“When I take a glance at ourselves I hold my breath and see us expand in colours and clouds bursting from a mouth. Are they yours or mine?” Maria Barnas’ introductory poem captures the essence of Viviane Sassen’s (b. 1972) latest series. Building on work from 2012, Roxane II at Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, documents the intimate reciprocal relationship between the Dutch photographer and her muse, Roxane Danset.
Providing a new model for the female gaze, Sassen breaks down boundaries between artist and subject, instead creating a mutual portrait of symbiotic invention. Although it is Danset that takes centre stage, the photographer’s presence is always tangible, often through shadows and scraps of paper that bear her imprint. Roxane II teases the viewer with a sequence of unexpected illusions, foregrounding the interplay between what is concealed and revealed. As the two women regard each other in ways which are simultaneously sensual, tender and playful, the work is a visual testament to possibilities of shared creation.
The practitioner continues to examine notions of performance – both in front of and behind the camera – by utilising a wide range of expressive postures and movements. Often abstracted, the images rewrite notions of the human form by using shadows, ambiguous props and inventive angles. The body becomes both a subject and a canvas as Sassen invigorates compositions through vivid pigments, added to both flesh and print. Highlighting ideas of exploration and experimentation, a use of playful brushstrokes and fine lines creates a new photographic language of geometries and shapes.
Until 13 January. Find out more: www.stevenson.info.
1. Viviane Sassen, Untitled from Roxane II, 079 2017. Courtesy Stevenson Gallery.