Galerie Nathalie Obadia is delighted to present a new series of photographs by Valérie Belin entitled Lady Stardust. This exhibition echoes a recent retrospective dedicated to the artist at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux and organised in partnership with the gallery.

This new body of work is made up of eight photographs bearing the names of stars (Electra, Véga, Léda, Stella and Galatée), five of which will be shown at the gallery. They are all portraits of the same young woman, a professional model, dressed in distinctive outfits and shot in the studio against a plain background. Each photograph is unique, distinguished by a particular pose and carefully chosen accessories: simple fabric dresses, featuring geometric patterns in a variety of colours, paired with footwear of various styles. The photographs were taken in the manner of a magazine cover or poster, giving the impression that the person portrayed could be a fashion icon or a star, posing in a style reminiscent of Spider-Woman. The title of the series also suggests she could be a glamorous pop-star, visiting Earth from another planet.


Following on from her previous series, produced since 2015 (Super Models, All Star, China Girls, Modern Royals and Heroes), the backdrop used for each image is made up of a number of elements added a posteriori: pages from 50s and 60s comic-books peopled with superheroes (evoking themes of crime, horror, romance and the sentimental), swathes of fabric photographed in the studio, whose patterns match those of the dresses worn by the young model, and car workshop interiors photographed in Los Angeles in 2014. These “inorganic” décors made up of elements characterised by the complete absence of nature, evoke a fantasy, urban world. The combination of these settings with the figure of the young woman in the same image, would seem to represent “the coupling of the living body to the inorganic world”, as Walter Benjamin wrote concerning fashion in his Arcades Project. One might also say that these photographs are a form of phantasmagoria, an attraction in vogue at the turn of the Enlightenment, where imaginary figures projected by magic lanterns were made to appear in a darkened room – a phenomenon that marked a fresh development in the notion of the image as an illusion.


In her most recent images, bursting with visual signs, Valérie Belin plays on the codes of representation, blurring the boundaries between reality and the imaginary. In doing so, she has embraced the technological and ontological changes in the world of photography, from the use of film to digital technology, while at the same time following in the tradition of the 1920-30s avant-gardes by adopting techniques such as solarisation and double-exposure. From 2006, her switch to colour photography has lent her images a more pictorial dimension and on occasion a fully assumed “collage” aspect. With her oeuvre, Valérie Belin blurs the lines between the real and the virtual, nature and artifice, inanimate objects and living beings, presence and absence, hyperrealism, and metaphor.