Masks off: Clara-Lane Lens reveals her take on the corona crisis

Kurt Snoekx

| Clara-Lane Lens

What new truths have developed behind our mouth masks? Painter Clara-Lane Lens (23) is currently nourishing the revolutionary spirit in the group show “New Saints” at Waldburger Wouters and envisions a new consciousness arising in the future.


• Born on 16 May 1997 in Elsene/Ixelles
• Has a solo show, “Genderless”, at Le Lac in 2018
• Graduates in painting at LUCA Ghent in 2019
• Moves to Berlin in September 2019
• Takes part in the group show “New Saints” at Waldburger Wouters
• Is preparing a solo show at 254 Forest (January 2021)

How did you experience the lockdown?
I have spent a lot of time in Berlin since the end of last year; I share a studio there with three other painters. But I stayed in Brussels during the lockdown. Initially, I had the impression that my life was on pause, that I was missing things. Until I realized that in fact the entire world had been brought to a halt. And that that was not necessarily a bad thing. It made me realize what kind of a rush and routine we live in, and that my work is genuinely what I want to spend my time doing.

Has this moment of crisis also changed your work?
Yes, it has actually. My impression is that the paintings I made in quarantine are less hasty, precisely because I could take my time to work on the details. The lack of social interaction also led to far more frequent conversations with myself, while in the past I would more often seek out the perspective of other painters. That made the whole experience scarier because there was less grip, but introspection is certainly not a bad thing. You come out stronger on the other side.

You also seem to have come face to face with yourself in your paintings.
I often make self-portraits, but now, in isolation, looking at myself took on a different dimension. I always make my paintings based on photos and look for a certain essence or intimacy. The moment that a person changes slightly because he or she forgets the camera. That change is often in a person's eyes or expression. I also took a photo of myself just after a big quarantine fight. (Laughs) At moments like that you forget your role, your gender, everything that you have no control over, and you become really yourself. It brings a certain fragility to the surface that is very bold at the same time. There is great power in showing vulnerability.

Clara-Lane Lens

| Clara-Lane Lens: “There is great power in showing vulnerability”

Has this period also unmasked or exposed anything?
The way we were totally unprepared for a crisis like this. We always think we have the answer to everything, but now it has become clear that that is not the case. At the same time, this extreme situation also led people to do unexpected things. A lot happened on social media, perhaps too much. But there is also Black Lives Matter. I think the impact of that was so major precisely because of the lockdown and the long period of restraint. I demonstrated on Alexanderplatz with 15,000 others. It was very intense but also beautiful and loving.

How do you see the future? What will you take with you from this period?
Self-reflection. Because I have realized that it is possible and that I can handle it. I think that 2020 will turn out to be the year of consciousness. Things are coming to the surface now that have been repressed for years. It is often said that everything will quickly return to the status quo, but I'm not so sure… I think this moment has genuinely changed something, though we are not yet seeing the full effects of it. Many people now feel like change is possible, and that it lies in our own hands.

> 21/7, Waldburger Wouters

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