THE DELICIOUS WORK OF BARBARA VANDENDRIESSCHE IS AN IMMERSION INTO THE WORLD OFF BEAUTY, EMOTION AND TRAGEDY.
MILIA WALLENIUS | ARTICULATE #23 | APR 2020
Belgian artist Barbara Vandendriessche (b. 1974) has a background in theatre, and it shows. For 20 years she worked as a director and stage designer until she turned to photography and sculpture, where she continues to explore the theatrical space.
Vandendriessche finds her inspiration in Greek tragedy, art history and romantic poetry, to name a few. She is interested in physicality, body, sensation and expression.
Unlike theatre, where the process from an idea, to production and finished project is a long one, photography allows Vandendriessche to start working on a concept immediately. She often works in series with portraits or still lives.
Theatre is however present in her work. For Vandendriessche theatricality is a pre-aesthetic impulse, an expansion of reality that awakes an emotion, not through reason, but by appealing to ritual instincts.
Vandendriessche has an eye for compelling textures, luminous colors and sculptural bodies. The rich textiles and withered flowers, strong movements and the dramatic play of light and shadow are inspired by baroque painting.
References to this art historical period celebrating the grand and the decorative can for example be seen in works such as Gentileschi and Transience.
Dark and heavy, yet sensual and fragile, Vandendriessche’s distorted figures and vivid compositions have a powerful presence. In works such as Rose Lane #4 and portrait series Sshhhh her flowy fabrics and faded surfaces result in something nearly abstract. It’s a haunting, almost religious performance for the camera.
“War photographers, street photographers, travel photographers. They search for the ‘bigger than life’ moments, the people with a tragic story, the elements in nature that move us. With that inspiration, I try to make my own ‘image-language’”, she explains.
By capturing emotional bodies, Vandendriessche explores the beauty of tragedy and pain. Her fascination with the broken, the damaged, the unfinished and the confused is present in her sculptures and expressed through their twisted bodies, heads and organic forms.
Like deformed remains of antique sculptures, biological specimen in glass jars or valuable jewels, her sculptures are a wonderful mix of beauty and despair. A feast for the eyes and a wonderful, tempting and frightening window to a world of imagination, storytelling, role play and big emotions. Fear, sorrow, loss and desire are often present.
What Vandendriessche finds interesting in sculpture is the realness of the 3-dimensional form and the craftmanship in processing materials, such as wax, epoxy, wood, foam, plaster, clay and textile, by hand. The artist’s background in stage design is reflected in her usage of big dimensions and staged installations.
Vandendriessche’s creativity is fueled by her own imagination, by images, stories and characters she finds within herself. Her works are based on pre-meditated ideas flavored with improvisation and unexpected possibilities that surface during production.
Emotional objects, such as the hospital bed for a baby, or interesting locations, like the abandoned swimming pool and romantic overgrown garden in the series Rose Lane, are other elements that spark her creativity.
A master of staging, Vandendriessche uses her work to suggest stories, but she does not provide us with a full narrative. Her works are objects and pictures that propose something, and although we do not immediately know what, it is up to us to figure it out.
Passionate about creating art that triggers emotions, Vandendriessche invites us to sense more than think and explore our feelings and hidden instincts. Seeing her work is a visual experience that becomes physical through an emotional reaction.
This article about Barbara Vandendriessche takes part of magazine, ARTICULATE #23. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below