Portraiture as a genre has a very long history, and was often used to display or honor and memorize the physical appearance of a certain person, but more importantly one's emotional state. Furthermore, as the mirror of the soul, the portrait reflects an array of other indicators concerning the social status, race, gender, etc., suggesting that it always bears a certain responsibility of the photographer.
Ever since the early 1990s, Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra has been exploring the domains of portraiture and its ability to depict real-life by showing it promptly. Namely, by focusing on specific people and photographing them throughout the different stages in their lives, Dijkstra tends to accentuate the intriguing connection and exchange between the sitter, photographer, and spectator, as well as to speak about intimacy and trust.
To revisit the three-decades-long practice of Rineke Dijkstra, Marian Goodman Gallery in London will host the artist’s first UK solo exhibition since 2010 that will include a new video-installation piece alongside the examples of works from her acclaimed photographic series.
Under the title Night Watching, a three-screen video installation by Rineke Dijkstra will feature fourteen diverse groups of people observing and speaking in front of large iconic painting The Night Watch (1642) by The Netherlands' most celebrated painter, Rembrandt.
Each group discussed the painting by sharing their visual impressions and investigating the circumstances under which the painting was produced. For instance, Japanese businessmen consider the painting’s potential for tourism, a group of young artists debate about Rembrandt’s perception of his own masterpiece, while a group of Dutch schoolgirls speaks whether Rembrandt gave the only woman in the painting the image of his wife Saskia. The scenes in the video are edited in a way to underline an array of interpretations by the viewers.
Night Watching was filmed in the Rijksmuseum's Gallery of Honour for six evenings after closing time. The participants were positioned directly in front of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch so that they can establish a personal and close encounter with this masterpiece. The video was exhibited at the Rijksmuseum in a room opposite to The Night Watch.
It is worth mentioning that in 2009 Rineke Dijkstra explored a similar subject in her video installation titled I See a Woman Crying (Weeping Woman) which features British schoolchildren observing and discussing Picasso’s painting The Weeping Woman (1937) at Tate Liverpool.
Next to the mentioned video installation, the installment will include six majestic works from the ongoing Family Portraits series, which was started by Dijkstra as a series of private commissions in 2012; the subjects are young siblings depicted in their family homes without being escorted by their parents.
The series made in the period between 2008 and 2014 titled Emma, Lucy, Cecile, (Three Sisters) will be also presented. The artist took shots of three sisters in Amsterdam once a year for seven years, and the duration of the project was determined by the age interval between each of the sisters.
The visitors will also have a chance to see a series of five photographs entitled Chen and Efrat made between 1999 and 2005. Captured over six years, the portraits of the Israeli twins show their transformation from childhood, through puberty, to adulthood.
Although the upcoming exhibition is not a retrospective, it will certainly round the artistic practice of Rineke Dijkstra and will point out the specificity of her approach to the portrait.
Rineke Dijkstra will be on view at Marian Goodman Gallery in London from 12 March until 25 April 2020.
Featured image: Rineke Dijkstra - Night Watching, 2019. 3-channel HD video installation, with sound; 35 min. looped. Copyright Rineke Dijkstra, Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery New York, Paris and London.