ARNO NOLLEN - Regarde
Gerard Fieret and Arno Nollen
Marvelli Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs by Dutch artists Arno Nollen and Gerard Fieret. The exhibition will feature works by Fieret and Nollen installed in a continuous, intense dialogue.
Gerard (Gerrit Petrus) Fieret (The Hague 1924, The Netherlands) is one of those rare artists for whom life and work practically coincide. His oeuvre is a direct outcome of his experience of life as ‘kaleidoscopic totality’. The multiplicity and passion of this experience is also expressed in a multi-faceted artistic practice. In addition to being a photographer, Fieret also writes poetry and draws. He himself makes no distinctionsamong these three disciplines; he considers them all as branches of one stream that “speaking in the metaphorical sense, are in turn mother to one another’.
Fieret, trained as a visual artist at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague, is self-taught as a photographer. He bought his first camera, a second-hand Praktiflex, in the late 1950s. Gripped by the immediacy of the medium, he gave up his dealing in ethnographica (he had previously also been a book dealer, stained glass painter and drawn portraits), and began a voyage of discovery through photographic procedures, techniques and approaches. He photographed everything which he came across on the street, did self-portraits, and for some time occupied himself with theatre photography. A great deal of his work was created in his studio, where he photographed models and girlfriends, in often cluttered photographs which possess unmistakable sensuality and intimacy.
Fieret pays little attention to trends and styles (through his whole life he has continued to work with ‘old-fashioned’ cameras), and wants nothing to do with the rules of photographic art. His photographs are full of strong contrasts, spots of light, clumsy dark patches and blur from camera movement. In one of the few interviews he ever permitted, he said of his manner of working, “I have my own laws. I want it all. There are no unsuccessful photos.” He prefers to sign his photographs on the picture with a thick black felt pen or with his copyright stamp. Like the inevitable creases, spots and scratches (for a long time he rinsed his photographs under the shower in the bathroom), these are elements that reinforce the driven, passionate character of his work.
From under bushy eyebrows, from behind a veil of bangs, above a dreamy smile, between two little-girly tails of hair on each side of her head, or next to an ear-ringed ear: in Arno Nollen’s (Ede 1964, The Netherlands) book Regarde (2001) a pair of eyes are always looking at you with a fresh, now and then somewhat empty, sometimes all too wise gaze of a teenage girl. He encounters them on the street, and asks if he may photograph them. He records them from every angle, first outdoors, later generally indoors, in his studio in Amsterdam, in a foreign hotel room, or in the fitting room of a clothing store. Moving around them, the camera scans face and body in an increasingly uninhibited game of looking and being looked at.
Nollen the artist places the erotic fascination of Nollen the man in a compelling stylistic framework. It is not the individual photos that are important for him, but the sequence, and the method of repetition and shifting of color, form and light with which he can construct a story – or better said, ‘a melody’. The portraits recur regularly, like a keynote: sometimes vulnerable, sometimes provocative, and often poignantly natural. He also adds desolate street scenes that create space and intensify the desire. One of his role-models is Michelangelo Antonioni. Like this filmmaker, Nollen permits the meaning to arise chiefly between the images, and the act is less important than the gaze. In exhibitions he supplements his photographs with short video fragments, thereby availing himself of minimal means in seeking the boundary between photography and film. For the group show Je t’aime... moi non plus (2002) he filmed a face over twenty seconds. A girl looks into the camera impassively, then turns away when touched by a hand, returns to the starting position, blinks, swallows slightly. Through the blur of motion the caress leaves streaks behind on the neck: a visual language we know from photography.