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Karin Hanssen

  • 12 March 2019
  • 10 June 2019
  • Kunsthal Helmond

Karin Hanssen

Returning the gaze

The first solo exhibition in a museum in The Netherlands by Karin Hanssen (1960, Antwerp) is entitled Returning the Gaze and will be on view in Museum Helmond from March 12 until June 10, 2019. The exhibition will present some hundred paintings and drawings from the period 1990 up to the present. Karin Hanssen is a visual artist, author of critical texts and a feminist activist. Hanssen is one of the most talented Belgian artists of the past decades.

A journey through time
Returning the Gaze is both a retrospective and a journey through time. Karin Hanssen reinterprets historical photographs from the 1950s-1970s. Occasionally she also references Dutch paintings from the 17th century. One could say that Hanssen repeats images: that she transfers photographs into paintings. This way Returning the Gaze looks back in time (a flashback) while simultaneously responding to the gaze of the other. This other, for example, could be the creator of the (historical) photograph.


Returning the Gaze also is an exhibition which focuses on the gaze as the mirror of the other. Important themes underlying Hanssen’s work are: the role of man as a social being, gender and the representation of women in our society in particular. The way women were depicted in both the distant and recent past tells us a lot about the moral and social role forced upon them. Additionally, the situations and images from the past which Hanssen presents to us, confront us with our own view of mankind in today’s multicultural society.

The results are scenes which are both dreamlike and intimate, introducing us to a world which is both familiar and strange. The colors are warm, the dimensions have a human size: this makes the scenes look oddly familiar. We see people during their daily activities, a picnic in the countryside, children on a canoe trip through nature, a woman quietly reading a book in an American home with floor to ceiling windows: this is just a selection from the artist’s body of work. Below the surface there is a tangible tension, and also a feeling of melancholy and temporality.

In the special cinema space film clips will be shown that inspired Hanssen to create of a series of paintings. The exhibition has been compiled in collaboration with the artist and with Cultuurcentrum Mechelen (B).

 Additional biographical information about Karin Hanssen:

Karin Hanssen exhibited in various museums and contemporary art centers in Europe and beyond:  SMAK Ghent and the MAS Museum Antwerp (Belgium), TAFA gallery, Tianjin (China), Chelsea Art Museum, New York (USA), Kunstverein Ahlen (Germany), New Art Gallery Walsall (UK),  Salzburger Kunstverein (Austria), Canberra Contemporary Art Space (Australia). She participated in the 7th Sharjah Biennial (UAE) and the 2nd Yokohama Triennale (Japan). Her work has been included in various public and private collections all over the world.

Selected publications: ‘The Borrowed Gaze’, Charlotte Mullins (Lannoo, 2014), ‘The Borrowed Gaze / Variations GTB’ (MER, 2012) Johan Pas, Daniela Hammer-Tugendhat, Kurt Vanhoutte, ‘The Thrill of It All’ ( MER, 2010) Philippe Van Cauteren, Gregory Salzman, David Broker, ‘Now = The Time’, (Roma-publications 83-11, 2010) Philippe Van Cauteren and Karin Hanssen and ‘Modern Living’ (Objectif_Exhibitions, 2004) Alain de Botton, Gregory Salzman.

In June 2019 there will a publication, Returning the Gaze, with a text by Charlotte Mullins (publisher Stockmans). Texts by Karin Hanssen herself have been published in a.o. A Prior, H ART magazine, REKTO:VERSO and Mister Motley.

Karin Hanssen studied painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and at the Higher Institute for fine arts (HISK) from which she graduated in 1993. In 2016 she gained a PhD in the arts at the University of Antwerp with her thesis The Borrowed Gaze. In her thesis Hanssen did research into the re-use of photographic imagery in (contemporary) painting. In addition she also studied the appropriation of the female image in the history of Western contemporary art.

Woman as author: in 2011 she launched Contemporary Women Artists in Belgium, an online database with an up-to-date exhibition calendar promoting the work of female artists who live and work in Belgium. Since 2016, Karin Hanssen has been a member of the Class of Arts of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.







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