By Jonathan Turner, Roma – Unusual in the world of photography, Dutch artist Brigitte Vincken is a woman who primarily trains her camera on male models, including youthful figures showing “milk-white skin with all the hope in their eyes, and older men in whom you can see the more subtle signs of maturity.” Her current exhibition in Rome, entitled Enthousiasmos, presents 45 photographs and three videos in which male nudes pose in a studio with ancient statues. Other priceless Greek and Roman marbles have airlifted by helicopter and then photographed outside in the snowy landscapes of Engadine in the Swiss Alps. In a heartbeat, previously lifeless forms become dynamic.
The two parallel projects have emerged as an enthusiastic collaboration between Vincken and the Swiss antique dealer Jean-David Cahn, who provided heroic sculptures of Apollo, Tiberius, a satyr, Aphrodite, a half-dressed Venus and fragmented pieces depicting a veined torso, a muscular shoulder and the legs of a dying warrior from Greece from the 5th Century B.C.
“It all started with a beautiful torso I saw when I walked into Cahn’s gallery in Basel. So together, we decided to create a project to make these statues alive. Cahn was interested in the eye of the fashion photographer. I was interested in changing the mood, to see the statues from another perspective. You need to respect the integrity of the original, but it was then up to the models to reinterpret the drama.”
The series presents an archive of frozen contrasts. The mottled white marble of one statue stands out against the pristine white of the snow in the background. The bust of The Thinker portrays an old man, with strong, craggy features. In one of her images, Vincken has draped a sheer veil across his face. Suddenly the bust becomes feminine and soft. “You no longer know whether he is mortal or immortal,” says Vincken. “Short-lived or everlasting.”
“Placed in a natural context, the sculptures developed unexpected shapes,” says Jean-David Cahn. “The Greek gods were said to live on Mount Olympus, a mountain covered with perpetual snow. This means that in the mind of an ancient Greek, the gods would be living in the snow. It is an intellectual game. We also noticed that there is a true vivacity that comes out of high-quality sculptures, to such an extent that sometimes one does not know where the separation between life and stone is. By juxtaposing a living model with a piece of sculpture, either it would seem very much alive, or the model himself would look like a sculpture. It is a dialectical game with two perceptions.”
Captured in shifting sunlight, bright light also reflects up from the snow underneath. We are used to seeing classical sculptures exhibited in static conditions in a museum, under artificial spotlights. In this project, the Greek and Roman statues take on a new sense of life, reminiscent of the fable of Pygmalion, or Flaubert’s novel about a statue of Aphrodite coming to life and crushing her admirer. In some photographs and videos, the models hold and embrace Cahn’s classical sculptures, in complete opposition to the , or Flaubert’s novel about a statue of Aphrodite coming to life and crushing her admirer. In some photographs semenax price and videos, the models hold and embrace Cahn’s classical sculptures, in complete opposition to the Volume Pills normal Online Pokies presentation of untouchable artworks displayed out-of-reach in an art gallery.
The various male models interact in different ways with the statues. In one video, the Japanese performer Sai Kijima, delineates the space behind a torso by using his body to trace a series of sweeping arcs, turning himself into an athletic, moving shadow. Meanwhile, Kelvin Braam, a Dutch deejay and music-maker, holds small sculptures of a rabbit and a rooster. These Roman sculptures were traditionally given as tokens of love between men. Against the black skin of the model, they become even more sensual and erotically charged.
“If you look at the Satyr, he is hyper-masculine,” adds Vincken. “It’s incredible that more than 2,000 years ago, the sculptor could make stone look so sexy and elegant. I am used to working in fashion, with models and movement. In the photographs of Apollo, I am also working with a wonderful man, who just happens to be very, very still. While shooting on the mountain, the weather and light kept changing continually, so I simply had to wait for the right magic to occur with the clouds and the sun. In the end, he is almost a lust object.”
Based in Milan and Amsterdam, Brigitte Vincken specializes in black and white imagery, digital techniques, male fashion, portraiture and nautical photography. She had taken portraits of the Dalai Lama, Roberto Cavalli, Lucio Dalla, Larry Edison, Leonardo Ferragamo and Carlo Riva. In the field of fashion, she has trained her lens on such models as Bregje Heinen, Leandro Maeder, Nimue Smit, Casey Taylor and Marlon Teixeira, with editorial assignments for Conde’ Nast, Pelican and Hearst. In the 1990s, Vincken attended the Academy of Photography (Fotogram) in Amsterdam, where she studied the theoretical aspects of photography. Hardly surprisingly, her final thesis focused on masculine beauty and the objectification of the male form.
In a recent lecture, architect Moshe Safdie outlined his own interpretation of beauty. “Arrogance is incompatible with nature,” he said. “Through nature and the nature of the universe and the nature of man we shall seek truth. If we seek truth, we shall find beauty. But beauty is not a fashionable term these days. To quote morphologist Theodore Cook from 1917: Beauty connotes humanity. We call a natural object beautiful because we see that its form expresses fitness, the perfect fulfilment of function. Or the perfect fulfilment of purpose.”
Brigitte Vincken’s latest series of photographs combines the natural beauty of anatomical perfection with the refined aesthetics of classical art. There is beauty in the tender gesture of a hand emerging from deep shadows, gently placed on the waist of a sculpture. Flesh versus stone, and the living forms mimic the age-old poses. As with the petulant actions of the gods themselves, there is also an element of capriciousness and playfulness to these images. “But anyhow, I have always had this weakness for male beauty,” Vincken says with a smile.
Enthousiasmos – Brigitte Vincken – photographs and videos
Via Margutta 54, Rome (former location of Finarte Roma)
Through October 14, 2012. From 16.00 to 20.00
Drinks with the artist. Thursday October 11, 18.30-20.00