Femmy Otten. We Once Were One


We Once Were One is the title of a wooden sculpture created especially for the context of Kunsthal Gent. Between November 2021 and September 2022, Dutch artist Femmy Otten slowly transformed a lime tree stump into the body of a woman. "The tree is a woman, formed by rings. One every year," she tells us. The hair falls over her face like tears. On her chest, Otten depicts venal lips, which feel like a protective cloak. The opening of the cloak spreads all over her belly. "Because we were once one."

In 2002, Otten first made a portrait of Aline, a woman she was working with in a theatre at the time. 20 years later, she sought her out again and Aline was the model for this sculpture.

Femmy Otten interprets the body as a source of knowledge, rather than a spectacle or object of reflection or desire. Her work focuses on inventing rituals, which are always there, even if they are not explicitly represented. For Femmy Otten, the starting points for this sculpture - whether they lie in Greek sculpture, the Hindu and Buddhist pantheons of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, or pre-Raphaelite sculpture - are deeply related to religion and mysticism.

That is precisely why she made this sculpture for this location, a monastery church of the Discalced Carmelites. A medieval male stronghold into which she brings an erotic female energy. "Aline was always there, in this church, in this place," she says. Now that Femmy Otten gave her a body of lime wood, she can finally claim her place.

Femmy Otten was born in Amsterdam, 1981, lives and works in The Hague, the Netherlands Femmy Otten studied at the HISK Higher Institute for Fine Art in Ghent and was a resident artist at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam and Atelier Holsboer, Cité Internationales des Arts in Paris. In 2013 Otten was awarded the de Volkskrant Beeldende Kunst Prijs. In 2014 she was one of three artists who were selected by the Dutch government to make an official portrait of King Willem Alexander. Recently her work was on view in the following exhibitions: ‘Rainbow Woman’ , De Warande, ‘One way or another’, SMAK, Gent, ‘EURAZIE’ M HKA, ‘One tear at a time’, Fons Welters. ‘Wistful Eye’ Drents Museum. ’Minor Heroïsm’, Zilberman Gallery, group show during the 14th Istanbul Biennial. ‘The Restless Gods’, performance Museum M, Louvain. Een nieuwe koning, een nieuw portret’, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. ’De Volkskrant Beeldende Kunst Prijs’, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. ‘Yellow Minutes’, P///akt, Amsterdam. ‘Royal Award for Modern Painting’, Royal Palace, Amsterdam. ’Hydrarchy: Power and Resistance at Sea’, Gasworks, London . Her work is represented in public and private collections, including the collections of SCHUNCK* Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Museum Voorlinden, collection of the M HKA , Drents Museum and the AkzoNobel Foundation. Femmy Otten is represented by Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam.