Born in 1941 in Ghent, Belgium, Lili Dujourie is a Flemish artist whose work traverses sculpture, painting and video. Described as an ‘Old Master in Postmodern Garb’ Dujourie operates at the intersection of minimalism and conceptualism, consistently and systematically challenging the subject position of the viewer through clever experimentation with material and form.
Dujourie’s artistic practice began in the late 1960s, her early work taking the form of simple sculptures made from iron. Dujourie’s piece ‘American Imperialism’ (1972) – which consists of a large sheet of iron, painted black, leaning against a bright red wall, leaving the wall behind the iron sheet unpainted – questions the ‘truth’ value which we attribute to observation. It suggests that reality is a process of both revealment and concealment, consisting not only of that which we can see, but that which is hidden from us.
Through the 1970s Dujourie would participate in the emergent medium of video art. Eschewing narrative, Dujourie’s video art straddles the figurative and the abstract, documenting everyday actions in a manner that is nonetheless at odds with the rhythm of everyday life. ‘Hommage à ... I’ (1972) shows the nude Dujourie sleeping in bed. For several minutes nothing happens; the image is almost still, slowly, Dujourie rolls out of bed and rolls back into it again. We see the passing of ‘real time’, demanding the intense and patient observation of the viewer.
In the 1980s, Dujorie returned to sculpture, producing her best-known three-dimensional pieces made from velvet. Recalling the ‘Flemish Primitives’ – most notably Jan Van Eyck – these works utilise velvet as a kind of ‘paragon’, an accessory to the image that becomes the content of the image itself, a kind of ‘meta-art’ that reflects upon the conditions of its own production. In La Traviata (1984), for example, a piece of black velvet spills from the boundary of the frame, becoming sculpture and stepping into architectural space.