Holger Niehaus (b. Nordhorn, Germany, 1975) takes us to a strange world, where plants, fruit and animals congregate in serene still-lifes. Niehaus masterfully interweaves the traditional still-life with minimalist forms, so that every photograph requires a second glance to see what is actually there. It then becomes clear that the objects have been attacked with an apple corer, paint or scissors. This young photographer’s first solo exhibition also includes his choice of pieces from the Gemeentemuseum’s extensive collection that have inspired his own work.
Holger Niehaus’ photographs are based on the classic still-life. By manipulating the subject or the photograph, however, Niehaus ensures that it fits into his perfectible world. In interfering with the subject – be it a plant, animal or something else – Niehaus destroys characteristic features of the original, preventing us from looking at the photographs in a ‘normal’ way. And although his actions betray his love of manipulation, there is also a cruel side to it. Everything we think we see is contradicted by what we actually see. The artist literally peels off a layer and exposes the fruit: he conjures up a little world behind which lie hours spent working away at the subject, a search for a dream world where the goal is aimless perfection.
This first retrospective of the work of photographer Holger Niehaus is being shown at the Gemeentemuseum rather than The Hague Museum of Photography because of the classical basis of his work and its kinship with painting, as reflected in his compositions and his use of colour. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag asked Niehaus to make a selection from its own collection, an artist’s choice of works with which he feels an affinity. This close collaboration is also reflected in the photograph Niehaus produced specially for the exhibition in a series of 100, which visitors can purchase at the museum shop.
Holger Niehaus studied at the AKI Academy of Art and Design in Enschede, and since graduating in 2002 has exhibited his work in Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg and Paris. His photographs have also been published in the NRC Handelsblad newspaper, Kunstbeeld and several international art journals. The exhibition and accompanying publication were produced in collaboration with Van Zoetendaal Gallery.