World According to Roger Ballen
Born in the USA, Roger Ballen has worked in Johannesburg and its surroundings since the 1970s. Initially, he documented marginalised white South Africans in remote regions near the end of the Apartheid era, conveying their state of mind through stark black and white photography. However, from 1995, Ballen’s aesthetic began to transcend the boundaries of traditional photography. In his unique multimedia ‘Ballenesque’ style, people, figures, and animals inhabit meticulously crafted stage sets adorned with primal, child-like drawings that can be likened to the “Theatre of the Absurd.” This signature style—haunting and beguiling—has captured the imagination of viewers around the world.
After developing an idiosyncratic style which is referred to as “Ballenesque”, Roger Ballen became one of the most prominent artist/photographers of his generation. He achieved international recognition through his unique and powerful use of drawing, painting, and collage alongside various sculptural techniques in elaborate installations, inventing a new, hybrid aesthetics, firmly rooted in the art of photography. From 1995, Ballen’s work evolved into a provocative fusion of reality and imagination. Well-known publications, including “Outland”, “Boarding House”, “Asylum of the Birds”, and “The Theatre of Apparitions”, transcend the confines of traditional documentary photography and incorporate painting, drawing, sculpture and film. His distinctive ‘Ballenesque’ style features ‘outsiders’, animals, found objects, wires, and childlike marks that cultivate a surreal Theatre of the Absurd.
Ballen’s work has been the subject of exhibitions at prestigious institutions for more than thirty years now. His decision to exhibit at the Halle Saint Pierre in Paris on 2019, a museum devoted to art brut and outsider art, is a special event which demonstrates his freedom from artistic genres. Since the exhibition has been successfully exhibited at Jakopic Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia; as well as the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague.
The exhibition “The World according to Roger Ballen” is an unprecedented overview of the artist which presents, along with 90 photographs, drawings, paintings and unseen installations that Roger Ballen has exclusively created for this event.
“The World According to Roger Ballen” is a retrospective exhibition that transforms visitors into participants in a living tableau—a gesamtkunstwerk of installations, videos, drawings, and photographic mastery.
“Roger Ballen is an exceptional artist and his work is a true reflection of the human condition. His photographs delve into the depths of the human psyche, exploring themes of isolation, vulnerability, and the subconscious. The uncon- ventional aesthetics and symbolic elements in his work challenge norms, leaving a lasting impact on viewers. What sets Ballen apart is his authentic approach to capturing raw emotions without sensa- tionalism, allowing audiences to connect deeply with his work.
Throughout his career, he has continuously pushed boundaries, evolving his style and staying relevant on the global art scene. His photography evokes universal emotions, transcends cultural barriers and receives international acclaim.
In summary, Roger Ballen’s work is a powerful testament to art’s ability to challenge perceptions and provoke meaningful introspection, making him a truly special and distinctive artist.”
– Ellen K Willas, expert in Ballen’s work, gallerist at Willas contemporary