Awoiska van der Molen was a strong choice for the Grand Prize of the Hariban Award 2014, and richly deserves the exciting opportunity to work with the skilled technicians at Benrido. Her work is among the finest contemporary black and white photography being produced in Europe at the moment, and her own print-making of an exceptionally high quality. But it is also true to say that in her exquisite images of nature especially, through her close attention to the play of light and shadow have much in common with some of the historic masterpieces produced as collotypes at Benrido. As such her work, with its subtle gradation and tone and sensitivity to the details of natural forms is perfectly suited to the potential offered through the collotype process. Van der Molen, who has just published her first monograph, is at an exciting and promising moment in her career, and the jury was extremely happy to have the chance to offer her the Grand Prize.
– Simon Baker On behalf of the Jury, Hariban Award 2014
Awoiska van der Molen (1972) is a Dutch visual artist, photography as her main tool. Her black and white images are abstract representations of anonymised landscapes that are the result of her urge to return to the place from which we stem: the uncorrupted territory of nature.
In 2019 Van der Molen was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability. This exhibition with the theme ‘Hope’ is touring world wide until 2021.
In 2017 her work was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize and was she the recipient of the Larry Sultan Photography Award 2017. Van der Molen was awarded the Japanese Hariban Award in 2014 and was finalist at the Hyères Festival International de Mode et de Photographie in France in 2011. Her first monograph ‘Sequester’ was nominated for the Paris Photo / Aperture First Book Prize in 2014 and it received Silver Medal for ‘Best Books from all over the World’ in Leipzig, Germany.
Van der Molen studied Architecture & Design followed by photography at Minerva Art Academy Groningen and Hunter City University in New York. In 2003 she completed her MFA in Photography at the St. Joost Academy in Breda, Netherlands.
” Since the start of my artistic practice seventeen years ago (at first photographing in urban settings, then more and more drifting into natural wilderness), my aim has always been to try to get as close as possible to some true, unspoilt core of a place. By peeling off all the many layers of today’s roaring world, I slowly eliminate all distractions in order to hear, see and experience my surroundings with clean senses. Due to cascading technological revolutions, our society has evolved enormously over the last few centuries. Our bodies however, have not evolved at the same pace, and we suffer when we are cut off from nature. Yet even as we are engulfed in this modern world, I believe that the human body possesses some deep internal memory, an unconscious instinct, that recognizes when we get closer to the kind of place from which we stem: the uncorrupted territory of nature. The experience of this return is what I seek to visualise through my images.
My black-and-white photographs of mountains, forests or bodies of waters thus become abstract representations of anonymised landscapes, the result of my urge to return to our origin. Making my photographs, I spend long periods of time in remote areas – in absolute solitude – so as to allow nature to imprint its specific emotional qualities on me. Only a few images travel back with me to be hand-printed in the dark room. Without titles or any indications as to their locations, the large-scale silver gelatin prints recreate my experiences of these secluded natural worlds, erasing boundaries of time and space between the viewer and the source.
Regardless of how personal the starting point of my work may be, in the end I hope my images touch the strings of a universal knowledge, something lodged in our bodies, our guts, an intuition that reminds us of where we came from ages ago. A memory of our core existence, our bedrock, unyielding certainty in a very precarious world.”