VIVIAN VAN BLERK

A Dry Season
Medusa
Cow in a tight spot
Raft
Gluttony
Eden Park - That was Smith Street
Transmigration of Souls, Tweni Beach
Dutch Wedding Portrait
Landshark
The Architect dreams
Hausmann's Folly, alone

There is no there there.

Gertrude Stein

Photographs are of models built, decors arranged, collages composed or of just a fleeting moment. After the photograph is taken, its temporary model is dismantled, destroyed or recycled. The moment has passed.

 

The original gone, our only access to that vanished place is through the photograph.

 

The  photograph  tantalizes. It is a door to a world where the viewer's imagination is engaged. One might wonder what happened before and what will happen next. That which  hides in the shadows or  lies just outside the frame is the artist's gift to the viewer's fancy.

 

Vivian van Blerk, Paris 2016

 

I began making ceramics in Lebanon in 2017. Temporary constructions  for photographs  become finished pieces. Even as durable sculptures , the fictions created remain sealed beneath the brilliant screen of ceramic glaze and remain   mysterious, silent and removed from us in time and in space and scale, unattainable  like worlds seen through  photographs.

Paris 2019

On the Beach

2019

A fleet of turtle arks carry life and memory across oceans to populate a long-abandoned city

 

Stoneware, porcelain, photography. 

Curated by Catherine Milner of Messums Wiltshire with Károly Aliotti of Meşher, Istanbul.

 

ON THE BEACH participates in  BEYOND THE VESSEL, an exhibition of ceramics by thirteen contemporary artists at the Meşher Gallery, 211 Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul, until 22 December 2019. The show then travels to the United Kingdom.

Vanities II and III

2018

 

After the series of Vanities shown at the Wunderkammer, I set out to create a second body of  adventurous yet disciplined  skullworlds with a view to a purely ceramic exhibition. These 17 pieces are Vanities II.

In August and September, in residency at a pottery center in Lebanon, I made ten new pieces for a solo exhibition at the Beirut Design Fair, Vanities III.

Vanities II contributed three pieces to this same show and further works to two other art fairs and to two group exhibitions, and so has become too dispersed to ever  fulfil its initial ambition of being a solo show...

Vanities I

2017

 

I caught the ceramics bug in Beirut. Returning to Paris I wanted to continue transforming simple vessels into narrative worlds. But now working alone, I no longer had raw bowls, bottles, cups or vases as bases to work on. impatient to get on and make works, I was not yet ready to learn the patient, precise craft of pottery first.

The solution was in the studio space I share with archaeologists who store all the skeletons excavated from the ancient burial grounds beneath the local church, Saint Lucien in La Courneuve. Having already photographed and drawn some of the more intact skulls, I found them not difficult to model acceptably in clay.

So my basic vessel  was the skull. It brings with it a reminder of mortality and of the memories and  feelings of life that cling to our remains. It has an outside and an inside on which stories can be told.

 

Vanities I culminated in an exhibition at the Wunderkammer in Brussels in December 2017.

 

Beasts of Beirut

2017

My introduction to ceramics came  in April 2017 when invited to collaborate with Katya Traboulsi, multimedia artist, and Hala Matta, ceramicist, at Namika Atelier in Beirut, Lebanon. I modeled relief sculpture on  forms built by Hala which were then glazed by Katya.

We worked in various stoneware clays and once in  Raku clay.

Photography acquires some of the dignity it lacks when it ceases to be a reproduction of the real and shows us things that have ceased to exist. 

 

Marcel Proust

in Swann's Way

I and My Chimney

2011 - 

The chimney hearth endures as generations  come and go, playing out their passing passions .

"The Flood Foretold",

2016

No.8 of the series of nine photographs

Household Gods
Worldly Goods
Flight
Playing God
Act of God
The Golden Age
The Architect Dreams
Our House
 
 
Buffon's Grandchildren
2011 -
 
Species have had time  to adapt to man's presence. They find niches to inhabit and even unsuspected opportunities to evolve.
 
 

Georges-Louis Leclerc 

de Buffon

 

An engraving from his Histoire Naturelle, 1753 - 1767.

 

Buffon's foregrounding of  animals against   real or fantasy environments is the mainspring for this series.

The Pests 

Colour photograph from retouched b&w negative

125cm x 125cm, 2014

Snail Morning
After the Party
The Company of Snails
The Cabbage Tree
The Fate of Big Animals
Les Nuisibles
 

On the Beach

Colour photographs in triptych, 100 x 240cm

Seven Capital Vices

2008

A castaway arrives on a barren coast. Before the tide rises and chases everyone off the beach, he must choose. Either he joins the Vices in their earthly passions or he scales the ruins of the church to hitch a ride on a balloon. Where they go to to is uncertain, but it is away from this infernal shore.

 

 

Sloth
Anger
Gluttony
Pride
Envy
Greed
Lust
 

 

Hippopotamus and Destiny
2000 - 2001
 
The wild beasts' raft lands ashore long before the floodwaters go down. When the waters do recede, the animals find themselves trapped on the tallest mountain in the world where they must survive as best they can...
 
