At this edition of UNSEEN Photo Festival, The Ravestijn Gallery presented three artists: Koen Hauser (NL), Tereza Zelenkova (CZ) and the artist duo Cortis & Sonderegger (CH). Whilst the sensibilities of these artists are noticeably different, they all share history, mythology and iconography as critical foundations to their work. As an extention of these common ideas, the photographs at UNSEEN have been hung as an informal reflection of the historical salon.
KOEN HAUSER (b.1972, the Netherlands)
Koen Hauser’s Skulptura presents an eclectic collection of photographs that depict an array of objects and sculptures, some of which existed only in Hauser’s imagination before they were materialised through the help of digital technologies.
Skulptura can be related to a kind of postmodern alchemy, sourcing material from iconic bronze statues, haute couture, famous photographs of the twentieth century, anatomical models from Dutch institutions and archival material from a diverse set of historical books that represent Hauser’s constant intrigue in the past. Hauser then reimagines these divergent threads primarily through digital (three-dimensional) rendering, using programmes and algorithms like a virtual paint brush, fusing the past with Hauser’s imagination in the present. It’s worth noting however that Hauser does not rely solely on digital rendering but also, at times, involves himself in the physical craft of making such pieces with clay. For the viewer, a persistent sense of intrigue ripples through Skulptura, stemming from the uncertainty as to the extent of reality that is in front of us. Where does the real world start and finish? How much of Hauser’s imagination is at play?
Koen Hauser is a contemporary artist who works with photography and film. He finished his Masters in Social Psychology (1996, Leiden University), followed later by his studes of Photography at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy (2002). He has received various scholarships from the Mondriaan Fund and in 2014, acquired the title of ‘Photographer of the Fatherland’. His work is held in both national and international public and private collections, including municipal museum (The Hague) and The Museum of Fine Arts (Houston). His work has been shown in Europe, the United States and China in various solo and group exhibitions, including FOAM (Amsterdam), Unseen Photofair (Amsterdam), Institut Néerlandais (Paris) and the He Xiang Ning Art Museum (Shigzen, China).
TEREZA ZELENKOVA (b.1976, Czech Republic)
Through serene, black and white photographs, The Essential Solitude presents a room and its curious inhabitant, evoking the end of the 19th century movements of symbolism and decadence whilst paying homage to the literature of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and JK Huysmans. Together, the still lives, nudes, and portraits are a captivating inquiry into the cycle of decay and renewal, the relation of the individual to an interior and the possibility of myth and spirituality in a disenchanted world.
These images, with a strong sense of detail, seem to come from another era yet are surprising in their strong presence and newness; this is another, more mythical and ephemeral realm altogether. In this place, time has ceased to exist in its everyday, stupefying linearity. Still lives of baroque draperies covered with dust and a single Papaver somniferum - an opium poppy - halt the narrative of the other images where a figure with impossibly long flowing hair is seen lying on a bed. In only one of the photographs a face is shown, but with the eyes closed, the character remains unknown to the viewer. Whilst the photographs, taken in an enigmatic building of which the viewer learns little, hint at a novelistic narrative, these scenes are rather from a mysterious novel never written.
Tereza Zelenkova lives and works in Prague. She received her MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art in London (2012). Her publications include the artist’s books The Absence of Myth, Index of Time and Supreme Vice. She is a recipient of the ING Unseen Talent Award 2016, the Jerwood Photoworks Awards (2015) and 1000 Words Magazine Award (2012). Her work is shown at various international galleries and museums, among which The Impressions Gallery (Bradford, UK, 2016), Jerwood Space (London, UK), and Musée de l’Élysée (Lausanne, CH). Her work is in the collections of Fotomuseum Winterthur in Winterthur (CH), Saatchi Gallery in London (UK), and Musée de L’Elysée in Lausanne (CH).
CORTIS & SONDEREGGER (b.1978 and 1980, Switzerland)
Since 2012, artist duo Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger, otherwise known by their shared name Cortis & Sonderegger, have been constructing (by hand) exhaustive dioramas (a three-dimensional theatrical model) of iconic photographs that balance between truth and fabrication. Photographs such as Robert Capa’s Falling Solider, Ansel Adams’ Moon and Half Dome, Joe Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima and Stuart Franklin’s Tiananmen Square are all etched into our collective memory and consequently have all been recreated by Cortis & Sonderegger. After each scrupulous scene is made, the pair photograph their creation including the materials, tools, structures and lighting that have conceived their trickery in the frame. By exposing their activities, the duo allow us to examine where the boundaries lie of perceived reality, how fiction can work in tandem with truth, and what authenticity is in the photographic medium.
Jojakim Cortis (b.1978) & Adrian Sonderegger (b.1980) began their artistic collaboration during their studies of Photography at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) in 2005. Together they conceive and manufacture surreal worlds through their use of “staged” photography employing analogue techniques by hand. The artists live and work in Zurich, Switzerland.