By skillfully intertwining his models, their reflection and the viewer via mirrored gazes, Fabrice Samyn plays a complex game with our perception. Samyn, born in Brussels in 1981, is a conceptual and interdisciplinary artist who is firmly rooted in the tradition of European painting – he grew up in Flanders, where the paintings of a Jan van Eyck or a Hugo van der Goes are among his early and lasting memories. In painting, the mirror is also a vanitas motif. It stands for the transience of life, beauty and youth. At the same time, its reflective surface is an indispensable tool in the painter’s workshop, especially when they wish to depict themselves. The earliest man-made mirrors were still made of polished stone and metal. In 15th-century Flanders, the convex glass mirror covered with silver foil appeared, an improved mirror which can now encompass entire rooms.
The mirror can thus remind us of the transience of what is shown and of the viewers themselves, but it can also visually expand the pictorial space and thus make the composition more complex and ambiguous. Since we can only ever be attentive to one part of a painting, a painted mirror in the pictorial space induces us to jump back and forth between two levels; there is no single valid way of looking at it.
Fabrice Samyn, who lives and works in his native Brussels once more, after stints at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts and the San Francisco Art Institute, can also be seen in this tradition.