As enigmatic as the work she produces, Viviane Sassen has an enviable ability to maintain her distinctive visual style, and also seamlessly take her work to new places. This is never more apparent than in her latest publication, Roxane II, in which the Dutch photographer, whose work effortlessly straddles art and fashion, continues to collaborate with her muse (whose name she gives to the book). There are similarities with the previous work (published in 2012, also by Oodee) – namely the wonderfully strange poses Roxane adopts – but in Roxane II Sassen goes further, exploring her relationship with the model in new ways.
In the follow-up we are treated to even more in the way of unusual and mesmerising poses, yet with the addition of coloured paint, applied on occasion to naked flesh, and also to the prints themselves. It is not the first time Sassen has made interventions onto her prints, she did this before in Umbra (Latin for ‘shadow’). Here though, paint becomes a character in its own right. Shadow again plays a part, used as a way to put the artist in the picture. There are two protagonists in Roxane II – Sassen and her muse – with the artist very much part of the images. We sense her presence in the shadows and in the traces of paint left behind. The characters are inextricably linked, if not physically, then metaphorically and emotionally. Each performs for the camera either in front of it or behind it, and what results is a series of playful yet tender images.
As with all of her work, Sassen’s bold treatment of colour, light, shadow and form packs a powerful punch, and yet the images in Roxane II, far from revealing her process, paradoxically serve to mystify even more. Sassen and her work seem known, to us yet remain unknowable at the same time. But there is great delight in the tease, which Sassen does so well, and illusion, visual trickery and abstraction lie at the heart of her work. By deftly playing around with what’s seen and not seen, Sassen subverts our expectations, obscuring and revealing in equal measure. It’s easy to get caught up with the seriousness of photography, but Sassen, employing her distinctive playful approach, once again reminds us that it’s ok to have fun too.
Roxane II, published by Oodee, will be available in May, 2017. It is available to pre-order now.