The exhibition of works by Valentina Milosevic at 4bidgallery titled „Rehearsal“ literally came out of the blue. However, the very project is a continuation of a topic that has been occupying Valentina’s mind since her art residency in Belgium in 2016 within Glo’Art Center where she produced a series of photographs named “In A Doll’s House” inspired by a three-act play in prose written by Henrik Ibsen and a leading female character Nora. „Rehearsal“ is a cyanotype photography exhibition curated by Irina Baldini as part of the new “B.base: a body based space” program conceived by 4bidgallery in Amsterdam.
Ibsen’s Nora is beautiful “like a doll,” she is treated by her husband and father as such and lives a life as a passive character until the moment when she realizes that her life is very little her own but rather a construct of societal norms and expectations of others. At that point, Nora – once a thing, a status symbol of a wife and mother with little personality of her own – becomes a revolutionary character of her time as she decides to break away from this role and leaves her husband and children. Think this theme belongs to a bygone era? The young Serbian female artist hardly thinks so. As a mainly figurative artist, Valentina has always been interested in the representation of the human body, emotions, femininity and fragile nature of a woman. On a more intimate level, her study of human beings is actually her own introspection. This time she turns her gaze toward the artificial representation of human beings – the dolls – urging us to rethink the paradigm that equates dolls with real women.
„As an artist, I’ve worked with many mediums in order to master them and get acquainted with the special effects and moods they impose, although my focus always stays on one particular form of graphic expression – drawing, and line as its essential element. Ever since my student days, drawing has been my primary artistic statement, my favorite form of expression, a language of a very special kind and value. I consider it as the first thought. An idea. A mental fact,“ says Valentina. At the moment, Valentina Milosevic is taking part in a residency program within OT301 and 4bidgallery where she is being introduced to a new photographic and printmaking technique – cyanotype. The cyanotype (from the Greek cyan, or “dark-blue impression”), also known as ferroprussiate or blueprint, is a photographic printing process that produces a blue-and-white image. A distinctive blue tonality of cyanotypes evokes nostalgic and melancholic feelings while the simplicity of them stimulates conceptual thinking. As a doll-related topic still holds Valentina’s interest, she decided to produce a print series of photographs for this project – originally not published test prints from the previous one – giving them a new life with a blue melancholic mood achieved by cyanotype process, underlining the idea of the transience of female physical beauty and calling attention to our obsession with ideal body and our preoccupation with eternal youth and beauty.
Valentina shoots her dolls in extreme close-ups focusing on details such as their eyes, eyelashes, nails, hands and breasts, pointing to today’s representation of women in the media, which often reduces women to the sum of their body parts. However, we can notice subtle traces of damage, like eyelashes that almost fell off, nail polish that peeled off, etc. and these should be interpreted as the commentary on an ideal of female beauty and overall beauty industry. The mood of nostalgia and longing created by the dominant blue color of cyanotype supports the idea of the ephemerality of physical beauty, but unlike the expected, Valentina invites us to experience the pleasure of that same ephemerality through her work. By giving prominence to these imperfections on an otherwise perfected model of the female body, Valentina at the same time ridicules today’s beauty standards of consumer culture and humanize her dolls. As our consumer society is making women more artificial and thing-like, Valentina is making her dolls more human-like thereby indicating that we live in a distorted image of reality that is constructed by false needs and desires and where persons eventually become things and things become persons.
The exhibition opening will take place tonight, February 8, at 19h at 4bidgallery, Overtoom 301, Amsterdam, NL.
Image Courtesy Valentina Milosevic