"You need to get your head around the fact that what's in front of you is a picture and not a painting", that's what I muttered to myself as I entered the Zuleika Gallery in Woodstock to see Open Space, a solo exhibition of contemporary photography Femke Dekkers.
And so it was. Femke Dekkers does use the camera as a tool to play games with our powers of perception, to push the boundaries of our spatial awareness. Using her studio as a stage set, she captures two-dimensional pictures of her three-dimensional studio at a point in time during its artistic transformation.
The transformation itself - the process of making her sculptural compositions - is a fluid process. It is a process that involves building up layers and shapes in on her studio wall using paint, paper, wood, perspex, cardboard and tape. It is a process of adding and taking away elements from the set, often over a matter of many weeks. It is a process of moving back and forth between her camera and the physical space until her vision materialises on the studio walls.
And, even after the ‘click’ of the camera, the process of searching and seeing, trying out and correcting, building and dismantling, coming-together and falling apart, it continues.
Femke's work is, indeed, a fascinating exploration of the disparate ways we see things; of how the eye, brain and camera all interpret space differently. What is in front of us, and indeed what we see, is a two-dimensional view of her sculptural compositions, from her individual artistic perspective - or rather through the single eye of the camera lens. We cannot walk around the compositions to view and interpret it, from different perspectives - like you would an art installation.
"I feel more like a painter or sculptor than a photographer." - Femke Dekkers
Just like a good book or a good bottle of wine, each picture invites you to explore further; to lean in and discover more. And soon you'll begin to notice the raw elements of the artist's studio - from the fluorescent light that hangs from the ceiling to the cables that run along the skirting board. The perspex sheet propped up by a bottle of glue, pencil shaving, masking tape, clothesline and pegs, and much more. Each item, very much an integral part of the composition.
Then when you think you've taken it all in, you'll begin to observe, what appears to be the evolution of the artist's style and, perhaps, personality. Mentally rearranging nearly a decade of work in a pseudo-chronological order, you can't help but notice that Femke's artistic technique evolves from bold geometric shapes with an almost architectural-like quality about them, to a more painterly expression that combines brush strokes, and the use of colour and texture, in a work of art.
Born in The Netherlands where she still lives and works, Femke has exhibited widely across Europe since graduating in 2011, and her work is included in numerous collections.
Open Space is the inaugural exhibition of contemporary photography at Zuleika Gallery in Woodstock which opened its doors in August. The gallery originally planned to open in April, but like nearly everything in our lives, the date was impacted by the lockdown measure put in place to deal with COVID-19.
Anstice Oakeshott, an Independent Photography Specialist and Curator, explains how Femke works mostly with analogue cameras, favouring the slow and considered technique of traditional photographic practises. She adds: "The exhibition reveals the unique practice of a multidisciplinary artist, who brings together photography, painting and sculpture to explore the limits of human vision and comprehension. She explores the tension between static architecture and illusions of painterly perspective."
Zuleika Gallery's founder and director, Lizzie Collins was on hand too for a conversation. Lizzie, who has been working in the art world for over 20 years, and who was responsible for setting up the art programme for Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, tells about the gallery's focus on international emerging contemporary art and Modern British art. There's an exciting line-up of international artists, and a call for local artists, in the pipeline. PS: Hope I am not letting the cat out of the bag here - but watch this space.
Open Space, a solo exhibition of contemporary photography by Femke Dekkers is part of Photo Oxford 2020 Festival and is on at the Zuleika Gallery in Woodstock until 16 November 2020. You can join a live 'In Conversation' zoom event with the artist Femke Dekkers and curator Anstice Oakeshott which will take place online at 6.30 pm on 06 November. You'll find details and how to register here.
Artwork images courtesy of the Artist and Zuleika Gallery