Viviane Sassen, the photographer who sculpts our bodies | EUROtoday

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Dimages, movies, but in addition collages and work… The artwork of Viviane Sassen, the Dutch photographer whose work has been enchanting followers of vogue and visible experimentation for over thirty years, is multifaceted. To the purpose, explains Clothilde Morette, who needed this primary Sassen retrospective in France, that “the exhibition is designed like a diffracted mirror, broken in the center, which reflects the same portrait with different entrance doors. I was struck by an expression that she herself had used in a discussion with the philosopher Emanuele Coccia about her work: “Mirrors and portals,” she mentioned. Portals to a different world, after all…”.

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Viviane Sassen’s story begins in Kenya, the place she lived from the age of two to six. It was the Seventies, and the little lady skilled her founding years in her household, with a physician father whom she adored and within the freedom then granted to kids. “‘Years of magical thinking,’ she said, when all you have to do is think things for them to happen, adds Clothilde Morette. Something important is at play at this moment in his relationship with beings and light. As soon as, as a young adult, she launched into personal series, she immediately returned to Kenya. Her father committed suicide when she was a student, an event that resonates throughout her work. Returning to the places of happy childhood at his side is important in his relationship to mourning. And, there, she takes very constructed, very staged photos. » As a way to regain control of your destiny.

Geometry. Likewise, the one who was a model and signed fashion photos for trendy magazines like Purple Or Cut makes the body and its reinvention its fundamental motif. Marked by the traces left by poliomyelitis on the children treated by her father, she reinvents the forms of the carnal. With Sassen, there is no eroticism or suggestive poses, but a playful exaltation of the geometry of the body and its sculpturality. In his series Umbra (2014), haunted by mourning, the body is only a shadow on the African land or a silhouette silhouetted against a colored background. Of Mud and Lotus (2017) puts on the same level feminine curves detached from any face and elements of still life which evoke fertility.

Playful, pop, colorful, the retrospective is rich in surprises, like these immense collages, made from images from the photographer’s archives. “Most of my works are self-portraits,” she said, emphasizing their “inner strength that asserts itself without complexes”. From one “portal” to a different, we flow into within the psychological universe of Sassen and let ourselves be received over by this vitality… That of phosphorus which provides its title to the exhibition and has the magical capability to generate its personal mild §

“Viviane Sassen. Phosphor: Art & Fashion 1990-2023”. Until February 11, 2024, European House of Photography.