Roos van der Vliet was born in 1985 in Dordrecht, The Netherlands. She’s currently living in Arnhem. She earned a BFA from ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in 2009. Roos is concerned with the human condition, particularly with how living in such a large and historied world affects our identities. She paints photorealist portraits of young women she identifies with in an effort to resolve these feelings of anonymity and alienation. In the series of impressive, slightly disturbing hair portraits, women stare out at the viewer through thick, often tangled curtains of hair. Their eyes are clear and piercing but their mouths are universally covered by imaginative variations of hair shackles. In one image, interlaced strands of tangled hair entrap a woman’s mouth in a configuration that resembles a medieval torture device. In others, solid cloths of hair look like face-covering masks, leaving only small sections of the women’s faces exposed. By focusing on small details and expressions, she finds a common understanding between two unique individuals.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the human face and its expressions, but maybe even more important: I’m fascinated by what’s behind this face. We’re used to judge a book by it’s cover, a person by its appearance. We are locked up inside ourselves. And in a world this big, you can feel anonymous and small when looking at the world through nothing more than a pair of eyes. At least, that’s how I feel. To get wonderings like this onto the canvas, I’m searching for women I can identify with, to decrease the feeling of anonymity and alienation. I sometimes find them on the streets, some of them are close friends already. The important thing for me is that I feel that there is a connection between us, not needing to be explained easily. In my work, I search for a way to bring their inner world to the surface. By looking very closely at them, by studying their eyes, their expression, the small details, I wonder how much we’re alike, and yet so different.”
Each day we stand almost shoulder to shoulder, occupying the same space and breathing the same air, yet we know so little about each other. Roos gives us what we need when nothing is familiar: a recognizable face, a stranger that feels how we feel, someone we can ally with in rough weather. Her work pinpoints the unexplained rapport between strangers.