Stefanie De Winter
I am an art historian with a background in painting conservation, currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Leuven, supported by the Flemish Research Foundation (FWO).
My approach is interdisciplinary, combining methods from art history, vision science, conservation studies, along with emerging technologies such as AR and VR to address art historical questions. I am affiliated with both the art history department and the department of brain and cognition (Gestalt ReVision) at KU Leuven in Leuven, Belgium.
With my current project, the Interdisciplinary Reconstruction of Art project (IRECONA), I aim to explore aging in Color Field painting as an art historical problem and to develop a new type of conservation method, combining descriptive analysis with visual reconstruction (using AR). This project is being done in collaboration with the University of Antwerp and TU Delft.
I have been studying fluorescent colors in art since 2010. First, as a conservator, I studied the aging effects of these paints and pigments and conserved some of Frank Stella’s works. Later on, as an art historian, I studied the first uses of fluorescent colors in American art (e.g. e.g. Richard I. Bowman, Herbert Aach, Alvin Loving, and Neil Williams). During my Ph.D., I specialized in Frank Stella's fluorescent work of the sixties and seventies. For this project, I worked together with the department of Conservation Studies (ARCHES, University of Antwerp) to study the material characteristics of fluorescent colors, and with vision scientists from the Laboratory of Experimental Psychology (Gestalt ReVision, KU Leuven) to conduct perception studies in which we investigated the impact of fluorescent colors in artworks. These studies were used to re-evaluate Frank Stella’s works and the criticism that pertains to them. Through this process, I also focused on the question of how to integrate empirical insights into art history, which resulted into a novel methodology for empirically informed art history.
I am also active as a research-curator. In 2019, I curated the exhibition "Tracking Frank Stella" in collaboration with the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, The Netherlands). This exhibition scrutinized three of Stella's works through the gaze of 100 participants, utilizing eye-tracking glasses and questionnaires. In 2022, I curated "Flattened Intensities – Intensified Flatness," an exhibition in BAC Art Lab (KU Leuven) that focused on my doctoral work and featured the works of artists Griet Moors, Hannah De Corte, and the Collective Muesli. In this exhibition, I also conducted a viewing study, employing eye-tracking technology and questionnaires, to assess the extent to which individuals can discern the material significance of artworks with and without contextual information.