“When I was younger I was jealous of photographers who had their own very personal subject matter and aesthetic. It’s so important to allow yourself the freedom to be truly creative,” says Dutch artist Viviane Sassen. “Experimentation is central to my practice.”
Sassen’s daring and idiosyncratic approach hangs somewhere between fashion and fine art. At the core of her practice is an understanding of the importance of constant experimentation, thus making her images complex, unexpected and disarming. Her works are often an exchange or interaction between different elements, contributing to the tactility and physical quality of images. Colour, shape, powder and paint are just some of the tools she uses as enhancers.
“I feel like I’m always solving little puzzles or making combinations,” she explains. “It’s very simple really. I would bring a few elements together and experiment. It’s all just trial and error. I’m always looking for that little bit of magic.”
For Sassen, fashion’s transitory nature allow editorial shoots to be the space where she can play. “Editorial work for fashion magazines is my testing ground,” she says, adding that she believes test shoots are pointless. “You don’t have to be so precious about things. I hate repeating myself.”
Her shoots are never planned, she says: “I like to free-flow. Now that I’m older and more experienced, I know I will make it work. I approach a shoot as a blank slate; I might have a few vague ideas, or a specific person to photograph, but that’s it. From there, the experiments start, and it can go many different ways – that’s the exciting thing about it.”
Life can sometimes impose restrictions on how we work and where we can invest time, but Sassen has learned to use these limitations as a form of expression. “I have this urge to create and make things,” she says. “I can get grumpy if I haven’t shot anything in a while. I went through a stage where I had to be home and couldn’t travel, but I wanted to experiment more. Instead of making pictures, I went into my archive and started making collages and painting on prints again.”
This exploration brought a new physicality to Sassen’s work, and a technique she used in her project, Roxane II. For her most recent creative evolution, Sassen has made an immersive film, titled Totem, currently on show at The Hepworth Wakefield gallery. It is part of Hot Mirror, an exhibition which taps into Surrealist techniques to create ‘image-poems’ from a selection of Sassen’s photographs.
“You need to photograph every day, make stuff every day and not be precious about it,” she says.
vivianesassen.com Viviane Sassen: Hot Mirror is on show alongside the exhibition Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain at The Hepworth Wakefield until 07 October 2018. The show is accompanied by a book published by Prestel https://hepworthwakefield.org
This article is taken from a longer feature considering the role of accident and experimentation in photographers’ work, published in the August issue of BJP www.thebjpshop.com/