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Hellen van Meene: The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits
Introduction by Martin Barnes. Text by Oscar van den Boorgaard.
Over the last 20 years, Hellen van Meene has produced a complex body of work, offering a contemporary take on photographic portraiture. Characterized by her exquisite use of light, formal elegance and palpable psychological tension, her depictions of girls and boys on the cusp of adulthood demonstrate a clear aesthetic lineage to seventeenth-century Dutch painting. Van Meene captures the intimacy in the photographer–subject relationship, bringing out a sense of honesty and vulnerability from within her models and highlighting the beauty of imperfection. She carefully poses her subjects in their environments to emphasize their fragility, adding a palpable tension to the photographs. At the same time, she captures them at deeper, more introspective moments—masterfully moving between the staged nature of the portraits and the real experiences of her subjects. The combination of van Meene's instinctive understanding of the universality of adolescent experience and the highly intimate collaboration between photographer and model makes for powerful portraits that resonate long after viewing. This book brings together more than 250 images, for the most comprehensive presentation of the artist's work to date.
Hellen van Meene (born 1972) studied photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is in the collections of major museums around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This is her fifth monograph, the others include Portraits (Aperture, 2004) Japan Series, New Work and Tout va disparaître.
Featured image is reproduced from Hellen van Meene: The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits.
PRAISE AND REVIEWS
With a mix of honest, straightforward portraiture and otherworldly scenes, van Meene imbues real life with a haunting yet alluring strangeness.
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 8/28/2015
Dutch photographer Hellen van Meene has been much in the news lately, with a show opening tomorrow in Holland, a feature on CNN and this stunning new book from Aperture. Best known for her portraits of young girls, van Meene has been exploring the "awkward beauty of childhood and the self-consciousness of adolescence" for twenty years, according to essayist Martin Barnes. Her photographs "provoke intrigue about their subjects. And they raise questions about the intentions and motivations of their maker and about our role as viewers—questions which are not easily resolved. The ambiguity surrounding their meaning engages our curiosity. Van Meene addresses themes of perennial interst: youth at a stage of rapid transformation; connections between humans and animals; and moments when external events in the real world intersect with the interior, imaginative life." Featured image is "Untitled" (1995). continue to blog
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 8/30/2015
Dutch photographer Hellen van Meene "has described how the images she envisages exert a forceful, physical pull on her to make them," Victoria and Albert Museum senior photography curator Martin Barnes writes in Aperture's new release, The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits. "'If I can't make it, I get sick; if I can't make the photos, I can't breathe.' The dynamic between the model and photographer alone is not enough to complete an understanding of these images, which take a deliberately performative stance. Our role as spectators is the missing third element in their reading. Whether consciously calculated or not, Van Meene's photographs leave room for us as viewers to interpret their intention. They operate by using and confounding the accepted and culturally assimilated visual codes of various kinds of photographic imagery—from portraiture to pornography and documentary to fashion–and reinterpret these in the arena of fine art." Featured image is "Untitled" (1995). continue to blog
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 8/29/2015
Hellen van Meene's photographs are "formally inventive," Martin Barnes writes, "made with an awareness of how a three-dimensional figure and environment can be artfully sculpted by the photographer into the two-dimensional space of a photographic surface. Each photograph resounds with painterly color harmonies. She has a lucid understanding of the nuances of natural light: how it can transform a scene before the lens into a picture that distills and then transcends the depiction of reality. Coupling this with her choreographed scenes and her intuitive use of gesture in the faces and attitudes enacted by her subjects, she has consistently produced the condition for photographic transformations. Van Meene's images are based in reality but are often puzzlingly detached, sometimes spectral, seeming to float a little above the earth. Describing her process of working, she has said, 'I sometimes feel like a magician.'" Featured image is "Untitled, Tokyo" (2000). continue to blog