VIVIAN VAN BLERK
There is no there there.
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.
Clay is a rich medium. Ceramic artisans can spend a lifetime to discover and use competently only a fraction of its endless formal possibilities. As an artist coming late to clay, I do not aspre to replicate the patiently acquired craft of a potter, yet neither can I let myself settle into one narrow groove when there are so many potential languages available.
Therefore after three years building my sculpture confidence making ceramic human skull vanities, the past fifteen months have been dedicated to varying themes and forms and other technical approaches, to discover new roads down which I might travel further.
This is also the groundwork to ultimately combine ceramics with photography.
On the Beach
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
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...
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
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.
in Swann's Way
I and My Chimney
The chimney hearth endures as generations come and go, playing out their passing passions .
"The Flood Foretold",
No.8 of the series of nine photographs
Species have had time to adapt to man's presence. They find niches to inhabit and even unsuspected opportunities to evolve.
An engraving from his Histoire Naturelle, 1753 - 1767.
Buffon's foregrounding of animals against real or fantasy environments is the mainspring for this series.
Colour photograph from retouched b&w negative
125cm x 125cm, 2014
On the Beach
Colour photographs in triptych, 100 x 240cm
Seven Capital Vices
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.
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.
100 x 100cm, 2000
Cow Travels in Time and in Space and contemplates her Mortality
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
Gum Bichromate print
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.
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.
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
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...
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
The artist in his Studio
End of Summer
The Beautiful Sean as Judith