The history of Nepali stone sculpturing is rich and famous…Thierry Lauwers, leading stone sculptor of Belgium

Thierry Lauwers is a frequent visitor to Nepal. Last time he had been to Nepal in 2013 to participate in International Sculpture Symposium held in Pokhara. The symposium was jointly organized at Komagane Park, by Nepal Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and Pokhara Sub Metropolitan City (PSMPC). That was the first time that any international level symposium was organized in Pokhara. The symposium was attended by senior sculptors of 15 countries including India, Japan and Belgium.

Thierry Lauwers is a famous stone sculptor of Belgium. He was born into a family of renowned stone sculptors. His father and grandfather both of them were well-known stone sculptors in Belgium.

Lauwers continued his family tradition and took stone sculpture one step further and earned an international recognition. Today Thierry Lauwers has been successful to establish his name as one of the most versatile stone sculptors in the world.

The other day LB Thapa had an opportunity to talk with Thierry Lauwers, who spoke at length about his views and experience regarding stone sculpturing. Excerpt.

Thierry Lauwers
Thierry Lauwers with the stone sculptures in Pokhara, Nepal. Photo: Thierry Lauwers

In 2013 you were in Pokhara to participate in International Sculpture Symposium. How was that experience?

I am much elated indeed. Actually I wanted to visit Nepal long ago, but due to circumstances as such that could not possible for me. And when I received an invitation to participate in the symposium, I gladly accepted the invitation.

Speaking frankly, I am a voracious reader of art, culture and tradition. Before I arrived in Nepal, I studied about the history of stone sculpturing in Nepal, and I am really very impressed with its rich history. Besides, what actually impressed me even more was people’s interest in stone sculpturing.

Right from the first day, I saw so many people visiting the place and willing to know more about the art. This is undeniably very encouraging. I must accept the fact that Nepali stone sculptors are very hardworking and dedicated to their craft. They have shown ingenuity and potentiality to take this art to higher level. I firmly believe that Nepali stone sculptors have very bright future.

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How would you like to define stone sculpturing?

If we talk about the art then we should remember that our forefathers had used stone from the very early on. The ancient artists chose stone as the medium through which they wanted to record their knowledge for the posterity. Their art is better reflected through stone.

Other forms of arts came into existence very late. The archaeologists have found world’s history and art meticulously carved and shaped in rocks and stone. To know what I am saying you do not have to go far away from your home. Just go for a walk around the Kathmandu valley and see the wonders around you. And I accept the making of stone tools and arms also as stone sculpting. So from the very beginning man could think; there was stone sculpting.

Is there any risk involved while working on stone?

Working on stone is always full of risk. The sculptor has to work keeping his head closer to the object. We use high powered stone cutting grinding disk. There is no margin for an error. I know many sculptors who have lost their fingers or eyes while working on a rock. Working on solid rock demands concentration and carefulness. And there are also the injuries on back and joints for as anybody know stone is very heavy and difficult to manipulate.

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You are such a great name in stone sculpturing. Could you tell us more about yourself?

I am a very simple man as I always believe in simplicity. But at the same time let me tell you that I am also a very hardworking man. I was born at Brugge, Belgium. I think god had a favor for me by giving me a family who were already deep involved in stone sculpturing. My father and grandfather both of them were famous stone sculptors in Belgium.

I had an early opportunity to learn the art of stone sculpturing from my father and grandfather. But only by practicing and gaining experience you become one of the best. I am 61 and still not done. There are still so many researches to do. Do you believe that I had my own workshop at the age of only eight?  Life of an artist is hard but great and learning day out day in keeps you young.

Did you take formal education of stone sculpturing or you relied on your father and grandfather?

I started learning the art of stone sculpturing from the very early age. I would marvel at seeing the wonderful stone sculptures made by my father and grandfather. Those masterpieces always inspired me to make one like theirs.

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However, when I completed my high school, I joined Royal Academy for Fine Arts, Belgium, for advanced study in fine arts. My college education made me thirstier to know more about the stone sculptures available in other parts of the world. But it gives me also the opportunity to learn painting and wood carving, the technique of bronze casting and metal-art.

Have you made stone sculpturing your livelihood or it is your part time activity?

Stone sculpturing is my passion but at the same time I do also love adventure. It was my sheer liking to adventure that I joined the Army. I was recruited in the French Foreign Legion Army (FFLA) as a paratrooper. When I quitted the army, I traveled to Europe and Asia in pursuit of gaining more knowledge about stone sculpture.

I returned to Belgium and started my professional career in the stone sculpturing in 1989.  Occasionally I do visit different countries where I could see unique collection of ancient stone carvings and sculptures. I did spend quite some time in Egypt, India and China.

Besides my workshop, I do also have my own library where I have a big collection of books related to various creative arts of note. And I share my experience in art making with younger colleagues by attending symposia in the whole world. Often I am demanded for lecture and master classes.

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How was your experience in India and China?

I have traveled to those places where I could see stone carvings and stone sculptures of prominence. I can say that India is the mother of stone sculpture. Every person who has interest in stone sculpture must visit to India to devour the ecstatic beauty of stone sculptures.

I found Indian people very friendly and cooperative. However, when I was in China, I had different experience. In fact China does have remarkable history of stone sculpturing, but Chinese artists don’t like to share their tools or knowledge with the outsiders. In China a master is a master and he should not make his hands dirty. But that way the artists loose the joy of creating.

Do you think today’s stone sculptors can make stone sculpturing their livelihood?

This is very difficult to say. I have travelled many countries and met many artists (stone sculptors). I found there are many excellent stone sculptors for instance in India and they are living off a very comfortable life as stone sculptors. They have plenty of work and they are well paid.

But here in Nepal I found a different situation. It is really very hard to live on stone sculpturing alone. Thing is not better even in Japan. Many Japanese stone sculptors do day job to supplement the expenditure on stone sculpturing. Nepali stone sculptors are also doing the same. My suggestion is that the stone sculptors must work hard.

If their work has an appeal, it will be recognized. However, let’s not forget that we are artists. Our prime concern should be the creation of an art; money should be the secondary matter. I always believe that an artist works for the art sake. If our art has attained perfection then name, fame and money will follow the artists…artists should not follow such things.       

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What is your future plan?

As an artist I still want to learn more about the craft. I want to improve my knowledge about stone sculpture by learning and practicing more and more. I think still I have not delivered the best that I am capable to.

After some years, when it will be too hard physically to travel around the world sculpting, I want to teach the skill of stone sculpture to the young generation of my country. This way I want to keep my knowledge always floating like a river. But at that time there will be sculptures of mine in part of our planet.

Thank you very much for reading this article. I hope you liked this article. I will be glad if you take little time and make a comment about this article. Your comment is highly appreciated.

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LB Thapa, blogger


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