This June, The Cynthia Corbett Gallery will present the largest solo photography exhibition to date by Dutch artist, Isabelle van Zeijl, at the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery, Pall Mall, from 24 – 30 June 2019, as part of Mayfair Art Weekend.
‘The Camouflaged Beauty of Fashion’ will bring together Isabelle van Zeijl’s varied body of enigmatic photographic self-portraits, which challenge the oppressive idealisation of beauty. The works take female archetypes of the past and sabotage them in the context of today, by referencing and merging imagery from a historical context, particularly works of the Old Masters, with modern-day consumer content. The result, van Zeijl’s unique female characters, confront notions of perceived femininity and the significance of aesthetics throughout history and society.
‘The Camouflaged Beauty of Fashion’ will display nearly twenty of van Zeijl’s large-scale photographic works. In addition to physical appearance, the pieces draw on a number of themes that come under the construct of beauty: fashion, nature and time. These aspects are also reflected through the artistic process, as van Zeijl collectively embodies the roles of: model, creator, object and subject, producing the entirety of the scenes independently, from the costume design and make-up, to the lighting and editing.
In this respect, Van Zeijl’s creative process is highly self-reflective and one that requires a constant procedure of mental and visual reinvention. Van Zeijl’s self-portraits are a mode of self-expression, illustrating her strength of character as well as her fragility, in turn confronting and disputing the notion that women are limited to being either vulnerable or strong, one or the other. Her works go beyond the realm of individual expression, so common in the genre of self-portraiture, as the artist strives to be both universal and timeless, with a subtle political hint.
At first glance, viewers could mistake van Zeijl’s portraits for subversive portrayals of noblewomen painted by Dutch Golden Age Masters. In ‘HER’, the artist has created an intricate headpiece from vintage lace, which draws on references to women of the past, while the pose and expression stand very much in modern times. In the series ‘The Jane’, the artist wears historic armour from the 1600s. This powerful heroine not only displays physical strength, but also emotional and tangible empowerment.
It is through this exploration and manipulation of the visual vocabulary of the past and the implementation of modern photographic technology, that her work possesses a timeless beauty, transcending the boundaries of epoch and media, whilst simultaneously tackling contemporary standards of aesthetics.
Van Zeijl’s unique assimilation of the past and present drew judges to bestow on her the Highly Commended award for The Young Masters Emerging Woman Art Prize in 2017. The Young Masters Art Prize was founded by Cynthia Corbett in 2009 and launched to celebrate artistic skill and innovation, alongside an awareness of the Old Masters and historical works. The Young Masters Emerging Woman Art Prize was a new part of the initiative and the judges included Nadja Swarovski, the first female Member of the Executive Board of Swarovski, the world’s leading crystal manufacturer.
Isabelle van Zeijl has collaborated with a number of celebrated fashion designers, including Iris Van Herpen, Claes Iversen and Jan Taminiau. Taminiau created the couture dress worn by the artist in ‘GRACE’, adding to the ethereal aesthetic of the work. In the ‘I AM’ series, 2019, the artist has reshaped and sabotaged the couture designs of Claes Iversen into entirely new forms. The striking textures and Dégradé colours are reworked to indicate the process of natural and instinctive growth, illustrating the transformation from one phase of life to another; including the metamorphosis of a child into a wom