Awoiska van der Molen, N.480-18, 2017/2024
Awoiska van der Molen: The Humanness of Our Lonely Selves
Jun 22 – Oct 13, 2024
Huis Marseille
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In the summer of 2024 Huis Marseille will exhibit new work by the Dutch photographer Awoiska van der Molen (b. 1972 in Groningen). Later in her career she became well known primarily for her nature photos, but just after her graduation in 2003 Van der Molen in fact photographed the urban environment. Now, over twenty years later, she is once again showing us understated black and white photos of the built environment containing traces of human presence. This time she zooms in on illuminated windows in the evening darkness.

The contours of this new approach gradually emerged around 2015. ‘At a certain point I started to photograph landscapes, and when I did there was now and again a small house in the composition. At the time I had to slowly move away from the built environment. Then the reverse happened.’ Coming back from the wilderness, she migrated to small villages and looked at windows behind which people were living their lives.

[ . . . ]

You could say that the illuminated windows act as a screen between the photographer (or the viewer) and the world, between a psychological world inside and the external world of things. Initially there is the aesthetic, but then the solitary and the melancholic trickle through it. Looking through the window, you catch a hopeful glimpse of the life going on behind it, but you do not have any substantive contact with it. The windows are both a barrier to the longing for security and not just being like a distant view of it. At the same time, they represent the desire for closeness and being comfortable with distance. In that sense, the windows symbolize the existential loneliness which most of us have to relate to someday to a greater or lesser degree.

Van der Molen’s photographs can be interpreted as psychological spaces in which the photographer is searching for something and does not know what it is until afterwards. The nature photos, for instance, black, grey and white, made between 2009 and 2021, are more than a registration of the physical characteristics of a landscape. During her solitary wanderings in remote natural areas, Van der Molen tries to penetrate to the essence of a spot. Experiencing the return to the core of our existence – the profound sustained engagement with the earth, its cyclical rythym, the cosmos we are part of – is what Van der Molen tries to visualize in these photographs. A selection of these nature photos will be on show in the basement of Huis Marseille.

Van der Molen’s oeuvre is like a long story that comes deep from within herself. ‘I do not photograph until all the static has disappeared and there is no longer any awareness of time. At the moment that you’re even no longer preoccupied with yourself. A point zero.’ This layer of meaning is not actually visible in the photographic image, but is probably palpable for many.

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