Dutch artist and photographer Viviane Sassen (b. 1972) is known for an innovative approach to fashion and fine art practice. A new exhibition at the Hepworth Wakefield, entitled Hot Mirror, offers a comprehensive survey of work produced in the last 10 years, drawing on Surrealist tropes.
By utilising individual photographs to form “image poems”, the selection engages with ideas of collage whilst highlighting Sassen’s continued use of the uncanny, a psychological phenomenon identified by Sigmund Freud (b. 1856) in 1919. Fragmented compositions and hyperreal landscapes appear repeatedly throughout the show, creating surprising juxtapositions of colour and form.
The exhibition brings together pieces from a range of series, each investigating themes of physicality in unique ways. For example, Parasomnia is an exploration into the subconscious, investigating notions of illusion whilst evoking the intermediary state between waking and sleep. Flamboya, set in Kenya, depicts where the artist spent a part of her childhood, whilst UMBRA, featured in the image above, meditates on the potential of shadows to form a visual language.
Investigating ideas of isolation, the series Pikin Slee takes audiences on a journey to a remote village in Suriname, whilst Roxane documents the intimate reciprocal relationship between the photographer and her muse, providing a new model for the female gaze. In a similar way, Sassen’s most recent contribution, Of Mud and Lotus investigates perceived ideas of femininity, offering dialogues about transformation, procreation and fertility.
Unique to the show, the gallery introduces a new version of the practitioner’s immersive film installation, Totem, presenting it within a site-specific structure. Comprising mirrored walls and projectors, the construction intensifies shadows and reflections to offer a mesmerising yet disorientating environment. In this way, spatial intervention translates the surrounding display into a three-dimensional experience, amplifying their impact whilst blurring the lines between real and imagined worlds.
Hot Mirror runs alongside Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain, which tracks an earlier photographer’s response to the movement. Creating a powerful platform for aesthetic and conceptual consideration, The Hepworth offers audiences the opportunity to consider the images side-by-side. As Sassen notes: “The curatorial and architectural context promises to offer a different visual perspective for the work.”
See Viviane Sassen’s work, featured in Aesthetica Magazine, here.
From 22 June. Find out more here.
1. ©Viviane Sassen, Yellow Vlei, series Umbra 2014. Courtesy of Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.