Liliane Vertessen is one of the first Belgian artists to use their own body as an artistic medium. She builds installations around photographs of herself in varying roles. She might be a hooker, an innocent girl, a lady or a suicide. She does a balancing act between opposing extremes. Vulnerability and power, hardboiled and sweet, humiliation and worship.
During the early 70s, as a performer in a jazz group, Liliane Vertessen explores the provocative potential of self-portrayal on stage. This is the period when she begins to create self-portraits with a camera and a delay timer. The deceptive medium of photography provides her with the means to demonstrate and manipulate physical and sensual identity.
The black and white photographs are sometimes retouched with colour. Occasionally they are printed on enamel. She adds architectural elements to them: neon hightlights, draped materials, veils, fur, tulle, patent-leather, wooden sculptures, mirrors and marble. This allows them to grow into theatrical structures and prevents them from being locked away in a frame.
The early photographic work is generally charged with erotic overtones. They seem to be a romantic view of the world of prostitution. A neon tube is placed next to the perspex cabinet containing the photograph. The tube might be in the shape of an arrow or a line which flows the outline of the body. Sometimes works are spelled out, such as “Camp”, “Punk” and “Taboe”. Liliane Vertessen projects herself as the femme fatale. However the other extreme is also possible. In later work she shows herself as a saint, an angel, an innocent virgin. A certain mysterious ambiguity lies in the work of Vertessen: the provocative role play suggests a limitless exhibitionism. By playing these roles and hiding in a cliché of ‘The Woman’ she never really exposes herself and her actual identity remains elusive.
Liliane Vertessen (1952) studied photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Afterwards she went to Brussels to become Assistant Director. Her career has many highlights such as the double exhibition with Cindy Sherman at PCBK Hasselt in 1987, ‘Liliane Vertessen and Wim Delvoye’ at S.M.A.K. in Ghent in 1989, ‘Seven crimes one case’ at PMMK in Ostend in 1992, ‘David Bowie and me’ at Studio Propaganda in Antwerp in 1999 and ‘Oxygen & Electricity’ at the Cultuurcentrum in Hasselt in 2012. Her work is included in major collections such as the MUHKA Antwerp, the PMMK Ostend, the Flemish Parliament and Belfius Art Collection.
From Broodthaers to Braeckman – Photography in the Visual Arts in Belgium
6 oct 2016 - 5 feb 2017
M HKA, Antwerp
DE-GENERATIES. Elias et ses compagnons de routes. 80 artistes.
Curated by Willem Elias & Sven Vanderstichelen
11 nov 2016 - 11 dec 2016
De Markten, Brussels
Galerie Zwart Huis, Knokke, Belgium
From Broodthaers to Braeckman – Photography in the Visual Arts in Belgium, M HKA, Antwerp
MM Lola, 200 x 280 cm, 1983