The work of young Belgian photographer Pauline Miko, currently an artist in residence at MAD in situ, has matured considerably since the last time we took a good look at it. Exploring notions of childhood, womanhood and the relationship between photography and memory, Pauline’s work threads a fine line between representing both the conscious and subconscious sides of her increasingly-distinctive visual narrative, one that is defined by a certain fragility, lending her photographs a very pure, honest even, sensibility. On the eve of her first-ever gallery show opening tomorrow at Brussels’ Rossi Contemporary – where she’ll be showing a body of work made especially for the gallery’s project space La Piazza – we caught up by mail with the talent-on-the-rise to talk medium, memory and mentors.
What were your original ideas and intentions at the start of working on this new series?
La Piazza of Gallery Rossi Contemporary in the Rivoli Building is a project space intended to present the works of graduating Art School students and other young talents. Francesco Rossi (Rossi Contemporary) got to know my work through a collaboration with Thierry Vandenbussche (founder of Stilll Gallery and Outlandish in Antwerp) at KASK School of Arts in Ghent and asked me to create an in situ piece for the vitrines of la Piazza. I decided to work on the idea of movement and passage in the gallery space. Since the Rivoli Building is composed of a dozen galeries (Galerie Xavier Hufkens, JAP, Hopstreet Gallery, Galerie Intuiti…) as well as shops and a hairdresser, many people get to cross the hallway everyday. I wanted to explore the fourth dimension of images: time. Olivia, Portrait of a Woman in Four Sequences is an installation of four pictures meant to be seen as a dialogue between the viewer and the images themselves. An interaction is created by the moving eyes of the woman depicted in the photographs, which suggests a simple question: who’s looking at who? Are we, viewers, viewed as well?
What would you say was its starting point?
This exhibition is my first gallery show and I got very interested by the idea of creating a piece for the space itself, instead of simply presenting my existing series. I sent several proposals to Francesco Rossi and Olivia was his favorite one because of the mysterious dimension in this work, as well as its quiet intensity.
Is there something very specific you’re hoping the series will express/communicate?
I want the viewer to feel looked at, transfixed by the photographs. I want them to feel followed by the gaze of Olivia.
Can you talk to us about your approach in general?
My photographic work mainly navigates through three themes: childhood, womanhood and the link between photography and memory. I’m also very interested in the photographic medium itself. By burying film negatives and boxes containing photographic prints underground, I tend to analyse the destructive affects of time on photography (and therefore linking these destructions to our ability to remember through Photography). See series: Buried Negatives and A Projet For Later.
How would you say this series fits it with your wider body of work?
Olivia, Portrait of a Woman in Four Sequences seems to be part of the same thinking process initiated in my ongoing series In Statu Nascendi (latin for in the state of being born), an introspective essay on femininity and identity. Serendipitously collected photographs from my own archives communicate together to draw the lines of a tale about womanhood in which elements become female of imagined parts of bodies and where gestures and tones invoke feminineness, fragility and strength. A certain mystery is as well present in these photographs, like a heavy veil: all is insinuated, no faces are shown, everything is in movement, perpetually changing, moving from one state to another. Every of these images is a piece of a more global picture, a kind of self portrait: a floating ensemble, a fragmented image of a woman in the becoming and a child in the leaving.
Can you talk to us about how you see your own work? How would you describe it?
I see my photographic work as an everlasting and endless quest: I tend to explain everything through images. My pictures reflect my line of thoughts and, with an other wordiness, translate introspective reasonings.
What is your preferred medium for exhibiting your work? Book? Solo show? Group exhibition?
I’m busy working on my first book (A Project For Later, to be published in June 2015) with a graphic designer from Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem (Carolin Wolewinski (http://wolewinski.com/). I like books because they are a personal journey through someone’s work, where exhibitions are often lacunal, like isolated happenings.
Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your work?
My mentor at KASK School of Arts, Dirk Braeckman is playing a distant but important role in my ongoing photographic researches.
Pauline Miko – Olivia, Portrait of a Woman in Four Sequences
From 19th March until 16th May
Gallery Rossi Contemporary, Brusselsrossicontemporary.be paulinemiko.com