Henrik Purienne talks us through his new book Jeux de Peau, which is replete with sensual portraits of his friends and models
Everything changed for photographer Henrik Purienne when he moved to Cape Town from the small, dusty mountain town of Worcester in South Africa. There in the capital city he discovered Kloofhill, a run-down apartment complex at the foot of Table Mountain, which he quickly became obsessed with furnishing in order to create harmony between his mind and the environment – and ultimately to inspire creative possibilities.
You see Purienne suffers from what he calls AIS (Aesthetic Irritability Syndrome), which requires him to curate his physical environment into a realm to accomodate the act of art-making. “AIS inadvertently reveals the mind and mood behind an object or a space. If my space is stimulating, my mind is stimulated,” Purienne tells AnOther from Jeux de Peau, his California home set in the hills just above Beachwood Canyon.
Purienne’s Los Angeles home is the inspiration for the luscious new book, Jeux de Peau (IDEA). Replete with sensual portraits of his friends and models wearing little more than their glistening flesh, Purienne gives us an intimate tour of life at Jeux de Peau, where the interiors, furniture, and design objects are as carefully considered as the photographs themselves. Here, Pureinne speaks the power of design to transform our experience of life and the way photography can capture moments as both document and metaphor.
“Kloofhill has an environment reminiscent of the end chapters of Ayn Rand’s Anthem: unassuming and neglected yet dangerously exciting with just the right amount of character, light, and mood. There’s really a sense of freedom living in a small simple space. It curates itself. A bed. A floor lamp. Some books. A desk. A couple of Sacco chairs and a couple bottles of wine on the floor.
“Years later the image of sunlight filtering through trees onto the interior walls and bright clouds moving across the mountain passing in front of the terrace stays with me. If I was more wise and less ambitious, which is kind of the same thing, I would have stayed a while longer.
“I moved to LA permanently about five years ago to live with my girlfriend at the time. The house elegantly combines the worlds of 1930s French country estate with 1980s mirror-wall porn set. It has a great flow from the entrance through the living room onto a vast terrace with an expansive view of the city across the pool. It’s ideally situated on a hill with no immediate neighbours. Privacy remains the ultimate luxury.
“The light moves from the bedrooms on the east side of the house across the pool and terrace to the sunroom on the west side. It filters through leaves and bounces off mirrors, creating magical pockets of light and shadow. Light is one of the key factors of mood and often activates the memory of decisive moments of experience.
“I am firstly a documentary photographer. I capture life: the subjects and objects within my environment and interior space as a metaphor. I love documenting real moments with friends. Most often it is a case of all elements lining up to the point where I simply have to pick up my camera.
“The magic of design lies in its ability to transform your mood by association with a corresponding philosophy. The ability of photography to capture a time or place, or to contract a lie or fantasy, has always held an almost mystical appeal to me. Most of my books are nothing more than scrapbooks of memories and notes, a reference for existence – nothing more, but nonetheless haunting.”
Jeux de Peau will launch on the weekend of November 9, 2019 with a signing by Purienne at Dover Street Market Los Angeles.