Ria Vanden Eynde: Changing World
September 6 - 27, 2018
Curated by Sabrina Puppin
By MARK BLOCH, September, 2018
Ria Vanden Eynde is a socially engaged artist who plucks her content almost like revenge from the news media’s coverage of societal policies, phenomena and systems that merge religion, capitalism and globalism with discriminatory and violent results. Vanden Eynde then visually processes this information, skillfully combining paint and her astute personal viewpoint to directly confront the problem: a constant bombardment of media images of women that she is forced to experience daily in her native Europe as well as here in the USA where she is temporarily working.
Her exhibition “Changing World,” curated by Dr. Sabrina Puppin at The Cluster Gallery, is a solo show of works by the Belgian painter that were created during her current residency at The Cluster Art Studios in Brooklyn. Vanden Eynde also completed a residency in 2014 at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. She is an active collaborator in social media circles with close ties to many US artists.
Via a unique brand of potent visual journalism all her own, Vanden Eynde focuses anger and frustration from the unjust distribution of power in the world and channels it through a skillful figurative vocabulary to create cutting edge social critique. She tackles potentially fixed and oversimplified motifs such as a grafitti-ed border wall, a torch-less Statue of Liberty and the jarring but paralyzing immigrant-targeted violence that have become all-too-familiar scenes, battling the mind-numbing despair with her reflective Continental sensibility and painting acumen that morphs the tortuous tedium into provocative rhetorical devices capable of inspiring profound emotion and bringing to the surface a disquieting confusion.
“Changing World” stakes out Vanden Eynde's feminist position in the world while skewering the status quo, here and abroad, recycling images sourced from the media and the web, using social realist strategies to draw attention to the condition of refugees and migrants, forcing us to look at the suffering of others, become part of it and accountable for it and calling into question the policies that cause this suffering. Every brush stroke is a cry for help in the form of needed change that might create societal evolution.
In the works at The Cluster Gallery, Ria Vanden Eynde uses water-based oil paint to provide a social critique of the immigration phenomenon and of the way receiving countries handle displaced people. She has created a visual record of what is going on, more real than what is presented in straight media images. “I believe that art can expose, more radically than in the day-to-day life, the human values that are at stake,” she said.
Ria Vanden Eynde has a MA in Applied Ethics, a MA and Ph.D. in mathematics, but turned her focus to social studies and feminism and then began to record social injustices after studying figurative painting at SLAC Art School in Leuven, Belgium.
Vanden Eynde also showed me her powerful 2017 Feminist series OBJECT!, poster-like paintings of women and girls inspired by images and stories found on the web and in written media, portraying “real” females as they are living everyday sexism, inequality, gender based violence. “Suggesting women must be sexual in order to even be seen, in images that so often objectify us, manipulate us and reduce us to our bodies.” Ria created a limited edition of postcards of each painting as “pin-up” postcards, to be distributed freely worldwide to feminist organizations, women’s artists organizations, gender studies departments, feminist art galleries, NGO’s, the UN and other venues and organizations.
The striking images depict: women in the Syrian war, the Nigerian girls abducted by BOKO HARAM, everyday domestic violence depicted as a pandemic, the murder of Farkhunda, a young woman in Kabul who was brutally murdered after calling out a merchant selling amulets at a religious site, the Mexican protests ‘Ni Una Más,’against violence against women in Juarez and the European refugee crisis of 2015 where thousands of migrants, expecially women and children, drowned trying to reach Europe in rubber boats, the veiling of women, the trashing of the Affordable Care Act in favor of “Trump-care,” and child brides—in a painting based on a photo by Mohammed Salem, with permission painstakingly acquired from Reuters as an experiment in legal appropriation. Finally, her image of women and children refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea bridges a gap between the OBJECT! series, created in Belgium, and the new works on canvas painted in Brooklyn.
On a lighter note, Vanden Eynde also shows off her visual chops with tiny paintings of local scenes in New York such as one of the nearby Gowanus canal that is perhaps reminiscent of her indigenous Belgium. She also created a wire rendition of the Statue of Liberty, again sans flame, like the painting with collage elements that hangs across the room, that combines acerbic seriousness with a vacationer's playfulness. But make no mistake about it: Ria Vanden Eynde is a mature, formidable painter with a piercing eye and her expository work deserves attention. WM
Mark Bloch is a writer, performer, videographer and multi-media artist living in Manhattan. In 1978, this native Ohioan founded the Post(al) Art Network a.k.a. PAN. NYU's Downtown Collection now houses an archive of many of Bloch's papers including a vast collection of mail art and related ephemera. For three decades Bloch has done performance art in the USA and internationally. In addition to his work as a writer and fine artist, he has also worked as a graphic designer for ABCNews.com, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and elsewhere. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and PO Box 1500 NYC 10009.
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