Cécile Lobert is a Belgian neurodiverse, non-verbal visual artist. Cécile spent her youth in the United Arab Emirates, France and Libya. Today, Cécile works in a studio based in Brussels. Her abstract expressionist work addresses consciousness in its raw form, and her style is recognised for its unfiltered, emotive and authentic creative reactions to the everyday.
Highlighting who we may truly be free from all external influence, Lobert speaks via paint: every drop embodying a word. The Founder and Director of Cecile Lobert Arts have worked closely to illustrate Lobert’s background, insight and humane resourcefulness.
How has Cécile’s family background influenced her work?
Cécile was raised in a very creative, multicultural environment. Her father was a legal scholar, theologian, philosopher, Belgian ambassador, political scientist and art collector, and her mother was a Bolshoi opera vocal coach. Cultural relics and classical European artwork lined the shelves and curio cabinets of their home, and so she was exposed and fostered to appreciate a diverse arena of the arts from an early age.
Art, whether it be worthless or priceless, was always a dominant presence in her life, so it was no surprise when she acquired an inherent attraction to it and the making of it. At the age of five, Cécile began playing with gouache and felt tip markers, and would often pilfer her mother’s hobbyist oil paints to experiment with on her own. She formed a natural synergy with the creative process, and creativity became her voice.
What does she think about while making her work?
Because she is non-verbal and communicates in alternative ways to others, one can only surmise that her paintings are individual snapshots of emotions simmering inside of her at any given time. For example, one day after taking a very hot bath, Cécile immediately ran to a canvas to paint a torrid storm of orange. Her work can be taken as self-portraits of her untouched internal humanity where one hundred percent of herself is laid out stark and raw. Unlike others who may strategize their pieces, plan their compositions or look for influences in their external experience, Cécile works from the inside out with no bridge between impulse and outcome.
Does Cécile feel as though her paintings help people to understand her? What does she hope the viewer considers when they interact with her work?
Although she would not verbalize this answer, it is apparent upon viewing her oeuvre that her paint is exactly equivalent to her voice. Albeit silent, her words come through in colour, shape, stroke and form. This is her sole system of communication from within her own idiosyncratic world. Viewing a piece of hers gives people an intrinsic understanding of what it is like to exist free of societal influence – to, in fact, be a living example of an untouched consciousness free from the imprints we accumulate from birth.
As painting represents Cécile’s voice, the adage becomes true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Through her art, clues are dropped about how she is feeling and what is currently occupying her emotions, from joy to tempestuous anger – it all comes through via her impetus to create.
Why did she choose painting as her primary medium?
When watching the way that she works, it becomes apparent that her creative process relies on the ability to work fast in a spontaneous and impromptu fashion. It’s as if she has a seed of emotion inside of her that is just compelled to burst out upon a blank slate. And then that blank slate quickly becomes multi-layered with other bouts of emotion. Because acrylic dries quickly, it was a natural choice for Cécile, fitting her specific artistic needs and allowing her to work in her signature present-minded methodology.
Why is her work relevant to the world today?
Cécile offers a window into what it’s like to be connected to our truest cores – something that in this day is exceedingly difficult to implement – and to live a life directly informed by that core. The modern age is about constant distraction via the rat race, the media and technology, leaving little time for people to truly be present with themselves. And often, when completely present with the self, we come to find we don’t always know who we truly are. Her work and practice compel us to ask ourselves who we would be without the experience of inflicted baggage, constant societal noise, adopted beliefs, mindsets and behaviours that upon closer look, might not even be ours. Who are we authentically?
Are there any other artists who have inspired Cécile, and would she desire to collaborate with others?
Cécile lives for Bach and Palestrina. As an avid piano composer, music is another stream of her creative output and resonant inspiration in life. However, she lives in her own world and doesn’t tend to connect to people in the traditional social ways. Her art is derived by this solitude and compelled by it.
Cécile’s work is catalogued online. Why is she showcased in this way?
So that more people can become exposed to and inspired by her abstract pieces in order to get in touch with their own primal instincts in life. Art is truly a place of blank
potentiality, and Cecile excels at showing how this manifests from a truly innocent place. Also, enabling her voice to touch and affect people in the world is one way to contribute to the betterment of communal concepts of what gifts everyone carries in the world and their ability to demonstrate it unapologetically.
What is her favourite piece of work?
Although it’s hard to determine, one could discern her preferred loved ones by certain markers, like the amount of time she spends on a piece or the way she pays attention to a work. The Single Silhouette, for example, is a piece that she consistently brings out and puts in front of others as if to showcase its merits.
Another piece is Early May 2020; a piece she created during her Quarantine series where she was obviously reacting to the world around her in all its terrified ‘of the moment’ permutations. Cécile does not shy away from darkness. She incorporates the shadow well by embracing it on a human level; shaking hands with the black parts of life, as her myriad piano dirges prove. Her first all-together black piece, this work comes across with blaring starkness and then is mysteriously dotted with swathes of blood red, inviting the viewer to sit with this particularly uncomfortable side of life.
What tools or materials are Cécile’s favourites to use?
Her preferred paint is the Winsor & Newton Galeria acrylics line in the 500ml size. She goes through a constant rotation of these: dipping her paint brushes directly into the pots, pouring their content onto her canvas... She loves her big thick paintbrushes and has recently been leaving them to embed in her paintings as part of the medium itself. Sometimes she will use odd tools to make marks, like the tines of a fork.
Is there a place or setting that she’d most like her work to be experienced?
She is at her best when in the studio, in her isolated state, shifting between painting and playing her dark compositions on the piano. She would probably want others to experience her work in the same vein, combined with her musical compositions – it’s all she knows.
What advice would you give to other neurodiverse artists, and how do you think neurodiversity can be better celebrated in the creative industry?
Create. Just do you. Neurodiversity is just one alternative aspect of being human, and diversity is what has always made the art world shine. It’s a sphere where difference is celebrated. Many non-neurodiverse artists spend their lifetimes trying to achieve the pure expressionism that comes naturally to the neurodiverse. This evolves the historical art world canon by showing us another form of contemporary art.
All images are courtesy of the artist. Click here to see more of Cecile’s work.