Curator Stephane Verheye is putting grandmaster Joel-Peter Witkin in the spotlight during the 2023 Photobiennale in Ostend with a retrospective exhibition at Fort Napoleon. This expo is a collaboration with galerie baudoin lebon Paris and galerie Papillon Ostend, where a parallel exhibition of Witkin's work and working material will take place at the same time.
The International Photobiennial Ostend wants to warn visitors that some images may be perceived as shocking.
Joel-Peter Witkin is concerned with spirituality and its influence on the physical world. The artist creates surreal scenes through which he seeks to dispel our preconceptions about sexuality and physical beauty. Witkin finds desire in the repulsive and sacredness in the profane. For him, the complex duality of life is contained in a kind of shameless displays of deformity for which he often collaborates with people who society prefers to ignore. He begins each picture by sketching his ideas on paper and then perfects every detail before grabbing his camera. Once the scene is photographed, he spends hours in his darkroom, scratching and piercing negatives to finally arrive at a picture that seems made rather than taken - as if it were a painting. His reverence for traditional, art-historical iconography - Witkin is a big fan of Picasso, Balthus, Goya, Velásquez and Miro - is undoubtedly no stranger to the latter as well.