way, Leriche’s work aims to give viewers a way to reconnect with their inner selves and the state of humanity during technological advancement.
“Reconnection,” says Leriche, “is about reconnecting with our authentic selves. As humans we forget a lot about where we come from. We get caught up in technology, we look at screens all day long. What I believe at the moment, even if we cannot explain it, is that we must reconnect with our authentic selves.”
Throughout his intricate and heavily planned process, Leriche always tries to convey certain inner dilemmas to his audience in order for them to question their place in the universe as well as fantasize about how humans might evolve. Leriche explains that there is a need for all of us to reconsider what we have lost in our daily lives as a result of technology, material wealth, and artificiality.
“Our time is limited,” says Leriche. “For me, the work is a reminder that the time we spend here should be done in a way that we find meaningful.”
After studying and practicing photography as well as a successful career in the fashion industry in Belgium, Leriche eventually moved to New York. Here he found new inspiration and creative independence that has served as the basis of his current fine art practice. In the city, Leriche began taking inspiration from the conflicts emerging between ideals in technology and nature.
“The work developed more in a way that I use nature and art to contrast one another,” Leriche says. “I use nature and art to express the contrast between nature and technology but nature and art are not contrasting each other. In the newer works, you have nature versus technology, authenticity versus artificiality. This might stem from my earlier time in the fashion industry because it can be very artificial. I wanted to reconnect with nature and combine it with technology.”
Leriche is an artist with extremely specific visions for his completed projects, and these entail ever more unique planning processes. Incorporating all of the makeup, materials, and specific models are all key components in the build up to the single image that is shown in a given collection.
“I start by making mood boards and sketches, collecting visuals that fit within the concept,” Leriche says. “It could come from all kinds of angles, movies, paintings, anything. From these mood boards I pick various elements out of the visuals and start to puzzle them together until I find something that I think visually works and can tell the story I want to tell.”
His newest series, Human to Post Human, tells his story about authenticity versus artificiality through images that envision human beings entwined (often literally) with both nature and technology. Images from the series recently exhibited at CONTEXT Art Miami 2022. At the previous CONTEXT, Leriche also incorporated similar ideas into his use of sculptures alongside photography. Leriche explains that he has always struggled conveying how the light reflects off of the models as he moves around in the studio. With his recent spiked, metallic Vanity skulls, he’s found a way to showcase such a sensation, while also adding deeper meaning to his photography practice.
“A lot of the materials I use in my work have reflective surfaces. The way I build a photo is a very sculptural approach,” Leriche says. “When I’m in the studio and I’m moving in front of the models and I see all of these different types of materials, I see how the light plays in their reflections. That’s why I created these sculptures. They’re more tangible and people can move around them and experience the same effects as I do when photographing. Skulls are very symbolic, they represent the end of something, and then you add butterflies and they also represent a new beginning, a new life.”
Leriche’s personal goal has always been to inspire viewers and rekindle the flame of their authentic selves. He explains that different media can tie in together to amplify the experience of his work. Whether it be through the use of film, more sculptures, or even projection mapping, Leriche’s pursuit to inspire seems to have boundless limitations.
“What I want to work towards is reaching many people and inspiring them by creating this immersive experience where they can just go and experience the work,” Leriche says. “I feel fulfilled when I inspire other people, when I can contribute something positive in their lives even if it’s just for a split-second.”
For more information about Jonas Leriche, please visit his website here. WM
Nate Thomason is a freelance writer from Richmond, Virginia. As a recent graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University, he studied Mass Communications and Creative Writing. Some of his interests include music, fine art, film, sports, and literature.view all articles from this author