There’s no such thing as a lost space

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One Wall Away is the title of Jan Theun van Rees’ website. And it says a lot about his work. Walls do not only surround a space and keep the outside at bay, they also form a connection with the world on the other side. One of the most vivid examples of this is formed by a project Van Rees started a couple of years ago: In Between.

During his first visit to Tokyo in 2015 it struck him that, unlike in other major cities, there are no continuous facades. There’s always an – albeit narrow – gap between the individual buildings. Access is often obstructed by fences or airco-units. It takes a strong observer to notice this phenomenon at all; during daytime the gaps aren’t more than dark lines separating the premises. After dusk this chances. Very often the buildings have windows facing the narrow ‘alleys’ in between. When the inhabitants turn on the lights, the light bounces between the walls and forms a connection between the buildings.

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This interaction between interiors and the outside world works the other way around as well. The incident light adds shape to a room. After years of merely observing and registering the incoming light, Van Rees started to alter, steer and manipulate it, by applying curtains and drapes in the often abonded rooms he uses for his photography. Subsequently he constructed an entire space from scratch, just to study the light that defines it. Here the distinction between inside and outside has finally vanished completely.

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The One Wall theme runs like a thread through Jan Theun van Rees’ career as a photographer. Whether he builds an installation in an abandoned store, photographs a curtain waving through an opened window, or challenges fellow artists to integrate one of his photographs in their works. There’s always this lifelong fascination.

The passion for the interaction between a space represented in an image and the room it’s exhibited in led to the project A Given Space. It’s an interdisciplinary collaboration between Jan Theun van Rees and 14 fellow artists. Each artist is invited to choose one of Van Rees’ photographs of  empty rooms. A lifesize print is sticked to the studio’s wall. The assignment is a new work of art created for this particular space, now being nothing more than a flat surface.  When the work of art has been completed, Van Rees photographs it in ‘his’ empty room. The final prints are being exhibited in various venues.

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From A Given Space. With Guda Koster.


Jan Theun van Rees works with a Cambo WRS-1000, Phase One P45 and Schneider 24, 43 and 80mm lenses. This may not be the most recent gear, it works well for him. When using a DSLR – or even more tucked away under a dark cloth behind a view camera – the gear stands between the photographer and the subject. Working with a tech cam without live view, the view point is established without visual aids. The photograph results from the interaction between photographer, camera and space. It’s all about space.

Like to see more? One Wall Away

May 22 – 25 2020 Jan Theun van Rees is exhibiting at This Art Fair

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