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Ostend International Photography Biennale 2023 : Jenny Ymker


Jenny Ymker at Fort Napoleon and Royal Park

Jenny Ymker travels the world, often with a suitcase in hand. Her work is not fundamentally feminine, but it breathes a feminine perspective. The ‘character’ depicted may seem lost, adrift in an indifferent environment, but the artist relies on her imagination to stay on course and transform her solitude into strength.

Gobelin Tapestry

The basis of her work is photography. She translates her photos into gobelin tapestries and thus takes her place in an ancient storytelling tradition, such as the Bayeux Tapestry or gobelins based on paintings by Rubens or other great artists. For the production of these tapestries, the artist collaborates with Roland Dekeukelaere from Flanders Tapestries in Wielsbeke, Belgium. Ymker says: “Textiles give depth to a representation. It is not so much the perspective depth of the representation, but rather a depth of the material itself. The fibrous structure of the thread adds its own depth to the colors and softens the sharp boundary between the space in which the viewer finds themselves and the surface of the wall tapestry.” In addition to these large-format gobelins, Jenny Ymker showcases photos in LED lightboxes, often the size of a shoebox – true viewing boxes – or transforms them into video.

Absurd Tales

“I want to evoke stories within the spectator. I worked in the healthcare field for some time, and there I realized that when someone is no longer able to tell a story, even a small one, the feeling of having meaning, the feeling of importance, slowly disappears. Stories shape our identity and define who we are. Telling stories is an essential part of our human condition, which is why it is so important to me.”
The individual in search in the vast world is a recurring theme in her work. This corresponds to the romantic movement where the feeling of the immensity of the world is a major theme – as in Caspar David Friedrich, for example. However, Ymker feels even more affinity with absurdism. She is not seeking unity with the grandeur of the world, but rather the constant dialogue between the lonely individual full of aspirations towards the rest of the world and this very world that surrounds him but ignores it. This tension pushes the efforts of the individual towards absurdity.

An Eternal Paradise

In all her works, she portrays herself. For her, this is logical, since the presence of someone else in this “world” she stages would be disturbing to her creativity. She is Adam and God at the same time: creator and first inhabitant of her own world. But rest assured – this world is not so lonely: for the staging and shooting, she collaborates with her husband Kees van de Ven.
“The photos are snapshots of a story, what happens before or after remains open.”
One thing is certain: Jenny Ymker’s images do not leave you indifferent. Turning her back to the viewer, she freezes. Overwhelmed by the environment, a memory or an unfulfilled desire. As a spectator, you get carried away by her emotion and get lost in her landscapes. The heightened romantic image of a man or a woman gazing at the horizon has not lost any of its power. Thoughts and dreams emerge. You feel and breathe with the main characters who are at the mercy of a grand natural environment. It’s as if everything is finally as it should have always been – in Jenny Ymker’s mind, everything falls into place.

International Photography Biennial, Ostend
September 16 – November 12, 2023

Jenny Ymker at Fort Napoleon
Vuurtorenweg 13, Ostend
Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm

Jenny Ymker at Royal Park
Koningin Astridlaan, Ostend
Permanently accessible to the public

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