Beneath the surface of Katrien de Blauwer’s collages

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A new body of work by the Belgium artist goes on show at the Musée des beaux-arts du Locle, Switzerland

Katrien de Blauwer’s images are unsettling. Slabs of paper and slashes of paint fragment their subjects’ bodies, both nude and clothed. A square of black bisects a woman’s contorted body, her head deeply burrowed in her hands. The hands of a decapitated torso covers a bare chest; deep black and violent red strokes border a clothed man embracing a nude woman.

Described as a “photographer without a camera”, Blauwer blends photographic material from old magazines to create collages that centre on ambiguous female characters. On the invitation of the Musée des beaux-arts du Locle, Switzerland, the artist has created a new body of work.  Moments of female seduction pepper the series, which Blauwer invites us to perceive as the male figure who is partially visible in one of the stills. An uncomfortable sense of voyeurism pervades the work, however, there is also something more complex at work.

The artist was born in Belgium and had a difficult upbringing. She originally studied painting and it was only during her studies in fashion at the Royal Academy in Antwerp that she experimented with collage. “The images I make confront me with what’s playing in the back of my head; I see a lot of recurring themes and they act as a mirror to my soul,” explained Blauwer in an interview with Another Magazine. The process became a form of therapy, enabling Blauwer to reveal and work through parts of herself through the creation of her images.

Katrien de Blauwer’s Isabelle is 24… Isabelle is 42 is on show at Musée des beaux-arts le Locle, Switzerland, from 15 February until 01 June 2020.

Hannah Abel-Hirsch

Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she was Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.