Scarlett Hooft Graafland / Soft Horizons

Performance, installation, and a camera.

Polar bear From the series: Iglooik / uit de serie: Iglooik, Canada, 2007 Courtesy Michael Hoppen, London / Londen Courtesy Vous Etes Ici, Amsterdam © Scarlett Hooft Graafland

It is on a rare occasion that I attend an exhibition and struggle to walk away from what is hanging on the walls, even with the allure of many excellent pubs outside. Scarlett Hooft Graafland’s Soft Horizons at the beautiful location of the Museum Huis Voor Fotografie Marseille in Amsterdam, stopped me in my tracks with a rich array of majestic landscapes and quirky installations, all captured in flawless photographs that have an underlining delicate humor. Creating the perfect recipe for an exhibition that is without doubt worthy of a visit.

Graaflands photography navigates the viewer through a wide array of places: in China, Bolivia, Northern Canada and Iceland. Each location capturing notions of reflection, peace and sincerity.  Even when the places are poles apart, Graffland teases out commonalities, exploring the effects of changing modern landscapes against the cultural and social traditions of the native inhabitants.

From the series: China / uit de serie: China, China, 2006 Courtesy Vous Etes Ici, Amsterdam Courtesy Michael Hoppen, London / Londen © Scarlett Hooft Graafland

The exhibition title Soft Horizons evokes ideas of ephemeral terrain that could just as easily be water, ice, salt, air, or even a mirage. The ethereal compositions all quietly express their malleable beauty, perfectly captured by Graafland. The installations are so well placed into the landscape that nature seems to become the artist, subtly highlighting its unique characteristics by using ordinary, everyday material: balloons, candy, rope, fishing line, spice, and lemonade. Animals and people, both real and unreal, are often seen participating in these images. Her understated props do not alter the landscape in any permanent way, and do nothing at all to detract from the impact of the powerful scenery. Without confusion, Graafland cleverly communicates a lighter playful side to her works, by expressing more human, ‘down to earth’ qualities when combining performance, installation and a camera.

Sweating Sweethearts 2 From the series: Salt Works / uit de serie: Salt Works, Bolivia, 2004 Courtesy Vous Etes Ici, Amsterdam Courtesy Michael Hoppen, London / Londen © Scarlett Hooft Graafland

In my view, the series of works created in the Bolivian salt flats, best express Graaflands strengths in creating something alluring out of a vast emptiness. She plays with this lifeless land, incorporating the Bolivia women, local foods, and machinery. Together they express a charming humor and limitless possibilities in this harsh and difficult climate. Displayed alongside Graaflands photographs was the only true installation in Soft Horizons. A carpet comprised of spices bought in a local Bolivian market, created a patchwork of color that penetrated through what would have otherwise been a never ending sea of blue and white.

Carpet Bolivia 2010 Courtesy Vous Etes Ici, Amsterdam Courtesy Michael Hoppen, London / Londen © Scarlett Hooft Graafland

In the end, the gallery closed, and I  had walk away from Bolivia, China, Iceland and Northern Canada. But now with the haunting images of Soft Horizons etched deeply into my mind, I can smile at the glorious composition while sipping my beer in the dark old pub around the corner.