October 3, 2019 - February 28, 2020
“My photographic work has evolved from a need for understanding, change and transformation. I grew up a migrant, a nomad, a pilgrim, a citizen of the state of transition. I traveled light, shedding memorabilia, paraphernalia, and roots. ‘Ay Dios’ is the result of a four-month journey to the island of Curaçao. In 2000, I was invited to participate in an exchange program between Dutch and Antillean artists. Being able to spend a longer period of time close to my roots was a dream come true.”
Diana Blok is the sixth artist at The Caribbean Housewife. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay to a Dutch Jewish diplomat-father and a Catholic Argentinean mother, she lived in Uruguay, Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia until moving to the Netherlands in 1974. Growing up where civil wars were a reality, she witnessed through a young girl’s eyes polarities that became sources of inspiration.
As a diaspora artist, she learned to express cultures and identities through her work, challenging ideas and structures of the established world, where I often felt as if looking in from the outside.
Staging and framing reality, making choices and editing allowed her to retreat into a world of her own, with all the characters inside it. She developed an open attitude to a sense of place and questioning “who am I in all of this?”. Sexual identity, women’s rights, gender inequality, imposed esthetics, racial discrimination and religious belief systems became her focus and visual quest. Her archive serves as a diary, a memory bank.
For Diana Blok, photography is a ritual where memory and reverie are made visible and friends tangible. In this ritual, she is still able to relocate, redefine the heart of her being and her relationship to those around her. Visually, she continues to question answers.
On arrival to Curaçao in 2000, Diana Blok discovered that for the first time in her life, she could mix the three languages, which she spoke only at home with her family. Whether it was Spanish, English or Dutch, she was understood. This ability to communicate opened the doors to the street life of Curaçao. The more she got to know the island, the more she realized how little she really knew of its past and the marks left behind by its complicated history. The title of the photography series ‘Ay Dios’ is a distinctive sigh used by Antillean people. Within both the phrase and the manner in which it is expressed, lurks the elusive, somewhat resigned notion that the course of life is not entirely in one’s own hands. This visit led to many astonishing insights: “I made the streets my place of work and allowed myself to be led through the theatre of life on the island. Rather than moulding a conscious story, I let the surrounding influences help me visually create what I call the ‘thread of life’. These photographs are representative of a personal documentary or diary. Through the eye of the camera I was able to confront, not only my inner self, but certain aspects of the island which are not all seen through rosy glasses as they are usually presented to divers and sun bathers.”
Portraiture gives Diana Blok the illusion that she can assemble an extended family, frozen memories as stepping stones to moments in the past. Dutch novelist Bart Plantega stated: “The subjects of Diana Blok’s photographs often attain a quiet and elegant mystique within their photographic boundaries. They hover somewhere between the contemplative state of Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ and the confident worldliness of a Vermeer painting. Self-assured in their immediate environment and yet not entirely of this world, transcending base emotions and petty concerns – if only for an instant – and inhabiting a realm bordering on the numinous. Blok’s photos of people – be they friends, family, or passersby – serve as heavy stones that might temporarily serve to hold down the corners of a nomad’s tent.”
Diana Blok’s photography has been shown internationally at numerous occasions in group and solo exhibitions. Her work is represented in major collections worldwide, such as Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), Centre Pompidou (Paris, France), Cartier Foundation (Paris, France), Tokyo Metropolitan Museum (Tokyo, Japan), Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires, Argentina), and Holly Solomon collection (New York City, New York, United States).
The Caribbean Housewife is the first in Copenhagen, Denmark to present a series by Diana Blok. Her photographs are on show and for sale from the opening event on October 3, 2019 until February 28, 2020.
‘Ay Dios’ – ‘Lida With Cross’ by Diana Blok (2000)