A sudden flash of bright, vivid eyes. A toss of exquisitely styled hair and chic, oversized sunglasses with a touch of Swarovski crystals. These are the timeless moments when we encounter high fashion, and artist Anja Van Herle has caught them all and more in her remarkable body of work mixing both classical and contemporary ideas of fashion. Anja specializes in large-scale paintings featuring beautiful, idealized faces, often framed with elegant eyewear. “If the eyes are the window to the soul, then glasses are more than just an accessory; they’re an extension of one’s personality. The use of sunglasses in my work allows me to define my subjects and infuse each composition with a vibrant juxtaposition of color.”
Born in Belgium in 1969, Anja’s early interest in fashion design led her to a career in the arts. In 1987, she enrolled in Belgium’s prestigious Higher Institute for Art Education where she earned a Master’s of Fine Arts in Painting. In 2003, Anja relocated to Los Angeles, where she now concentrates on playful figurative paintings that combine a European sense of high fashion with an American sense of wonder. As timelessly chic as Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Anja’s women are playfully sexy, and their expressions and eyes tell stories that go far beyond the simple exhibition of fine fashion. In Anja’s masterful hands, fashion becomes alive. “These women—they feel.”
Anja’s work currently hangs in galleries alongside Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Banksy & Basquiat. Additionally, she’s shown with Shepard Fairey, Retna, Damien Hirst, Chuck Close and Victoria’s Secret fashion photographer Russell James.
Name: Anja Van Herle
Birthday: May 1, 1969
College: Higher Institute for Art Education, Belgium
How would you define yourself as an artist? I’m a disciplined painter who combines beauty, color and fashion to create fun, stylized portraiture.
Why art? How did you get involved with art? I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a child. My dad is a great portraitist, so I guess it runs in the family as well. When I was younger, I wanted to be a makeup artist or fashion designer; in a way, I now get to do both with my artwork.
What art do you most identify with? Pop Art.
What does “being creative” mean to you? To explore uncharted territory to create something truly unique.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative? I tend to be impatient. My husband once reminded me that I create my strongest work when I dedicate the time to really focus on my design before ever picking up a paintbrush. Preparation is key.
What are you trying to communicate with your art? I hope my paintings please the eye and warm the heart. The most valuable meaning a painting can have is the meaning which is ascribed to it by the viewer.
What do you see as the strengths of your pieces, visually or conceptually? My paintings tend to grab the viewer visually with their colorful palette, sparkling Swarovski crystals and larger-than-life scale.
What themes do you pursue? Most of my work somehow depicts beauty and contemporary fashion in a fun and playful way. Even the titles of my paintings utilize playful puns and alliterations.
What inspires you to work? Music and Fashion. Music while I’m painting, and fashion when I’m designing a new piece.
Book: Anything with a lot of pictures.
Movie: No Country for Old Men
Food: Pasta, Belgian fries.
Quote: “Makeup can only make you pretty on the outside but it doesn’t help if you’re ugly on the inside. Unless you eat the makeup” – Audrey Hepburn
Can we talk a bit about your process at the beginning of a project? How do you conceive of it? How do you build it in your mind before you start? I begin by shooting photographs of my models with a certain design concept in mind. I then use the resulting photograph as a starting point for my design, often cutting and pasting features from different models to create a whole new face. My design itself is more like a collage and serves merely as a template. From there, I sketch the image on my panel, which is wood, smoothing out all the imperfections of my photo collage. Once the pencil image is on the panel, the painting begins.
What Role does the artist have in society? An artist’s job is to reflect humanity back at itself.
Do you suffer for your art? No, I have fun with my work, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its challenges.
What do you think about the art community and market? An art career can be a very solitary profession, so it’s important to a have a very supportive and nurturing art community. Fortunately, the internet has made it easier to connect with fellow artists to talk shop, trade advice and admire each other’s work. I happen to be thankful that there is such thing as an art market.
Should art be funded? Why? I’m not against it but I think a little bit of struggle isn’t a bad thing for an artist.
What famous artists have influenced you, and how? As strange as it may sound, I can’t say that any artist has consciously influenced my work.
What other interests do you have outside of art? I love browsing vintage stores and flea markets for fun, but it also influences my work and I often bring home new props or wardrobe for new designs. I also enjoy beachcombing for shells; I have a huge collection!
You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see films, photo exhibitions, art perfomances today? I usually see films at home, occasionally in a theater if I want to see something on the big screen. I see a lot of other artists’ work throughout the year. Here in L.A. we have LACMA, MOCA and The Getty. I typically also attend Art Basel in Miami. Of course, I also see loads of art and get the inside scoop on other artists when I visit galleries that represent my work.
How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art? No life :))
some short questions now…
Colours: All kind of colors depending on what I need it for.
Describe your style: “Define yourself”… Fashionable – honest – impulsive – emotional – strong – fun – childish – open book
Define your art: fun, happy, sexy, cute, unique, fashionable
Art Fairs: Art Basel Miami
Cities: Seriously, I always wanted to see Barcelona.
Artists: Fornasetti, Mel Ramos, Murakami
Music: A must!!
Cars: My mini cooper 😉 I love Maseratis and Jeeps too.
Drones: Cool but not so into it.
Mobile App: Boomerang
Who are the artist’s you admire the most? I admire artists who are themselves, who create something that doesn’t exist.
What are your next projects? Working on new originals for my Tokyo solo show this December
Define Klassik Magazine for the audience? An impressive cult of culture, refined content and an exclusive interviews of top international artists.
Steven Tyler, Aerosmith
Paula Abdul, Singer, Songwriter
David Guetta, French House Music Producer
Xavier Malisse, Top 20 ATP Tennis Player, Wimbledon SF
Hughes Marino: Corporate Real Estate Advisors
Brian Wilson, Pitcher, San Francisco Giants, L.A. Dodgers
Rob Schmitt, Anchorman CBS Los Angeles
Jordan McGraw & Dr. Phil McGraw, Los Angeles, CA (Dr. Phil)
Jamie Kennedy, Los Angeles, CA(Scream, Malibu’s Most Wanted, Boiler Room)
Fred Savage, Los Angeles, CA (The Wonder Years)
Ben Savage, Los Angeles, CA (Boy Meets World)
Cassandra Mann, Alfred Mann Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
John Calley, John Calley Productions, Los Angeles, California
Scripps Research Institute, San Diego, California
Siegfried & Roy, Las Vegas, Nevada
Warren Beatty, Los Angeles, California (Bonnie & Clyde, Reds, Bulworth)
Deaniemel Custom Jewelry Designs, Beverly Hills, California
The Glowacki Group, CPA Financial Planners, Los Angeles, California
Randall Davis Company, Houston, Texas
Weytjens Optical, Brussels, Belgium
VanWassenhoven-Vangenechten Architects, Brussels, Belgium
2017 – Oliver Cole Gallery, Miami, FL
2017 – Galerie Virginie Barrou Planquart, Paris, France
2016 – New Gallery of Modern Art, Charlotte, NC
2016 – Joanne Artman Gallery, Laguna Beach
2016 – Gallery 1949, Aspen, Colorado
2015 – 212 Gallery, Aspen, Colorado
2015 – Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts, San Dieg
2015 – Art Angels, Los Angeles
2015 – Signature Gallery, Las Vegas
2015 – Palm Springs Fine Art Fair,
2015 – Affordable Art Fair, NY
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