Chantal Elisabeth Ariëns – WHERE ARE YOU at Bildhalle in Amsterdam

Ode #05 2023 © Chantal Elisabeth Ariens. Photopolymer Etching on cotton rag paper 33 x 50 cm

In a series of ethereal images visitors may find themselves in deep contemplation when confronted by the hauntingly melancholic photographs of Chantal Elisabeth Ariëns. Opening at Bildhalle Gallery in Amsterdam, Where are you evokes a profound intimacy between the viewer and the individual dancers captured.

Previously studying as a dancer and teacher at The Ballet Academy in Tilburg (The Netherlands), The Amsterdam based photographer feasibly translates her knowledge into several captivating visuals. Working with real dancers and mostly models in her images, Ariëns was further able to direct and understand the body and figures of the people she collaborated with. In applying her knowledge, a personal connection from artist to dancer is further recognizable and tangible by viewers.

Ariëns additionally explains that in her process she wants the images to arise in a natural way. “I really like to give the girls more freedom and trust so that they can be themselves. With the camera I ask them really just to move in their own way; just be in your own world.” She explains. In her authentic approach an underlying expression of grief is also riddled within the obscured movements and countenance of the figures. Combined with the acute, saturated contrasts of light and dark one cannot help but feel their own gaze anchored and transfixed by the visuals.

Viewers may also remark on the genuine tactility in Ariëns’ work. The photographs have an almost paint-like, ‘imperfect’ tangible quality which is in fact deliberately enhanced through a photopolymer etching technique (an old printing method). Ariëns uses a printing plate exposed with photopolymer film. She then applies a layer of ink and then slowly strokes away the ink layer by layer with her hands. The results produce an eerie atmosphere, the sense of movement locked in a cinematic effect and overall, the anticipation of a story that is yet to be told.

Ariëns’ images of dancers are also complimented by landscapes, particularly one photograph with immense clouds titled Where are you #20 which infer a nurtured and impressive Baroquesque quality. 

Ariëns’ photographs not only leave their mark on paper but will also leave a lasting imprint on your memory. Where are you continues at Bildhalle Gallery, Amsterdam until 20th July and is a highly recommended visit.   Anja Herrmann  27th May 2024

Anja Herrmann’s exclusive interview with Chantal Elisabeth Ariëns will appear in the June edition of  ArtsTalk Magazine’s Colour Supplement along with a selection of the artist’s photographs.