Dutch Artist Awoiska van der Molen’s Photographs Capture the Beauty of Solitude

Over the past few years, Dutch artist Awoiska van der Molen has garnered a reputation for her rigorously produced landscape photographs, winning numerous international photography prizes and a nomination for Paris Photo and Aperture Foundation’s “First Photobook” award. While a selection of these works was recently presented at 2015’s Unseen Photo Fair by Kristof De Clercq, fans of van der Molen can now see a larger presentation in the artist’s first-ever museum exhibition at Amsterdam’s Foam.

For van der Molen, the process of making each image is as important as the final print. She often spends up to three weeks of solitude in remote parts of the globe, patiently awaiting the perfect moment to capture a given landscape. “I only take the camera out of the bag when I recognize a climax in the circumstances that were already present in the air during my being there,” she explains of her practice. Indeed, each photograph (printed in a darkroom by the artist) imbues her subjects—atmospheric vistas and ethereal forests—with a sense of spirituality, transferring to the viewer a spark of van der Molen’s intensely personal relationship with the natural world.

With the locations of the landscapes unspecified (each image is titled with only a number), van der Molen’s images harbor a sense of mystery, as though the artist has discovered otherworldly realms. One of the most striking works in the show, #346-18 (2013), depicts a steep mountainside densely covered in vegetation, which cascades into total darkness at the bottom of the frame. The beauty of blackness is a recurring motif in many of the images: #212-7 (2012) captures a silhouette of a mountain at night, while #274-5 (2011) peers downward into the darkest, unknown depths of a forest. For van der Molen, light has the ability to reveal transcendental truths about existence: “Darkness contains, for me, the beginning and the end; in there lays the source of everything,” she explains. In a world of constant interaction and information overload, van der Molen’s photographs remind us that solitude can be a beautiful thing.

—Andrew Wagner

Blanco” is on view at FOAM, Amsterdam, Jan. 22–Apr. 3, 2016.

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