The word exotic comes from the Greek exotikos, “foreign,” which in turn comes from the prefix exo, meaning “outside."
Aglaé Bassens is a still life painter whose work about presence and absence is inspired by her uprooted upbringing and her experiences as a foreigner or outsider. Having lived in Belgium, Sweden, England, Turkey and now in America, Bassens’ paintings reflect on how everyday objects and images can look strange from unusual perspectives, both literally and culturally. Views are skewed, things are seen from behind glass, paintings masquerade as wallpaper, things are not as they first appear: even the ordinary can be fascinating when presented in a new context.
In Surface Tension, Bassens returns to the motif of the palm tree which has inspired her for some time. Symbolic of exoticism and travel, but also overused and generic, they perform as a happy/sad motif that celebrates the sameness and difference as each tree becomes interchangeable for another.
Repeated over everything from sofas to wallpaper and shirts, the palm trees lose their exoticism and become a mantra to banality. Despite the cheerful palette of the paintings, the sofas remain empty, the interiors unpopulated, and the shirts hang unworn and loose.
Under the guise of paper, fabric or crochet, the shape-shifting palm trees become at once images and objects, and ultimately celebrate the transformative nature of paint. This playful back and forth between materiality and image throughout the exhibition offers a visual reprieve from the underlying tension between the melancholy, faded feel of the paintings, and the relentless, manufactured cheerfulness of palm trees as a motif.
Aglaé Bassens (b. 1986, Belgium) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Solo exhibitions include Surface Tension (Forthcoming, 2018) at NARS Foundation, Brooklyn and Front Parting, Cabin Gallery London (2016). Recent group shows include HEADS, The Java Project, Brooklyn (2017), Contemporary British Painting Prize, London (2016), Biennial Of Painting: The Painter’s Touch, Museum of Deinze, Belgium (2014), PAPER, Saatchi Gallery, London (2013) and Jerwood Drawing Prize, London (2012). Her work is featured in New American Paintings No 134 Northeast Issue, and in 100 Painters of Tomorrowpublished by Thames and Hudson (2014). She has a BA in Fine Art from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University (2007) and an MFA in Fine Art Painting from the Slade School of Fine Art, London (2011).