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Vleeshal Art Prize: Femke Gerestein, Moving Through Thin Places

Solo exhibition

27 January – 21 April 2024
Vleeshal (Map)

Curator: Martha Jager

Photo: Gunnar Meier | Vleeshal Art Prize: Femke Gerestein, Moving Through Thin Places

In January 2023 Femke Gerestein (1982 Middelburg, NL) was selected by guest-curator Martha Jager as the recipient of the Vleeshal Art Prize. Since then Gerestein has developed a new body of work which was on view at Vleeshal from 27.01.2024 to 21.04.2024.

Once every five years, Vleeshal awards the Vleeshal Art Prize to a promising artist from Middelburg to encourage the development of the artist’s work. Vleeshal appoints an external curator to select the winner and curate the accompanying exhibition. This time curator and artist Martha Jager was invited. She chose Femke Gerestein as the winner of the 2023 Vleeshal Art Prize. Upon her first encounter with Gerestein’s work, Jager was reminded of Sylvia Plath’s poem I Am Vertical from 1961. The title continues in the first sentence: But I would rather be horizontal.” In the poem, Plath compares her distinct vertical stance to that of the non-human organisms which she admires, such as garden beds, as a way to question her role within the world and to articulate her desire to experience the opposite: the horizontal.

The work of Femke Gerestein is a poetic investigation of the body in time and place, as well as the body versus time and place, which echoes the sentiments and need for inclination brought forth by Plath. Preceded by performative acts in which Gerestein falls, jumps, rolls in or through the landscape or directly on paper, the detailed, almost forensic, large-scale drawings present us with an extensive archive of documentation of an existential journey into the self.

The solo exhibition at Vleeshal, entitled Moving Through Thin Places, departed from the appreciation of Gerestein’s body of work as an archive of documentation of performative acts. It combined new and existing works on paper, all featuring the artist’s body. As a local artist from Middelburg, and therefore well acquainted with Vleeshal, Gerestein welcomed the Vleeshal Art Prize to experiment with scale, materials, and installation. This has resulted in not only the largest works on paper by the artist to date, but also a change from her signature material of graphite to colored pencil on semi-translucent vellum paper. Installed freely in the space, suspended between ceiling and floor, the works engaged with the light and captured an energy that appeared lighter than in earlier works. Through the juxtaposition of existing and new work, a dialogue on the conditions and constructs that shape identity—and the desire to distort or escape them—was evoked.

The exhibition contained twenty-seven works, installed as three series. The installation, developed in collaboration with architect Stefan Voets, encouraged the viewer to meander through the works and move back and forth, to take in the details and endurance that constitute each work. As it was likely only upon closer inspection that you might decipher the imprints of the gas mask Gerestein had to wear to make the graphite works that form Body Prints ‘22-’23, realize the amount of time and pencils needed to produce the two large-scale works Covered (vertebrae) and Covered (in between shoulder blades) and discover how the installation of Covered (my skin) forms a yardstick to the exhibition by mimicking Gerestein’s length.

Pieter Slagboom won the Vleeshal Art Prize in 2018, with Julia Geerlings serving as the external curator. The Vleeshal Art Prize 2013 went to Liesbeth Labeur, with Laurie Cluitmans as guest curator.

Public program Moving Through Thin Places

Hekla Magnúsdóttir


16 March 2024
3 – 3:30 pm
Vleeshal (Map)

Curator: Martha Jager

Photo: Sigga Ella | Public program Moving Through Thin Places | Hekla Magnúsdóttir

For the public program of the exhibition Vleeshal Art Prize: Femke Gerestein, Moving Through Thin Places, curator Martha Jager invited Icelandic thereminist, composer and vocalist Hekla Magnúsdóttir to give a concert at Vleeshal.

Magnúsdóttir plays the theremin, a frictionless instrument that translates frequencies into pitch and volume by the movement of hands between two antennas. The resulting sound is uniquely multilayered and ranges from eerie high-pitched spectral weeps to deep throbbing resonant bass howls. The ethereal and elusive nature of Magnúsdóttir’s compositions, which are quite literally played ‘in thin air’, touch upon themes highlighted in the exhibition Moving Through Thin Places. The concert at Vleeshal featured material from Magnúsdóttir's latest album, combined with new and unreleased work.

Magnúsdóttir’s debut album, Á, released by Phantom Limb, was written and recorded in her home studio in Berlin, at a time when she was also taking care of her newborn son. Returning to Iceland, her music career continued with the mystical EP Sprungur, a horror score themed around glaciers, that was further developed in the Xiuxiuejar album, released in 2022. One of the most active representatives of the Icelandic music scene, Magnúsdóttir regularly receives accolades for her work in films and performs locally and globally, both solo and as part of major music ensembles.



Once every five years, Vleeshal awards the Vleeshal Art Prize to a promising artist from Middelburg. Not only does this artist win a solo exhibition at Vleeshal, but also a close collaboration with a talented, external curator – invited by Vleeshal. The prize supports artists from Middelburg in their artistic development.

This project is made possible by the Mondriaan Fund.