It is impossible to walk past Galerie Caroline Smulders at this year’s Art Paris Art Fair without doing a double-take. With plush green carpet below, walls adorned with artificial flora and flamingoes, and a life-sized model of Michelle Obama, attendees are immediately drawn to this new world. A solo presentation of Belgian artist Tinka Pittoors, the space blends everyday references with the whimsical, creating an amalgamation of reality and fantasy.
Caroline Smulders, owner of the eponymous gallery, is also from Belgium and views working with Tinka as a return to her roots. The collaboration came about as it often does for Ms. Smulders, from personal admiration to an established working partnership. She explains, “I often fall in love with an artist’s work before I meet them and then form a relationship. This is what happened with Tinka. I saw her work at a fair and bought it. Next, I invited her to take part in the major exhibition “Unlimited Bodies” at Palais d’Iéna in 2012. After that, I knew I wanted to create a solo exhibition with her at Art Paris”.
While many galleries chose to show multiple artists, Smulders’ focus is solo, as she prefers “to give one artist the chance to really develop a project rather than exhibiting a group of people. It’s a big risk but I prefer it to large group shows that people often forget”. Since Tinka Pittoors is interested in creating entire landscapes that combine natural and man-made elements, the decision pays off well. The artist’s formations, a cross between sculpture and installation, have room to breathe and viewers are provided opportunities for in-depth meditation. When asked about Pittoors’ intention, Smulders notes that the oeuvre is about creating a poetic landscape, through pale tones, spatial plays and free shapes, that offer new considerations when looked at closely. “Because you can’t see everything from a distance, you have to approach the work; then, you see the details and how her works are built, like architecture”.
One of the artworks that is getting the most buzz is In Dreams, a statue of America’s former first lady on a park bench with a swirl of tentacular matter, similar to that of a DNA model, hovering over her clasped palms. Pittoors’ original concept was a seated woman but months of searching only brought about half-naked, sexily posed figures. Serendipitously, the image of Michelle Obama popped up on the internet and she realized that it was exactly what she’d been looking for. Smulders divulges that the huge mass is meant to represent Obama’s dreams; covered in thorns, the “dreams” both shroud and draw attention to the highly recognizable figure, a reference to the human condition of hopes and reality. For In Dreams, the gallerist and artist have ambitious dreams of their own: “We’re going to try and send this to Madame Obama. We are working on getting the image to her and would love for the sculpture to end up in her garden”, Smulders confides.
At the Caroline Smulders Gallery, in the 10th arrondisement of Paris, the gallerist has created what she calls “a space for meeting, living, and storage. Artists and collectors know they can come anytime to work or relax. It’s a bit of a crossroads”. The exhibition of Tinka Pittoors, whose work builds bridges between different environments, encompasses that philosophy and explains the harmonious world they’ve created.