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Isabelle Van Zeijl’s Rebellion In Beauty

Isabelle Van Zeijl’s Rebellion In Beauty

Fine art photographer Isabelle Van Zeijl opens the sixth annual Mayfair Art Weekend with her largest solo photography exhibition to date, ‘The Camouflaged Beauty of Fashion,’ presented by the Cynthia Corbett Gallery. On view from 24th-30th June 2019 at the Royal Opera Arcade.


The pervading view within modern art circles is that aesthetics conceal an explicit depth that should challenge a politically turbulent world. Beauty is often shunned as being the antithesis of modern problems and therefore lacking any conceptual richness. Doing away with this myth is artist Isabelle Van Zeijl, who views beauty as the ultimate resistance to female oppression. Van Zeijl not only celebrates beauty but creates an ongoing dialogue about the ever changing perceptions and exploitations of female beauty, drawing inspiration from the likes of  the Renaissance to Instagram.

‘I Love Her’

On initial viewing, Van Zeijl’s self-portraits could be mistaken for early Renaissance paintings. They appear to parallel the old masters, especially the portraiture within the Flemish and Dutch movements. Vermeer’s most notable portraits, as well as the Golden Age painters, such as Rembrandt, are celebrated in the works. As both artist and subject, Van Zeijl adopts the role of both the noblewoman and the Dutch master painter. This aged effect is achieved after the initial on-set shots. Each image goes through a process of significant digital post production in which numerous filters and manipulations are added. The finished images are unplaceable in time, the paint looks dry and flaked, yet the flowers possess a polished and modern air. Van Zeilj’s uncanny editing style manages to connect the dichotomy between early portraiture and modern  glossy fashion magazines. 

‘Am II’

‘The Camouflaged Beauty of Fashion’ is split into two themes; the first, entitled ‘The One’ is inspired by the relationship between humanity and nature. As in her previous exhibition, Roman and Greek mythology is ripe in the images. Like Ovid’s Daphne fleeing from Apollo, the subjects appear to undergo a metamorphosis into the embodiments of nature. Flowers bloom from the figure, who, with an overwhelming gaze, holds the viewer in place. The vivid flowers contrast with the darker cracked backgrounds expressing not a reluctance, but an empowerment in the reinvention of the self as one with nature. The figure is always leaving behind the dark and unknown past, embracing a beauty that sprouts from within, a comment on the need of beauty to challenge the oppression that is so often associated with it.

‘Grace’

The second theme, entitled ‘I Am’ styles couture fashion by Dutch designer Claes Iverson. The wardrobe is delicate yet expansive, blooming from the figure as a continuing expression of growth. Connecting both themes is their exploration of how our ideals of beauty change over time. The finished images do not exist within a present life, but are somewhere in the collective reflection of what beauty was. In this sense, Isabelle’s body of work is an embodiment of the fluidity and subjectivity of female beauty. Each image is a new challenge on the last, endlessly exploring aesthetic ideology as a moldable entity. It is this exploration of beauty that compliments the choice of self-portraiture. We view the same figure exposed to different ideals and archetypes throughout history and society.  Isabelle Van Zeijl reclaims these past ideals, reaffirming the archetype of a powerful woman that is often lost in history.

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The sixth annual Mayfair Art Weekend takes place on the 26th-28th June, showcasing 30 of the most internationally known and flourishing art galleries in London.

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