Les Douches la Galerie is pleased to present, for the first time this Fall, a solo show by Roger Ballen, including his early series from the 80s and 90s. Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950, but has lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa since 1982. After working in mineral exploration, he took his camera to dig into the layers of his own inner life and pierce the external surface of a poor and deeply rural country.
With the Dorps series (small dormitory towns) which he begun in 1983 in a sun-scorched landscape, the doors and shutters of cafés are closed, the buildings of Victorian Cape architecture inanimate and the images are frontal. But when he decided to enter homes directly and confront stained surfaces, saturated with lines, marks, photos and children's drawings, the interior wall became an essential element in his work. It's not a background, but rather a surface, like a picture plane. Between 1986 and 1994, Roger Ballen also took an interest in marginalized population. "They may well become another fragment of human detritus of the new South Africa," he writes in the preface to Platteland, the first impactful book among his singular bibliography. In 2001, Outland introduced the "wire" period. Roger Ballen draws with wires, linking the formal elements of the image with straight lines and curves.
With Shadow Chamber in 2005 and Boarding House in 2009, Ballen's visual experiments continually blur the boundaries between reality and fiction. Stories are told in closed worlds, where humans and animals cohabit, and jostle our gaze. Both mysterious and explicit, Ballen's works strive to be revealing moments that allow the visitor to grasp what remains inexplicable. Roger Ballen likes to describe his works as "existential psychodramas” which attempt to free suppressed thoughts and feelings through the themes of marginality, uncanniness, universal archetypes of the psyche and experiences of alterity. Both dense and austere, his 'ballenesque' aesthetic – as he calls it, the better to own it – places his work in the vein of fine arts photography whose codes he continues to disrupt.