Exhibition: 22 Jun – 1 Aug 2007
Michael Hoppen Gallery
3 Jubilee Place
SW3 3TD London
Mon-Fri 9:30-18, Sat 10:30-17
Valérie Belin's large-scale colour photographs of eerily perfect models are beautiful and unnervingly. This is the first time that Belin has used colour in her photographs and yet she retains her signature style of a subject uncannily deprived of context. This will be the artist's second exhibition at Michael Hoppen Contemporary. This new series of work is both a progression and a reversal from Belin's black and white portraits of mannequins that appeared uncannily human taken in 2003. The models, six male and six female chosen from the new faces divisions of Parisian model agencies, look paradoxically inhuman, in spite of the added warmth and depth of colour which should make the portraits seem more "real" and less "artificial" than the mannequins. The models are pictured in profile, pouting and staring vacuously into the distance and not at the viewer. The intensity of the emptiness of their gaze, the absence of context and the flat tonality of the highly powdered skin in these photographs manipulate the viewer to believing on first glance that these are photographs of mannequins. It is only by closely inspecting the tiny imperfections around the eyes and the lips that the spell of eerie perfection is broken and the models can be pronounced "real". The portraits investigate the contrary notions of presence and absence, living and unanimated, evidence and withdrawal, subjects ever present in Belin's work. The simplified, monochromatic features of the models echo avatars of virtual reality games, achieved by ridding the portraits of any shadow and light, replacing the appearance of the soft tissues of a human face with a monochromatic and diaphanous surface. This intriguing balance between abstraction and representation results in a phantom perfection. Valérie Belin, born in 1964, lives and works in Paris. She has held numerous solo exhibitions across Europe, the US and Japan and her work is held in collections at the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Bibliothéque nationale de France, Foundation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, the CCF Foundation for Photography, Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, amongst others. Belin won the Paris Photo prize in 1997, The CCF (HSBC) Foundation for Photography Prize in 2000, was short-listed for the Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2004 and a new book of her work will be published by Steidl in autumn 2007. Forthcoming solo exhibitions include the Huis Marseille Foundation, Amsterdam (December 2007), the Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne (2008) and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris (2008).