|Robert Mann Gallery is pleased to announce the representation of Maroesjka Lavigne with Ísland, her first solo exhibition at the gallery. At the age of 21, the young Belgian photographer Lavigne spent four months driving alone across Iceland, pulled to the stark scenery. Yet rather than observing a poetic landscape of azure springs and silent snow, Lavigne's bold, cinematic images tell a tale of an out-of-the-ordinary everyday.|
Moments of unexpected familiarity jibe with unconquerable strangeness: a suburban street sleeps under rust-red night sky; an arctic fox perches unperturbed in slat-fenced Reykjavík backyard. White-capped mountain mounds bump against villages in a vision more akin to Candyland than Iceland, while half-melted snowmen form a small Stonehenge on a soccer field. Flights of fancy, however, are punctuated by Lavigne's haunting portraits of people met along the way—like characters in a silent film, they flicker between nostalgia and sudden, striking tangibility.
And everywhere, always, are shades of white. Snow becomes an amorphous studio backdrop, indeterminate but infinitely malleable. It swallows ground and sky; coats buses, boats, and intrepid sight-seers; and then transforms again into a bleached sink basin, chalky house paint, and a plume of white steam. In Ísland the world may be pale, but life is anything but colorless.
Lavigne's Ísland series was selected by Foam Magazine as a finalist in the prestigious Foam Talent Call, has won a LensCulture New & Emerging Photographers Grand Prize, and was previously shown at the 2012 Photo Academy Awards and the Unseen Photo Fair in the Netherlands. The artist's work has also been featured in The New York Times Style Magazine, Aesthetica Magazine, and the FOAM Magazine Talent issue. Lavigne lives and works in Ghent, Belgium, and graduated with a Masters in Photography from Ghent University in 2012.
The young Belgian photographer Maroesjka Lavigne spent four months driving alone across Iceland. "Yellow House, On the Road" (2011) is one of many pictures dominated by snow. The little yellow house sits doll-like amid a vast expanse of white snow; the white is modulated with hints of blue and melds imperceptibly into a sky that is also white with suggestions of blue. The vehicle in "Autobus, On the Road" (2012) is a red touring bus, but most of its side and windows are plastered white with snow. It is parked in a white field before a small white building whose red roof is also mostly covered with snow. Snow is falling in "Black Church, Búðir" (2012); white streaks are set against a pale-blue sky, and the simple church endures in stoic isolation. The white in "Shrimps, Reykjavík" (2011), however, is a porcelain sink; 11 translucent-and-pink shrimp with black dots for eyes cluster around the stainless-steel drain stopper.
There are three fine portraits: "Hildur in Her Car, Mosfellbaer" (2012), "Magni the Magnificent, Prikið, Reykjavík" (2011) and "Phantom, Krossneslaug, Westfjords" (2011). The first is an attractive young woman with auburn hair wearing a lace-fringed Peter Pan collar; light from an unknown source falls across her eyes. The second is a 17-year-old writer shown in a booth in a literary club, his hair slicked into place, and wearing suspenders and a polka-dot bow tie. The face of the male swimmer in the third is obscured by the rippled surface of the water.
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Maroesjka Lavigne, Once on this Island
"When you take a picture in a beautiful place, you have to realize that nature isn't the background for your photograph," says 24-year-old Belgian photographer Maroesjka Lavigne. "Rather, you are its prop. The only thing added to the scene, after all, is you."
During a four-month excursion to Iceland that began with an internship at The Reykjavik Grapevine, Lavigne became enamored of the country's stark scenery and how its people dealt with the challenges of going about daily life in an environment reigned by vast, inescapable nature. Steering away from typical depictions of Iceland's great mountainscapes and volcanoes, her work seeks instead to deconstruct the auras of intimidation surrounding these overwhelming forms, uncovering what makes Iceland a home to those who live there. The photographs carry a sense of familiarity and nostalgia for Reykjavik and its nearby towns that is marked by an uncanny awareness of our limited time on earth, through side-by-side portrayals of human life and the more lasting, terrestrial features. For Lavigne, nature is unconquerable, and everywhere: a small figure peers contemplatively over a bridge, allowing the falling snow to envelop his image in white, while a suburban street sleeps trustingly beneath an ominous, rust-colored sky. In "Ísland," her first solo show opening at Robert Mann Gallery this Thursday, April 3, Lavigne presents the rare findings of her travels in "moments when color, light and subject merge into the perfect image."
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In a photograph that recalls Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, a lone figure overlooks Iceland's Gullfoss waterfall. Unlike Friedrich's wanderer, who towers confidently over the scene beneath him, Belgian photographer Maroesjka Lavigne's subject is nearly indiscernible in the landscape, his black clothing almost completely blanketed in snow.
He's not the only person or man-made object made small by nature in Lavigne's series Ísland, on view at Robert Mann Gallery through May 17. A swimmer floating in a turquoise pool is rendered faceless by Lavigne's flash against the surface of the water. A red bus and a red roof are almost entirely veiled in white. Nature, if not humanity's superior, often seems at least its contemporary, a force with which to be reckoned.
But Lavigne's perspective is not so simplistic. Just as often, we are forced to consider humanity's influence on nature. In one photograph, a smattering of pink shrimp lie fetus-like across a clinically white kitchen sink. In another, taken at Reykjavik's Blue Lagoon, the tops of bodies are dots across the landscape, drifting in a cloud of steam rising from the water. Or is that haze from the industrial facility, just visible in the background, spewing clouds of smoke from a set of chimneys?
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