‘Birth of Venus’ (2017) is a portrait series of young girls, inspired by the famous Venus painting by Botticelli. The work reflects on the role of femininity within our modern-day society.
Sandro Botticelli made his ‘Birth of Venus’ painting around the year 1485. The painting depicts the moment Venus (or Aphrodite), the Goddess of Love, arrives on Cyprus standing in a shell. Greek poet Hesiodus described this mythological event around 188-202 in ‘The Birth of the Gods’: “..and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass grew up about her beneath her shapely feet.”
In mythology Venus was attributed the power of Love. She was born in pure innocence out of sea foam and possessed an irresistible beauty. But with her power of Love, that could cause even the wisest of men to stray from their paths, came great responsibility. Her powers were also described as a necessary counter force to the male energy. Through Love Venus could keep a balance between the male and female forces in the world. Not an easy task. Within mythological tales Venus has both been the cure and the cause of conflict. Botticelli however, depicted an innocent Venus that was not yet aware of what was to come.
The ‘Birth of Venus’ photo series shows us young girls standing in a sandpit in the middle of a backyard. Traditionally Venus was depicted as a mature woman, but in this series children take her place. They’re not playing but seem frozen in a moment of reflection. The two halves of the sandpit-shells are blue and pink, as a reference to the balance between the male and female essence. Within mythological telling’s plants grew wherever Venus went. But the backyards in the pictures seem unnatural: the grass and the hedge are made of plastic. This references their modern-day upbringing, where they find themselves surrounded by artificial products and surroundings.
Venus is still seen as the ultimate symbol of femininity. So the female figure can be interpreted both as a symbol for Love and the keeper of balance. How does this relate to our modern-day society? Do we still detect a distinct difference between male and female essence? And if so, how are these two balanced? What does it mean to grow up as a woman in today’s world, and what role is reserved for femininity in these young girls’ future?
You can find all the images from the series here.
About the artist:
Hanna Jansen (b. 1992) is a Dutch fine art photographer. Growing up in a creative household she developed a passion for imagery early on in her life. At the age of 15 she started experimenting with photography and in 2014 she graduated from the Fine Art Photography department of ArtEZ University of the Arts in Enschede, The Netherlands. Since then Hanna has been working as an independent artist.
In her staged photographic series, she investigates the human condition within our modern-day, Western society. Her photographs often emphasize the vulnerable nature of the human figure and her work reflects on a variety of universal human experiences such as growing up and forming relationships. The work is surprising in it’s visual form and tends to reference well-known concepts in imagery. She aims for her work to be suggestive rather than dictating the context of the work to the viewer. This way the viewer is partially left to his/her own associations, which contributes to the personal nature of the work.
When it comes to the production of Hanna’s photographs, not much is left to chance. She works within a professional studio environment and puts a lot of emphasis on the technical execution of her work. This results in intimate portraits of ‘real’ people within artificial environments. The overly stylised and digitally altered nature of our dominant, Western imagery meets the honest vulnerability of our shared human condition.
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