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#5 Photography and video as a medium

Speaking: Toos Nijssen



Film still from the video portrait of Harry Pennings, by Toos Nijssen, 2004

Visual artist Toos Nijssen made a video portrait of Harry Pennings in 2004. To mark the 40th anniversary of Galerie Pennings this was recently (in April 2019) projected on a wall in the Pennings Foundation.


Toos Nijssen (1961) met Harry Pennings in 1993. An article in the Eindhovens Dagblad (May 11, 1993) by Paul Kokke had been published about a presentation she had made in her studio in an old farmhouse (then) on the Rielsedijk, between Eindhoven and Geldrop. Harry must have seen that article. “A big car came up, someone got out and he just walked inside. That was Harry Pennings. I wasn't even open that day. He was immediately enthusiastic about the presentation and pointed to works of art that he wanted to buy. "I want this ... and that ...". He chose a few self-portraits in self-made frames. The contact has remained eversince."


Toos Nijssen exhibited in the gallery in 1995, in the furniture store then. "It was an unconventional exhibition, an installation with photos in boxes on the wall and on the floor." At this exhibition, portfolio number 9 appeared in the gallery's series of portfolios (see blog 3).


Exhibition of Toos Nijssen at Galerie Pennings, 1995

In 1994 Hans Zoete had invited her for an exhibition at De Witte Dame during Foto Manifestatie Eindhoven, a photo festival for which both Hans Zoete and Harry Pennings were part of the organization.


“I wasn't really a photographer. I made installations that included photography and later video. I felt like a stranger and I didn't always feel understood or at home in this gallery.” Toos Nijssen studied at the Academy of Visual Arts in Tilburg. In addition to installations with photography and video, she also makes drawings.


“My relationship with Harry was variable. He tried to stimulate me by giving advice. And presented himself as a father figure. He then said, "You should do this and you should do that." But I am not being pushed in one direction. I therefore regularly took some distance and did not show myself in the gallery for a while. I did not want to conform to one gallery or one person. He remained loyal though, but showed that he did not like it if you did not follow his advice. Still, Harry appreciated my work. He found installations and video work interesting. And I was given the opportunity to show that in his gallery."


Toos Nijssen exhibited again in the gallery in 2005, but now on the first floor. In this exhibition she showed a number of video portraits.


Exhibition of Toos Nijssen at Galerie Pennings, 2005

In 1995, Nijssen started her video portraits. In a few years she has made more than 1000. For this project she used a mobile studio with white, silk cloths. Each time she asked one person, both children and adults, to take a seat in front of the camera. The recordings are of varying length. The video portrait of Harry Pennings lasts an hour. You see the facial expression change. “At a certain moment the mask falls off (so to speak) and the person shows his or her true face. Every portrait evokes something. In every portrait I recognize something of the other in myself. That is why these video portraits are actually a kind of self-portraits.” The recognition, the reflection, of course also applies to the viewer.


In an interview in the ED with Angelique Spaninks (April 2000), Nijssen says about this: “Confrontations, that's what it's all about. Both from the models with themselves and with the camera, and from the viewers with the often unknown models and their facial expressions.”


“Nowadays I post a drawing on Facebook every day. The drawings are about my personal experiences of the day and so they are a kind of self-portraits."

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