Hundreds of years later when a young mountain hippopotamus dreams of mud and sinewy rivers winding through the veld, she decides its time to find her way home.

Sphinx

Colour photograph

100 x 100cm, 2000

The Awakening
Cableway (Night)
Moon
The Office
The Library
Shadehouse
Aquarium
Desert

From a New World

2001 - 2004

 

When explorers discovered the Americas for Europe, artists  painted still-lives of sometimes real, sometimes imagined, plants and creatures, 

 

This New World is just a little further west.

 

 

 

 

Blind Fish

Color photograph from retouched b&w negative

50 x 50cm, 2001

Boschaert's Flowers (pink)
Minotaur(purple)
Butterfly Machine
Know Thyself
The Taxidermist's Table
Dirty Bird (purple)
Waiting on the Volcano
 

Cow Travels in Time and in Space and contemplates her Mortality

1998-1999

 

In a distant field a cow wonders if there is more to life than eating grass, giving milk and birthing calves. So she quits her enclosure and travels across the world, voyages in time and into space.

Cow in Space

Colour photograph

47x47cm

Cow and the Old Dictator
Cow in the Blue Grotto
Cow and the Sublime
Cow on the Paleolithic Beach
Cow deep in the Forest
Cow in the Ruins of the Museum
Cow and the Big Catch
Cow in the Inner City
 
Triton
Medea
Dedalus and Icarus
Pygmalion
Orpheus and Eurydice
Icarus
Atalanta and Hippomenus
Apollo and Daphne
Arachne
Hermaphrodite and Salmacis
Dryopee
Acis and Galatea
Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths

Midas

Gum Bichromate print

30x30cm

2011

Metamorphoses

For this series,  rather than make up my own stories, I put the modern and accessible art language of photography  in service of an ancient poem whose intelligence deserves to be known by every generation.

 

2011

Using pigments and sunlight to make gum bichromate prints from the negatives, some of the jarring details of modernity are softened. The handmadeness of these photographs aims to make them both immediate and timeless. Like the Metamorphoses.

 

2012

A year later when I had taken the photographs for a second series, luck would have it that Arnaud Levènes at  the photography center, La Capsule in Le Bourget, offered me 30m of out-of-date colour photo paper to print on. So rather than sober 30x30cm gum bichromate prints, the second Metamorphoses series transformed into highly-coloured 125cm x 125cm darkroom prints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shoot took place on a property in Anjou. A family with their friends and neighbours acted out scenes from the Metamorphoses

Public Flesh - Corridor

B&W photo emulsion and paint on glass

20x20cm

Public Flesh 2009

Eden Park 2009

 

Gallerist Chris Boïcos commissioned a series for a show on the male nude.

 

At the time I was experimenting coating transparent glass with black&white photographic emulsion. Printed on transparent glass. The images become more readable once  white or  a colour is painted behind.

 

In the first series Public Flesh, classical sculptures, photographed in the Louvre museum and retro-painted with fleshy colours, come alive amongst oblivious visitors.

 

Then in Eden Park, Louvre warriors from another age enter contemporary South Africa through collages of airports, sea-fronts, doctor's waiting rooms...

 

 

Eden Park - After the Flood
Public Flesh - On the stairs
Eden Park - Waiting Room
Eden Park - Prometheus
Public Flesh - Caryatid
PublicFlesh - Cour Carrée
Public Flesh - La Lutte
Public Flesh - Orator

The Attic Studio

 

Two years in an attic studiospace  over a garage in Cape Town next to a house crammed with a collector's picture frames, oriental rugs and fragments of antique sculptures. 

+

Michaelis Art School photo darkrooms to print big photographs  and mix the chemical toners to colour them.

+

A zoology department happy to lend their shabbier skeletons and bottled creatures.

+

The Drama School that allowed wigs and costumes out for a couple of days.

+

Students willing to pose late at night in uncomfortable positions for no money at all.

+

A vision of far-away Europe imagined through her great historical paintings...

 

and you get  two Attic Studio series. 1994 and 1995.

Angel and Sphinx

Hand-toned B&W print

148x55cm

The artist in his Studio

The artist in his Studio

Eva

Eva

Storeroom

Storeroom

The Connoisseur

The Connoisseur

Self-portrait

Self-portrait

Lady Waiting

Lady Waiting

End of Summer

End of Summer

The Beautiful Sean as Judith

The Beautiful Sean as Judith

 
 
Postcards from South Africa
2015
 
The South Coast of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa is a place full of wonders. The land lies thick with vivid memories. Even the places I discover for the first time are familiar.  Ordinary, suburban and dingey then  lush, incomprehensible, spectacular and beautiful. Home
 
Daily collages made during  two weeks visiting family 
 
 
 
 
 
Umzimkulu River Panorama
Collage and paint
35x45cm
Tweni Swimming Beach
End of Season
The White Oribi
Stanlo's, Sunwich Port
Coastal Road to Shepstone
Over Mzimkulu River
Tweni Beach Dawn
Dead Eucalyptus
 
 
The Golden Age

The Golden Age Colour photograph, 120cmx100cm, Edition of 9, 2012 (L'Age d'Or)