As autumn’s chill embraces us and winter’s icy whispers draw near, our hearts yearn for the solace found in the embrace of a good book. In these quiet moments, we drift into reverie, envisioning ourselves amidst the verdant splendor of a summer garden, gazing skyward as clouds dance in the deep-blue expanse. Today, I find myself in the midst of an extraordinary garden, an open-air art gallery crafted by the gifted Belgian artist, Filip Pillen. I stand in awe, for I am among those who have yet to grasp the opportunity and skill to nurture a garden of my own.
Owning a garden, a sanctuary of nature’s beauty, is a rare and precious gift, one that Filip Pillen has dedicated his years to manifesting. He has immersed himself in the rustic landscapes of rural Belgium, pouring his soul into creating masterpieces of luscious gardens. These gardens, both crafted by his hands and captured upon his canvas, have become his beloved muses. Filip, generally not the most talkative man, granted me a glimpse into his world in a recent interview. Today, I invite you to join me on a journey through some of my cherished pieces from his oeuvre, allowing you to savor the enchantment of his botanical theatre from wherever you may be.
And now, we sit down with Filip, delving into the genesis of his green version of heaven and tracing the remarkable evolution of his artistry.
Marina Kazakova: Filip, it’s truly a pleasure to be here with you today, surrounded by the beauty of your gardens and art. Let’s start at the beginning—what led you to move to Sint Idesbald and embark on this artistic journey?
Filip Pillen: Marina, thank you for visiting my little slice of paradise. Well, it all began when I laid eyes on that dilapidated fisherman’s cottage, known as a ‘v vissershuisje’ in Flemish, and its sprawling land with ancient trees. The idea of creating the garden I wanted to paint was just too tempting to resist. And of course, my love for this garden has become a recurring theme in my art.
Marina Kazakova: Your garden is indeed magnificent, and it features prominently in your paintings. How did you transition from an aspiring artist to joining the Koksijde art academy?
Filip Pillen: It was a dream I’d nurtured for years, and when I retired, I decided it was time to pursue it. So, I joined the academy in 2017, where I could learn from others, observe their techniques, and refine my own. It’s been a rewarding experience.
Marina Kazakova: Your artwork is quite varied, incorporating elements of impressionism, expressionism, and realism. What can you tell us about your experimentation with epoxy finishing touches?
Filip Pillen: Ah, the epoxy finishing touch! It’s a relatively recent exploration for me. I apply it to my oil paintings to make them shine. It’s been a fascinating journey in itself.
Marina Kazakova: You mentioned something quite unexpected earlier. When I asked about your current struggles or challenges, you humorously replied, “Women.” Care to elaborate on that?
Filip Pillen: (chuckles) Well, they’re certainly worth capturing on canvas, but I have to admit, they can be quite challenging as subjects!
Marina Kazakova: Your sources of inspiration are quite diverse, from old magazines to your garden and chickens. What role does the sea, particularly the North Sea, play in your art?
Filip Pillen: The North Sea, is my muse! Living by the Belgian coast, I’m constantly drawn to its beauty. The play of light and shadow on the sea’s surface, it’s something I never tire of capturing in my paintings.
Marina Kazakova: Many artists use their craft to address socially relevant issues, but you’ve chosen a different path. Could you share your perspective on this?
Filip Pillen: Well, I’ve always believed that art should be a source of solace and beauty. I don’t paint war or such because I feel people don’t want reminders of such strife on their walls every day. We already have enough of that on TV.
Marina Kazakova: You joined the art academy even though you’ve been an autodidact artist for most of your life. What drew you to formal art education?
Filip Pillen: Learning about others’ work, their techniques, and how they see the world through their brushes and oils—it’s incredibly enriching. You can’t help but be inspired by the world of art around you.
Marina Kazakova: Do you have a guiding philosophy that informs your creative expression?
Filip Pillen: My essential philosophy is simple: capturing the beauty that surrounds us. Painting allows me to immortalize moments of serenity forever, like flowers in the sun, for instance.
Marina Kazakova: You’ve chosen not to exhibit your works in galleries. Could you share your reasons for this decision?
Filip Pillen: Galleries, well, they often become more about making money than appreciating art. I’ve already earned my keep, so I prefer to share my work with those who genuinely appreciate it, and in the safety of my version of paradise.
Marina Kazakova: How about your creative process? Do you prefer working from life or drawing from memories and photographs?
Filip Pillen: I find myself working more from experiences and memories than painting en plein air. I often use photographs or cherished memories to guide my brush.
Marina Kazakova: Lastly, was there a pivotal moment that led you to become an artist?
Filip Pillen: Indeed, there was. I remember my first painting, some 40 years ago. It was inspired by an old postcard with nuns, of all things. Surprisingly, everyone loved it, including me. I didn’t expect that to come from my brush.
Marina Kazakova: Filip, it’s been an absolute pleasure hearing your insights and stories today. Your passion for art and the beauty you create are truly inspiring.
Filip Pillen: Thank you. It’s been a delight sharing my journey with all who appreciate it, and also with you, my neighbour, who can savour my paradise every day.
Buy Originals Direct from the Artist: https://www.filippillen.be/