The Dutch couple Schilte & Portielje creates a universe of black and white pictures with solitary and sometimes distant looking figures in the center. Their likenesses could easily be interpreted as the result of a process used in the days of analogue photography. But these bodies, mainly women with peculiar contorted, idiosyncratic extremities and elaborate Haute-Couture style clothes, actually reveal something else. They are willfully and artfully constructed.
Jacqueline Portielje, who studied painting, and Huub Schilte, an architect by training, met in 1975 and have inspired each other ever since. They started to collaborate under the name Schilte & Portielje in 1997, three years after they had started to explore computers as a resource for artistic expression. They discovered more than just a digital dark room: a tool box to work on photogra phic images like a sketch artist or a painter would do.
The results are digital collages based on a long and complex work flow. It usually starts with a selection of scraps from a large image bank, which become the critical segments for sometimes small, sometimes large compositions. During the process of drawing, painting, of adding and subtracting, new possibilities and ideas are generated. Still, the work is mainly based on the intuitive qualities the two artists have honed over the years. There are no rules
One of the distinct aspects of their exclusively black and white images, besides the specific treatment of their figures, is the point of view they favor. Many images show backs, sometimes combined with fronts, when legs move into the frame while the upper body is on its way out. A few images harbor a delicate touch of the surreal, if not mythological. Like, for instance, in a picture of woman with an enlarged swan – an allusion to Leda.
The exhibit titled “Rolmodellen“ (“Role Models“) presents a selection of large Lambda prints on matte acrylic glass in wooden frames. Smaller images have been printed on Fuji Crystal, transferred to canvas and attached to wooden frames and treated with UV jelly and varnish. A catalogue – “photoworks beyond reality“ – is available. It includes all the images in the exhibit. Huub Schilte and Jacqueline Portielje live in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The artistry of Schilte & Portielje reflects the world they live in. They deal with basic elements of human life. Since they do not want to point the beholder into a specific direction, the artists do not add titles to their images. It is solely up to the viewer‘s interpretation to take in and absorb these images, which reframe the ongoing dialogue between the art of painting and the art of photography. It does not come as surprise to find that many of the works are finished with a transparent protective varnish.