People say I'm different, a solo-exhibition of recent work by Dutch artist Anya Janssen will open at TORCH gallery on Saturday the 21st of October between 5-7pm. Her most recent body of work describes her encounter with Christine Ayo, a young artist from Uganda. Ayo is aware of her position as the 'other' in the eyes of many. She uses this game of perception to her advantage and claims her striking appearance as her own property. Janssen is fascinated by Ayo's view of the world and the contrast with her own position as a human, artist and European citizen. She searches for a contact grounded in equivalence and gradually comes to the realization that connecting with someone means letting a fragment of their being become part of yours. You are far less autonomous than you often believe to be. A porous identity replaces a static “I” with a fluid “we”.
Anya has become well known for her very detailed and photo-realistic paintings offering a soft-focus view on an enchanted world. Now, she is leaving parts of the canvas in an unfinished, sketch-like state. The works celebrate the statuesque, nearly haughtily calibrated composure of this woman while they simultaneously touch upon a deep desire for empathy, for a transposition into the Other. Where Janssen previously had full control over her subject and image, she is now operating much more tentatively. She even felt the need to work in a new medium and will present a series of ceramic sculptures. Let me tell you about my family can be experience as the creation of a new self-image through the mirror of a approachable but ultimately distant Other.
“She crossed my path and I was instantly struck. Her vigilance and intelligence, her razor sharp view of my world, all evoked contradictory emotions. Sad- and happiness, wonder, bewilderment and anger, the wish to be solitary. The encounter left me disorientated, questioning my position in this relationship and in this world, as an artist, as a European, as a woman, as a friend.
Why did I want to understand her so badly? Because it felt like this would let me understand something about myself. Because I believe that I not as autonomous as I often think and that the people who you meet along the way become part of your being. And because something about her kept slipping my grasp, something I wanted to cherish and hold. The unraveling of a grand mystery.
I wanted to chart her like the first explorers filled out the empty plains of the world with the things they encountered. Trees, mountains, rivers, villages; life drawn in scale. I captured moments, glances, details that eventually would form the complete image. I made circumferential movements.
A hand, a smile, the shadow of a leg. How much is needed to really see someone? And to show them?
What you see is an exploration, the desire to find the path that would lead me to the essence, of her, of me, of us. A collection of scraps, a map without a legend. Fragments of something that is still moving, sometimes unfinished, but like life is unfinished, a relationship is unfinished. No path leads to the core, the middle of the map is not the middle of the land.
After every portrait a nervous tension: will she recognize herself? Have I not taken too much liberty? What can you appropriate?
And what did she see? Our meeting is 'meant to be' she said. And I was looking for the meaning of those words. It was an ambivalent way of searching. I wanted to know her, not expose her, rather cover her, make her stronger. I wanted her to see herself like I see her. The magnificence“ - Marjolijn van Heemstra.
Opening performance “LOK KEDE KOM A” by Christine Ayo.
Anya Janssen lives and works in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Her work is exhibited worldwide and is part of the collections of Museum Arnhem, DELA, ABN/AMRO, Graydon, Benetton, Diesel, Delta Loyd/Ohra and Menzis.