UMBRA by Viviane Sassen

On the 8th of March the Rotterdam-based Nederlands Fotomuseum opened Viviane Sassen’s exceptional photographic project titled UMBRA. We have been a fan of Sassen’s work for a long time now and love this particular collaboration with the Dutch museum. Especially for the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Sassen has made a new series of works that focus on the play of light and shadow, a very characteristic element that runs through all of her work. Sassen supplements this series with previously unseen images from her archives. UMBRA, which translates to ‘shadow’ in Latin, presents Sassen’s autonomous work in a kaleidoscopic exhibition in which shadow is often a metaphor for the human psyche.

UMBRA has a focus on human emotions like anxiety and desire, imagination and illusion, both intriguing and stimulating the spectator. The experience is reinforced by the creation of light-dark contrasts in space, where Sassen makes use of video projections and mirrors to generate effects similar to those in her photos. With UMBRA, the Nederlands Fotomuseum explicitly wishes to provide scope for artistic experiment within photography, and to promote new angles of approach when investigating the shifting boundaries of documentary images.

For a year now, the Nederlands Fotomuseum has directed time and effort to cultural entrepreneurship. In times in which subsidies from local and national authorities are becoming less self-evident, the musuem is forced to explore new paths to find a way to maintain their core activities. Entering into inventive collaborations is one of the spearheads in these necessary reforms. In realizing UMBRA, the museum has entered into an exceptional sponsor-driven relationship for the commission, the exhibition and the book of the same name. After the exhibition, the Nederlands Fotomuseum will receive the UMBRA series on long-term loan.

Viviane Sassen is one of the world’s most influential contemporary photographic artists. After emerging she quickly became known through her enthralling color photos in which form and content balance at the edge of abstraction. In these photographs, effusive colors play a role equal in significance to that of the deep shadows that occasionally give mysterious contours to existing forms. The human figure, the body and the pose are major classical-artistic themes in her work. However, her play with realism and abstraction, which confuses our perception and leaves meanings open, is very modern. Sassen’s work evokes the spectator to overthink the realistic character of photography, which emphasizes the spectacular and poetic aspects of her work.

The photobook ‘UMBRA’, with texts by author and poet Maria Barnas, was published to accompany the exhibition of Viviane Sassen’s work. This book was presented during FOTOGASTEN on the 3th of April and is published in a limited 700 copies, it’s available online here.

The exhibition will run until the 1st of June 2014, for more information see here.