Since the early 1990s, Valérie Belin has upheld a rigorous photographic process that both revitalizes the classical still-life and portrait traditions, and also demonstrates a singular modernity. From one series to the next, her artworks adhere to a strict set of rules: they view her subjects from an entirely frontal perspective; they are isolated, placed in a setting utterly devoid of context; they depict matter with surgical precision. Her treatment of objects and the human body remains singular.
Most often consisting of five to ten photographs, her ensembles embrace a wide variety of subjects, from bodies and faces to mirrors, meat, smashed windshields, bags of chips, and carnival masks. Her choice of subject is deliberate, fundamental: never simply a pretext for creating an effect, it always, she says, interests her “personally,” and is calculated to resonate with her vision. Together, they make up an entity that reveals the artist’s unique gaze.
In her work, the body plays an essential role, in its various metamorphoses, representations and postures. Corporeality can be merely suggested, as in her dresses (1996), Venetian mirrors (1997), or damaged cars (1998); or explicit, as in her metallic-looking bodybuilders (1999), in which the human form appears for the first time. In her sumptuous Moroccan bridal gowns (2000), with their calligraphic embroidery, the body disappears. The portraits pose questions about identity, artifice and illusion: Models
(2001), Black Women
(2003), or Michael Jackson look-alikes (2003).
In terms of objects, her mechanical engines (2002) recall organs freshly extracted from the body. Often, the subjects' appearance produces a larger-than-life effect lying somewhere in-between the living and the inanimate: ordinary bags of potato chips (2004) seemingly worthy of Pop Art, or Masks
(2004) suggestive of vacant, grotesque faces. One of the artist’s recent series, Métisses
(2006), depicts young women found on the streets. With neither artifice nor digital technology, Valérie Belin transforms them into figures that all appear to come from the same mould, flamboyant icons of an artificial world that up until now has remained unknown.
Biography courtesy of Valérie Belin
Université Paris 1 - Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France (1988)
École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Bourges, Bourges, France (1987)
Shortlisted, Marcel Duchamp Prize, Paris, France (2004)
Artist in residence, Villa Médicis hors-les-murs, Association Français d’Action Artistique (2001)
Photography Prize, Foundation Credit Commercial de France, Paris, France (2000)