Katrien De Blauwer
she won't open her eyes
Gallery FIFTY ONE
Opening reception: Saturday, November 27th 2021 from 2 – 6 pm, in the presence of the artist!
In her third solo exhibition at Gallery FIFTY ONE, Katrien De Blauwer (Belgium, 1969) takes the viewer on a journey between dream and reality. With ‘she won’t open her eyes’, the artist adds a remarkable concept series to her oeuvre, filled with formal experiments that mark a shift in her imagery.
The work of Katrien De Blauwer is always partly autobiographical. Although she uses material taken from vintage magazines and turns it into anonymous and universally recognizable images by cutting out the faces, she reassembles and appropriates this found imagery into a new, very personal narrative that is far removed from its original meaning. Created in a spontaneous and intuitive manner – mainly guided by her own emotions – De Blauwer’s photomontages depict her personal life story and memories. In a same way, the series ‘she won’t open her eyes’ found its roots in a personal experience, arisen in a period in which the artist experienced a lack of sleep and started to reflect about the concept of sleep and dreams. A book she read at the time – ‘The House of the Sleeping Beauties’ (1961) by the Japanese writer and Nobel prize winner Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972) – would eventually become the starting point of this new exhibition.
Katrien De Blauwer
Katrien De Blauwer was born in 1969 in the small provincial town of Ronse in Belgium. After a troubled childhood, she moved to Ghent at a young age to study painting. Later De Blauwer attended the Royal Academy of Antwerp to study fashion. Although she would never finish her fashion studies, it was at that time that De Blauwer made her first collage books; studies and mood boards for fashion collections. These ‘notebooks’, as she would later call them and which she keeps to this day, are filled with sketches, image and text fragments and quotes taken from books, newspapers and magazines. They bring together various influences from literature, art, music, fashion, cinema, etc., which ultimately permeate her artistic work. After her studies, De Blauwer began collecting, cutting and recycling images as a way of therapeutic self-examination, a practice she is still developing today.
Born in Ronse, Belgium in 1969
Lives and works in Ronse, Belgium
Visit artist website here.
De Blauwer collects and recycles photographs from vintage magazines and papers. She calls herself a ‘photographer without a camera’; the cut of her scissors being comparable to clicking the shutter release, with which she determines what remains visible from the original image and what not. She cuts out vital pieces of information essential to understanding the initial context of the image, such as faces and gazes, or interrupts characters in their movements, creating tension and mystery. In this so-called post-photographic process she then glues, assembles, wrinkles, folds and tears the found imagery, merges one or more separate images and combines them with mute colour strips and monochrome pieces of paper the artist collects from old books. Lately she also started to draw and paint on her works, often in a deliberately naive manner.
De Blauwer has a very spontaneous and intuitive working process, in which she mainly lets herself be guided by her own emotions. Although she uses found materials and turns it into anonymous and universally recognizable images that are far removed from their original meaning, her work is at the same time always partly autobiographical. She reassembles and appropriates the imagery into a new narrative that depicts her personal life story and memories. Still, however intimate her photomontages may be, everyone can relate to them. She thus gives new life to what is residual, saving it from destruction and granting it a new life and meaning by including it in a personal and at the same time universal story.
The way in which multiple image fragments from different contexts are brought together in a narrative whole, also renders De Blauwer’s work very cinematic. References to film are always present in her oeuvre. Not only because of the film noir and nouvelle vague-like atmosphere that permeates her work – with constant references to films of great directors as Antonioni and Godard – but also because of the way in which the ‘cut’ determines what is left visible of a certain scene. With this technique – similar to that of the photomontage or film editing – the artist creates a kind of off-screen event, which was removed from the frame but is still tangible, bringing about an alienating sense of emptiness and separation. It makes De Blauwer a master in composition and suspense. Her works often read like film scripts, a narrative line which is continued in the layout of her exhibitions, in which she carefully uses the sequencing of her works to tell a broader story to the viewer.
It’s a story is populated by almost exclusively female protagonists. With their bare shoulders, elegant hands and silent lips, De Blauwer’s women possess a great beauty and sensuality. They often experience intense emotions; they long, yearn, are afraid or lonely. The emphasis on the emotional world of her feminine characters, adds to the fragile and intimate nature of De Blauwer’s body of work. It’s a red line that runs through her oeuvre, across her different themes and series. However, her visual language continues to evolve. Although she is known for her purified compositions, in which she works towards emptiness and abstraction even, lately she allows more visual information to accumulate within one frame.