Essamba Art – Discover the world through the eyes of Angèle Etoundi Essamba

NOIRE VERMEER – Girl with an Amber Earring

“NOIRE VERMEER,” Girl with an Amber Earring (2022-2023), is inspired by the Girl with the Pearl Earring, the iconic painting of Johannes Vermeer.

is the follow up of the Renaissance series (2018-2020), which also takes as a starting point the 17th century and invite to a reflection and to question.

I have always admired Vermeer’s paintings. His use of light, contrasts, and colors.

He paints a contemporary world, a world of an apparent simplicity, full of emotions that invites silence, contemplation, which makes us travel towards other worlds.

What also fascinate me about his work is the central place he gives to women in his paintings. The subjects of his paintings are vivid-looking people from everyday life,  just like the women and girls that I have photographed.

Vermeer painted in the 17th century, also called the Dutch Golden Age. A time when the Netherlands became the world’s leading economic and trade power. And it was also a time when the country’s art and culture flourished. But all the glory and splendor of the Dutch Golden Age should not make us forget the darker side  that prosperity was based on a colonial system full of violence, and based on inequality and exploitation. Blacks were included in paintings like goods, mainly to highlight the high status of their owners. The “Girl with the Pearl Earring” is a painting that still speaks to us today. We look at the sitter and she look back at us with a penetrating gaze.

I revisit this painting by giving a central place to a black girl and letting contemporary black figures pose in the style of his work. By so doing I bring to light these forgotten and enigmatic black figures relegated to the background for centuries in Dutch painting of the 17th century and break through with the often-one-sided view of the Golden Age heritage.

By choosing subjects with various expressions and emotions and replacing the pearl earring by an amber, I am showing that “Noire Vermeer” claims her right to look, to be different, to shine, to exist. She stares at us, free and self-confident. She invites us to contemplation and question us.

“Noire Vermeer” Girl with an Amber Earring, invite the viewer to take a critical look at the past and to deconstruct outdated perceptions, to rethink the place of this girl in our contemporary world.

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