The first major exhibition devoted to the Dutch artist duo Scheltens & Abbenes is on view at FOAM until June 5. Entitled Zeen, the retrospective covers their 18-year-long collaboration and brings together both commissioned work and personal projects, which reveal their obsession with composition and forms.
Still life as a means of transfiguration
For over 18 years, the duo Scheltens & Abbenes have explored modalities of object representation: clothes, beauty products, furnishings. How does one account for their intrinsic beauty? Motivated by the desire for sublimation and transfiguration, they create their images, the artists explain, following a lengthy preliminary analysis of their objects, be it folds, recesses, materials, lighting, depth….
This scrupulous study then translates in their studio into a sort of juggling act: the search for a point of view, for an angle, a way of framing and assembling, for a mise-en-scène that will best convey the identity of the photographed object. They describe their work in an interview in Art Ligue: “We both love arranging our ‘homemade’ compositions down to the slightest detail; we explore by moving around the set, relocating the objects, altering the assemblages, all in order to find the right balance.”
Between commissions and personal projects
The nature of the images resulting from this work is troubling: is it a photograph? a collage? a montage? From the workshop through to post-production, the labor involved does, after all, deal with the photographic medium and its capacity for revealing the essence. The aesthetic ambiguity, as well as the artists’ approach, has led them to collaborate with such brands as Hermès, Maison Martin Margiela, and COS.
These reflections are also pertinent to Scheltens & Abbenes’ personal work, which manages to stay clear of economic constraints. At FOAM, the duo thus expressed the desire to take part in the scenography—open windows, playing with the spaces and with the scale of the objects, use of diptychs, etc. This is a way for them to demonstrate their artistic range, rooted in the same creative obsession with lines, forms, materials, and essences.
By Sophie Puig
Scheltens & Abbenes "ZEEN"
Du 15 mars au 5 juin 2019
Foam Fotografiemuseum, Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS, Amsterdam