Atlas of Forms and Colours Tamara Van San


11 September – 22 October 2016

In 1924, German art historian Aby Warburg, driven by the desire to capture the history of Western culture and thought, embarked on a monumental entreprise that would later take the form of a picture atlas. Consisting of cosmographic and art-historical images, his Mnemosyne Atlas aimed to unfold the evolution of signs and symbols recurring throughout the history of our civilisation. It became therefore a metaphoric encyclopaedia of both disappearance and re-emergence. Although largely informed by academic rigour, the Atlas was exclusively designed and arranged by Warburg himself according to his own intuitive logic. At his death in 1929, the sixty three panels that he had created were left unfinished, frozen in time for ever, never to be completed.

Warburg’s frame of thought forms the backdrop of Atlas of Forms and Colours, Tamara Van San’s first solo show in Brussels since 2008. Spanning eleven years of the artist’s career, the exhibition revolves around the notion of topography and draws attention to the recurrence of certain forms, colours, materials and textures within her work. It comprises twenty-nine sculptures, exclusively presented against the walls of the gallery, that come together to form a map of the artist’s visual language. If at first sight the hang may seem random, by taking a closer look one becomes aware that the works are arranged according to a system based on correlations between hues and shapes. Purple feeds into yellow feeds into green feeds into blue feeds into pink; whilst circles meet rectangles meet cylinders meet ellipsoids and other polygons… evoking all at once a cultural, natural and cosmic imagery that characterises Van San’s oeuvre.

An extensive cartography of Van San’s practice, yet not an exhaustive one, Atlas of Forms and Colours acknowledges the impossibility of ever fixing an absolute topography. The result is purely visual, like an endless constellation that remains open to many interpretations. Distancing itself from any academic discourse, the exhibition aims to animate the viewer’s memory and imagination by offering potential associations ready to be unravelled, investigated and reinvented.

— Louise Chignac

Tamara Van San was born in 1982 in Antwerp. She lives and works in Appelterre, Belgium. In parallel to her exhibition at Canopy: Bowing Monk, Standard Poodle and Other Scholarly Objects at Tatjana Pieters Gallery, Ghent (4 September – 16 October 2016).