At first glance, the pairing of photographs by Viviane Sassen and Elspeth Diederix seems like an odd match. Sassen is know for the ease with which she slips between the worlds of fine art and fashion, making graphic, restrained images that abstract the body, while Diederix uses photography to interfere with and subvert nature, working in her “studio garden” in Amsterdam. The connection between the Dutch artists is personal—the two have been good friends since they met in an art class as teenagers, a bond that was informed by time each spent in Africa while growing up, experiences that shaped them both. A show of their work, “Viviane Sassen Pikin Slee & Elspeth Diederix In These Shadows,” opens today at Casemore Kirkeby in San Francisco and runs until December 31.
Sassen’s “Pikin Slee” is a series made in a Suriname village founded by Maroon people, descendants of escaped African slaves. In studies of people, objects and nature, Sassen finds mysterious arrangements of color, shadow and form. Diederix’s images are grounded in the natural world but highlight her intervention in it. In still lifes that use ephemeral materials to reference seventeenth century Dutch painting, flowers burst into flame or grow in odd arrangements. As the gallery writes, “While [Sassen and Diederix] came to photography via different routes, both cite their childhood experiences as Europeans living in Africa as formative to their sensibilities, and both create images that challenge the tendency to quickly categorize and make sense of what we see, especially when confronting a photograph.”