< Exhibitions
The Empty Collections
Ellen Harvey
Sep 12, 2009 - Oct 17, 2009

For her first solo exhibition in Belgium, Ellen Harvey (°1967) has chosen to show two sets of works, the first of which was recently exhibited at the Whitney Museum Biennial in New York. Entitled The Museum of Failure, this ensemble is itself made up of two pieces of equal size placed a few metres apart: the first, The Collection of Impossible Subjects, is a large Plexiglas mirror lit from behind like a light box. The second is a painting, Invisible Self-Portrait in My Studio, which is visible through a small window cut into the Plexiglas mirror.

The mirror is decorated with some forty hand-engraved frames arranged in the Italian style (i.e. the entire surface of the mirror is saturated with engraved frames). A special feature of this arrangement is that all the frames frame a white surface. No paintings or drawings fill this ornamentally delimited space. We are thus confronted with forty or so paintings with absent subjects that offer themselves as potential paintings. Not only does Ellen Harvey invite us to reflect on this field of all possibilities, but also on the impossibility of representing reality. Isn't the retranscription of reality in itself impossible or at least misleading?

The audacious process put in place by this structure allows the visitor to apprehend the space in a new way. Although a certain angle of view allows the viewer to be completely obliterated, the majority of the points of view flatter the importance of the subject who is constantly reflected in the mirror.

Only a cut-out allows one to look through this structure and see a large painted panel installed in a perfect extension. The subject of the painting, which is a fragmented representation of the artist painting the same picture in his studio, is easily discernible.

In the second room, other paintings, My Collection Inadequately Documented, illustrate the artist's desire to represent his collection of paintings in his private home. Some of her own works can be seen, but also works by other artists. This series is thus composed of paintings that represent paintings. In each work, we see the artist taking a photograph of her collection, but each self-portrait is rendered unintelligible by the photographic flash that illuminates his face. The recurrent narcissism of self-portraits is here reduced to nothing.

Ellen Harvey invokes, not without humour, the notions of frontality but also of depth, of overview and cut-out, of representation of representation (the picture within the picture), of the difficulty of painting the world, of fiction, of multiplied temporalities (among others: the flash as a brief moment, the painting that is being painted by the artist is the painting that we see, the reflections that are constantly being made and unmade in the mirror),... In the videobox, Ellen Harvey shows Seeing is believing, her first video work (2001) that perfectly illustrates the betrayal of images dear to Magritte.

A place of multiple fictions, the exhibition reflects the potentialities of a future. The artist creates the necessary place for fiction and our minds set it in motion.