A multidisciplinary artist, Suzanne Jongmans produces photographic portraits which visually emulate the great Dutch painters of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, evocative of the works of Holbein the Young or Rembrandt with their particularly elaborate compositions and use of light. But on closer inspection, we discover a distinctly contemporary work, both in content and in form. Suzanne Jongmans’ work is multidisciplinary: she is a sculptor, costume designer and photographer. This multidisciplinary approach originates from her studies at the Academy of Visual Arts in Tilburg from 1996 to 2000, where she studied textile design and photography, as well as clothing that her mother and grandmother made themselves, and also her mother’s art books that she read as a child. This is how the Kindred Spirit and Mind over Matter series came to be: “the first image of this series dates from 2007”, Suzanne Jongmans explains.

For each photograph, the Dutch artist undertakes a lengthy process: “My inspiration is expressed in different ways, through the materials, the expression of the character and the title of the work. I design and create everything you see in the final image, it can take several weeks, sometimes months. In varying order, I research books featuring works by the old masters and when an idea hits me, when an image comes to mind, I explore it, I find the material, then I start “building” a costume on a mannequin until something materializes”. The next step is the crucial one of choosing the model: “I am always on the lookout for faces that intrigue me. Models are often relatives, friends, friends of friends, family, but also people I meet or see in the street, whose appearance appeals to me.

The main work of composition takes place in front of Suzanne Jongmans’ camera: “I take pictures of the model, several hundred details of each detail, so that  the model begins to almost forget that I’m there, turning in circles in search of a kind of magical moment. Finally I input all this photographic material into the computer. It is at this point that all the components, as precisely as possible, are combined and interwoven. Beyond a basic artistic composition, Suzanne Jongmans’ work stems from an eco-responsible ethos: “I am a collector. I love the fact that some objects or materials found (plastics, foam, old wool blankets, things from nature…) have had a past life and tell their own story. I use these materials and add them to my story, which automatically creates a dialogue over time.

Over the course of her work, Suzanne Jongmans’ creations have grown in complexity with the use of new materials and the influence of other old paintings. Through her recycled artwork, Suzanne Jongmans offers us : “a way of looking at things differently”. For 2019, she plans to increase her creative projects: “a collaboration with the singer Mercury Carter for the cover of her next album” and for the general public: “an exhibition at the Wilms Gallery and the PAN Art Fair in Amsterdam and the publication of a new book of portraits by the end of 2019″.  But what does Suzanne Jongmans think about the longevity of her creations in nearly five centuries time? I don’t know if my work will be perceived as changing art, but perhaps it will have an impact on the way we approach assembling the artwork”.

Text : Alexis Jama Bieri