Amsterdam-born Viviane Sassen creates images in which abstraction and performance intertwine. She primarily shoots portraits, typically featuring anonymous subjects in unidentified settings. Characterised by sharp silhouettes, contrasting areas of light and shadow, and saturated colours, Sassen’s daring and unconventional approach hangs somewhere in the balance between fashion photography and fine art.
Drawing from her memories of three years spent in Kenya as a child, Sassen has continued to travel and work there throughout her life. Using this evocative realm of intense colour and textures as her inspiration, her work is rich with references that allow for layered interpretations. At the core of her practice is an understanding of the importance of consistent experimentation. As a result, Sassen’s images are complex and quietly disarming. Her works are often a dialogue between various elements and exchanges, with powder and paint being just some of the tools that she uses to enhance or subvert her images.
Creative block can sometimes be an issue for creative practitioners, but, when she is seeking inspiration, Sassen often returns to her previous work and uses it as a springboard. The artist has been known to use existing photographic prints and rework them using paint or collage, conveying a unique sense of exploration and play that brings a new physicality to her work, enhancing perceptions of form and structure.
“The lotus grows in the mud”
Of Mud and Lotus (2017) is the Dutch photographer’s second collaboration with the Japanese collective, artbeat publishers. In the book, Sassen presents a series of offbeat and abstract photographs, offering the viewer some astonishing imagery, rife with associative references. Inspired by the saying, “The lotus grows in the mud,” this series examines how purity can survive despite unfavorable environments, engaging in a conversation on transformation, procreation, and fecundity — all elements traditionally ascribed to the idea of ‘the feminine.’ In Of Mud and Lotus, Sassen takes trivial objects and seemingly coincidental compositions and twists and transforms them — sometimes using multi coloured pigment or fragmented collage — until the original forms are barely recognisable.
Sassen manages to extend this multidisciplinary approach throughout both her fine art and her commercial practice – having created campaigns for the likes of Miu Miu, Stella McCartney, and Louis Vuitton, among others. Alternating personal, editorial, and commercial concepts, Sassen is a remarkable image maker that fully embraces an interdisciplinary attitude by going to the core of photographic experimentation.
An article by Fay Janet Jackson
Featured image : Viviane Sassen, Ra, Series “Of Mud and Lotus”, 2017. Archival pigment ink on luster paper. Courtesy of Viviane Sassen and Stevenson.
This article was written for The Art Momentum | ART X Lagos Artpaper. [French version inside]
Articles are published in their original language | Les articles sont publiés dans leur langue d’origine