Press Newsletter May 2008
May 2008

Roy Villevoye

Films, Photographic works, Installations (including collaborations with Jan Dietvorst)
14 June 10 August 2008
PRESS RELEASE - This summer Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents an exhibition of photographic works, films, installations, billboards, slide projections and paintings by Roy Villevoye (1960, Maastricht). The museum devoted a solo exhibition to the artist twenty years ago. Detours is a survey of the work that Villevoye has made since the late 1980s, when he turned away from painting. This exhibition provides the first comprehensive view of his recent artistic practice.

Roy Villevoye, Preparations, photographic work, 2007
Roy Villevoye, Preparations, photographic work, 2007

Following a successful career as a painter, at the end of the 1980s Villevoye went in search of a new artistic direction. He found inspiration in his travels beyond Europe, especially in Papua, a former Dutch colony. His encounters with the Asmat people led to new works in which the symbolic meaning of colour is an important theme. He initially processed these new experiences into paintings, but gradually Villevoye sought other media to give form to his research into cultural codification and identity. Colour is also an important element in the large panoramic photographic work Kó (Showing Primary Colours in Kombai) from 1995, in which industrial colours loom up in a tropical rainforest.

Together with Jan Dietvorst, Villevoye has made several films in Papua, which engage the viewer in a direct manner with the artists’ encounters with the Asmat people. The films expose the mutual interests that underlie these interactions and look beyond the standard stereotypes. In the film The New Forest impressions of life in the tropical rainforest are interspersed with portraits of the Asmat people. They deal with the magical relationship between man and his environment, but also with links with the Western world. For example, one of the Asmat people interviewed talks about his trip to the Netherlands and the clogs he bought there. Villevoye’s film Beginnings shows two naked Asmat people walking through the rainforest as Adam and Eve. A subsequent scene shows a white Adam and Eve in the Dutch Kennemer Dunes National Park. The actors’ personal stories help to undermine the stereotypical view of paradise.
Villevoye’s work appears to touch upon anthropology and its post-colonial fascination with non-Western ‘authentic’ peoples who are believed to live like our ancient forefathers. However, Roy Villevoye shows us that the Asmat live in a present as confusing, complex, hilarious and inimitable as our own.

Alongside films, photographic works and slide presentations, the exhibition Detours includes several billboards, produced by advertising painters in Mumbai based upon photographs taken by Villevoye in India and Papua. The encounter between two cultures and the manner in which various cultures appropriate each other’s artefacts is dealt with in a razor-sharp way in the installation Red Calico. This shows T-shirts adapted by the Asmat people, which Villevoye has found, collected and combined with photographic portraits of their owners. Villevoye has made several new films and installation specially for the exhibition, that place his work within a new focus.

Simultaneously with the exhibition, an English-language monograph is published with the support of the Mondriaan Foundation and the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture (Fonds BKVB) and with contributions by the anthropologist Amanda Ravetz, Sven Lütticken, the evolutionary biologist Tijs Goldschmidt and Lex ter Braak.

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