THE DELAYED ENCOUNTER:¬†‘Serene tranquillity with a hint of colour’

“In a time of increasing contrasts, confrontations and a constant stream of information due to being constantly online, the free work by Thea van den Heuvel entitled ‘The delayed encounter’ is a breath of fresh air. Her photos from this series exude a serene tranquillity which makes viewers immediately realise that the chaos of daily life can be kept at a distance and that smartphones can be turned off.

By using a multitude of grey tints, the reality is abstracted, reduced to geometric surfaces. The use of grey tints is unusual. A lot of photographers are attracted to the idea of a geometric abstraction of reality, often achieved by increasing contrasts in colour or black and white and by taking details out of their context. Proponents in the field of architectural photography are Judith Turner and Karl Lagerfeld. Judith Turner became world famous in the Nineteen Eighties with her series of photos entitled ‘Five architects’ (1), in which, for the first time for many years, architectural photography focused on portraying a number of sections of buildings. She searched for geometric compositions in built environments in which it was not essential for the context to be immediately recognisable. In his architecture photography Karl Lagerfeld zooms in on the detail and makes the contrasts even starker (2). In his work it is almost impossible to ascertain the reality used for the photo.

Thea van den Heuvel moves in the other direction in this free work. She works in colour, but contrasts are completely absent. The built environment becomes a multitude of cold and warm grey tints positioned close together. Sometimes they can only be distinguished from each other by a hint of colour. The geometric abstraction which is achieved becomes completely separated from the subject being photographed without the photographed reality being denied. Anyone who looks closely will see unfinished plasterboard walls which still bear the builder’s pencil drawings. Despite that, this reality does not dominate. The not quite touching spatial surfaces in all kinds of grey tints keep the viewer fascinated and make them forget reality. All this gives the photographed subject a certain tranquillity and vulnerability.

When printing and presenting the photos Thea van den Heuvel added an extra dimension. The photos were printed on completely matt paper, pasted up in descending order without any protective film. The matt quality of the paper gives the viewer a sudden sense of excitement. The grey tints turn velvety and an urge to touch and stroke the photo has to be suppressed. Given that there is no protective film, touching the work would tarnish it, the serene tranquillity would be broken, the chaos of daily life would return and smartphones would again start calling us”.

Marc Heesterbeek, Amsterdam, 1. ‘Five Architects’, Judith Turner, Rizolli 1980, 2. ‘Abstract Architecture’, Karl Lagerfeld, Steidl 2008