Valerie Belin — Black-Eyed Susan
Past: December 1, 2010 → January 27, 2011
Where women and flowers merge together…
Photography is currently undergoing an upheaval which is similar to the one that affected painting when photography first appeared on the scene; since painting no longer needed to reproduce reality, it became abstract…
Valérie Belin continues her investigations into the hybrid nature of photography, offering us the fruit of her latest experiments in an exhibition that will be held at the gallery. In this new series, feminine faces are mixed in a nearly inseparable way with bouquets of flowers…
The birth of photography at the end of the nineteenth century brought a new liberty to painting by freeing it from the role of representing reality and transcribing truth. Photography opened new doors by obliging painting to question the fundamental significance of the subject.
In turn, Valérie Belin’s new work calls the photographic medium into question. Initially designed to reproduce reality — in particular for portraiture — photography currently opens up new creative horizons through new image technologies that eliminate its analogical specificities and enable it to become virtual, abstract and timeless.
Like electronic music, which appeared with new instruments and new musical techniques, the artist is now able to elaborate a new visual vocabulary by using familiar digital technologies in an innovative way. Well beyond their initial role in correcting and retouching, these technologies now open the doors to new approaches, with the possibility of creating totally unreal images.
Here, Valérie Belin works in two stages, and creates two different images: first, one of an elegant woman in a very fifties aesthetics, and next, a bouquet of flowers that will be combined with the portrait to create the final composition by “inlaying” the two images inside each other. The result of this interweaving is a surprising image that evokes a particularly sophisticated form of overlay.
The women chosen for this series are elegant women who were selected for their formal and plastic beauty. Their style recalls the aesthetic codes of the fifties, with rigid shapes that are artificially “heightened” as in conventional icons of that era. The artist has “decorated” them with jewelry, makeup and hairdos so that they relate with the baroque shapes of the flowers. The waves and curls of the hair, the round shapes of the beaded necklaces and the colors of the makeup create a dialog with the flowers and leaves, which take on the appear like ornaments added to the face and skin.
In a similar formalistic concern, the artist has chosen flowers with a simple, precise outline used here for its purely graphic qualities, to create a sort of decorative vegetal framework with bouquets of flowers in which the woman’s face is inscribed as part of a whole, as in wallpaper.
Colors are limited to two or three shades with a predominance of black, which recalls the simplified coloring of comics and appears here like makeup added onto the surface of things.
In each image of this series, Valérie Belin has attempted to equate women and flowers by simultaneously adding shapes and subtracting information. In this way, women and flowers are equally important and both acquire the status of pure decoration. This excessive decorativeness seems to place the image within a totally formalistic aesthetics, where the subject disappears behind the effects of style.
Throughout her career, the artist has questioned the border between real and virtual, from the Crystal glasses (1993) and Mirrors of Venice I and II (1997) to Mannequins (2003), Models II and Black Women (2006), within a global investigation into the limits of photography. Her photographic works have always had a “beyond-the-real” character, which is obtained by using optical effects or through an oversizing of the subject. In recent series, such as Lido (2007) or the Crowned Heads (2009), the artist chose subjects with a strong image and a strong representational power, and these qualities were highlighted by a totally dreamlike treatment of the portrait, using new and different technologies for each series.
Today, Valérie Belin continues her “surrealistic” exploration of this new photographic hybridization by once more pushing back the frontiers of creation, where technique itself become the subject of her creation. Isn’t it also interesting to note that she has rediscovered here a certain kind of “transparency” that recalls the visual investigations carried out at the beginning of the twentieth century by Picabia, an artist who has always inspired Belin in her perpetual questioning of the essence of painting ?