Viviane Sassen at La MEP

La MEP is The Maison Européenne de la Photographie located in Paris which holds France's first retrospective exhibition PHOSPHOR: Art & Fashion 1990-2023 of a Dutch artist Viviane Sassen.

Viviane Sassen works both in the fashion and fine art world. She collaborates with Miu Miu, Stella McCartney, Bottega Veneta и Louis Vuitton. Her photography is marked by an angular geometry of internal space of the shot that is highlighted even more the abstraction of bodies. Viviane lived in Kenya until she was 5 years (her father worked at a local hospital) and she has a special feeling for Africa.

She often shows the bodies with overlapping limbs as though merging into a single organism referring to the blending of different cultures and their adherents, to the creation of a single world culture. Viviane is well aware about stereotypical African images of poverty and hunger widespread in the European mass culture, so she incorporates modern elements in her photographs that are actually in abundance in Africa, for example mobile phones and last models of cars.
The exhibition at MEP takes up two floors and brings together iconic series such as "Umbra", "Parasomnia", "Flamboya" and "Roxane" as well as her unpublished archives, video art, photo collages, paintings, and photographs made for fashion houses and magazines, the latter are the exhibition's special section.

What is so special about these four series photo series? Each series reveals one part of Viviane Sassen and not only as a photograph but also as a person with her life experience that has had the impact on her creative career.

2014 series "Umbra" was titled by Viviane after the Latin word for shadow. This symbolism is not a coincidence – Sassen leads her audience through a series of imaginative takes on the idea of the shadow as a metaphor for the anxiety and desire, memories and expectations, imagination and illusion that manifest in the human psyche. Throughout the series, the ambiguity between realism and abstraction which is characteristic of her work emerges in the play of light, shadow and colour, and the cropping of the images. The seemingly everyday objects and situations are ingrained with mystery.
As Sassen says , after she spent her childhood in East Africa and later returned to the Netherlands with her parents, she felt like a foreigner in her homeland but knew that she had also been an outsider in Africa.
Series "Parasomnia" animates these blurred feelings between home and foreign land, night and day, life and dreams. The series comprises photographs taken in West and East Africa, as well as a few taken in Europe, which expand her ideas on this topic.

2004-2008 series "Flamboya" was Viviane Sassen's first monograph and brought together photos from various trips to Africa. Her first independent and deliberate return to the continent was in 2001 at the age of 29. "Flamboya" includes primarily portraits that Sassen made collaboratively with her models, some spontaneous and others performative.

2012 series "Roxane" is not a series of photographs but rather a visual journal for Vivian's model. Roxane's body and emotions reflected a range of poses and moods over the years of working together. To some degree, "Roxane" depicts a Sassen's creative process of photography through the prism of the artist and model relations.
On the occasion of this exhibition, a 400-page photo book will be published, including Sassen's essays on photography, and her works.

This exposition is primarily intended to show that photography for Sassen is an open space for experimentation where she brings together her dreams, desires, ideas and fears about the surrounding reality.

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