DOLLY BING BING & ILKE COP AT TATJANA PIETERS
© Courtesy of Tatjana Pieters
Tatjana Pieters Gallery presents two simultaneous solo shows: Core of Bambi by Dolly Bing Bing and Prolific by Ilke Cop. As different as the practices of Dolly Bing Bing and Ilke Cop may seem at first glance, there are also many points of overlap: the work of both artists shares a performative aspect, themes of identity, feminism and sexuality, as well as the complex relationship between personal and political themes. There are also similarities to be found in their bold self-representation, daring use of colour and expressive visual language.
Dolly Bing Bing
Core of Bambi
Dolly Bing Bing is the alter ego of Elisabeth Van Dam (b. 1986). She lives and works in Belgium and Brazil. Dolly describes herself as a Gesamtkunstwerk: she makes pop music, sings, dances and performs, is a doctor of philosophy, a mother and a widow. It is from these numerous influences and experiences that she derives her visual work, which can be viewed as a potent synthesis of her approach to life.
Dolly’s handcrafted clay sculptures are built up around steel structures. She works deliberately, in a long, physically challenging process of pushing, feeling and moulding. Though the unusual forms that arise from this process are partly anthropomorphic, they also have an alienating quality, with disparate allusions ranging from Disney to well-known figures from art history.
Just as Dolly Bing Bing trains her own body like a machine, the boundary between human and machine in her sculptures is blurred. The visceral, clay look of their early stages ends up being covered with high-tech, glossy finishes and colours. This aesthetic, reminiscent of cars, motorcycles or products from the world of sports, reinforces her sculptures’ biomechanical character. The shiny shield of these finishing materials conceals the vulnerability behind the muscles: an invincible machine on the outside, a fragile Bambi on the inside. The result is a unique visual language, though influences from Jeff Koons, H.R. Giger, manga and rococo are visible.
Take the artist's Neo Nike, for example, a contemporary interpretation of the Nike of Samothrace: radical, futuristic and sexually assertive, she flirts with the aesthetic of so-called performance gear.
Monster Mother is an extremely muscular, powerful body that seems to be giving birth to a baby. It was created after the birth of Dolly's daughter and symbolises both the alienating experience of childbirth and the ur-moment that is birth. “Philosophy is often concerned with death, but rarely with birth. With this sculpture I wanted to represent primal creative power from a female perspective."
Bambi's Heart is a 3D print and video based on an immense clay sculpture. Made following the death of Dolly's husband, the sculpture consists of three figures: one that seems to symbolise death, a rococo-like form that represents energy and fertility – with a flower, pearls, sea foam and shell shapes – and a third figure with a Bambi head that serves as a bridge between the other two. “After the death of my husband, I felt torn. Like Bambi, I had lost my innocence through a great loss. I wanted to reconnect with life, with positive energy ... and maybe get back in touch with the child in myself."
The colour pencil drawings from the series Yummy Dolls are the most recent works in this exhibition. Delicious, sexually powerful and manga-inspired, these images are fairy tale-like yet have a dark side to them. Under the banner of Alien Ware, a series of small, functional ceramic sculptures completes the Dolly universe: a treasure trove of peculiar tools with shapes inspired by reproductive organs, caves and fossils.
The intimate sculpting process and the deep connection between Dolly’s life, body and work was captured in her studio by photographer Wannes Cré. In the three parts of the Core of Bambi series, Dolly’s body becomes almost intertwined with the ‘naked’ clay of her sculptures. This effect is further emphasised by the earth and skin tones that merge into one another. Cré succeeds in portraying Dolly’s strength and her vulnerability at the same time. His astute lighting choices give the artist’s studio an almost transcendent look, while certain poses refer subtly to the canon of sculpture.
Wannes Cré also created the music video Readiness is All (ft. Stef Kamil Carlens), which is shown here in premiere. The scenography for this clip is the work of Neoza Goffin, a young artist with whom Dolly feels an affinity. Goffin also presents an installation here with photographs. In her colourful work, she explores the meaning and transformative potential of spirituality.
Ilke Cop (b. 1988) lives and works in Belgium. In her work, she focuses on the position of the female artist and questions the mechanisms behind privilege and representation. In this exhibition Cop presents two related series, Prolific and Bountiful.
Prolific, also the title of the exhibition, is a term used commonly in the art world in reference to (often male) artists whose creative output is high. Bountiful likewise refers to abundance and has certain biblical and colonial connotations. The term has historically been used to refer to bountiful harvests or soils.
The well-chosen titles of these series in themselves give us an insight into Cop's work. She uses words and images strategically in her exploration of certain issues. A multitude of personal and universal visual references come together on the canvases, allowing the viewer to compose their own narrative. Cop appropriates techniques and compositions that are characteristic of the portraits of rulers. For example, she paints herself in theatrical settings, playing with the convention of draped fabrics. This knowingness serves to break the fourth wall and establish a more direct mode of communication. Cop looks out at us with confidence. She has an air of invincibility and at the same time a certain sensuality, often dressed in her own creations – remnants of her career as a fashion designer. By depicting herself so centrally in her work, she raises questions about authorship and representation: can the artist and the muse be one?
The meticulous rendering of fabrics, the use of colour and the placement of the elements in a fictitious landscape allude to pre-Renaissance painting, in which a symbolic representation was more important than a realistic one. In the background, we see landscapes with echoes of the Flemish Primitives and Magritte, unmistakably Belgian with the typical church buildings. “I cannot deny that I am a white, privileged woman, born in rich Flanders. I want to manifest myself as an artist and at the same time question those privileges. I want to talk about feminism, about colonialism, about gender from my specific position ... The question is always: how can I question a situation without robbing another of their voice?"
The luxurious, often exotic fabrics and objects depicted in Prolific and Bountiful are the kind of material things that surround us as modern, wealthy people. Their decorative function was already being mined as a status symbol in traditional still lifes. Here it is not hard to see a parallel with the historical position of the feminine and the exotic. The lemon and chocolate are both imports, made available by a dark colonial past. The artist thus questions her own privileged position and the benefits she derives from it.
- Tim Vanheers