In the early 1970s Liliane Vertessen sings in a jazz group and discovers the provocative effect of self-portrayal on stage. During this period she experiments with making 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.
She stages tableaux vivants in which she stages herself in various settings: she dresses in romantic robes, lingerie, tiger suits or men's costumes. These private happenings are captured in photographs. Afterwards, analogue photographs are coloured in and assembled with objects (dresses, plush, fur, etc.) and neon. The self-portraits are often erotically charged and radiate a kitsch world of glitter and shine.
Liliane Vertessen's work is melancholic, authentic and poetic and displays similarities to painting: the mise-en-scène, the self-portrait as a subject, or the creative process taking place in the intimacy of the studio.
Liliane Vertessen's oeuvre conceals a mysterious ambiguity: the provocative role-playing suggests a boundless exhibitionism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Again and again she escapes in a role-play and hides in a cliché of 'The Woman': the vamp, the romper, the diva, the lady, the queen, the femme fatale, the whore, the innocent girl. Her real identity, however, remains elusive.
Liliane Vertessen (1952) studied photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. 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 Cultuurcentrum in Hasselt in 2012. This year, a retrospective ‘A Love Supreme: Liliane Vertessen’ was organised by the Museum of Photography in Charleroi. Her work is included in collections such as M HKA Antwerp, PMMK Ostend, the Flemish Parliament, the Museum of Photography Charleroi and Belfius Art Collection.