Karen Paulina Biswell



I treated art as the supreme reality and life as a mere mode of fiction.” Oscar Wilde

Karen Pauline Biswell was born in Colombia in 1983. In the 1990s, she emigrated to France with her parents, fleeing her country’s severe political violence. Her work — constantly being redefined — deals with moral vulnerability and human destiny. Capturing the unexplored dimensions of everyday life — society’s marginal, provocative aspects — Karen Paulina Biswell’s work focuses on the extreme states of human thought and experience.
Her photographs have been displayed at various exhibitions, including the Fondation Vasarely museum in Aix-en-Provence (2018), at the Valenzuela Klenner gallery in Bogotá (2018), at the exhibition Rencontres photographiques de Guyane in French Guiana (2017), at the Cité Internationale des Arts artist-in-residence centre in Paris (2017), and at the festival Les Rencontres de la photographie in Arles (2017 and 2016). Her work has also been nominated for the World Press Photo 6×6 Global Talent Program (2017), the Higashikawa Award (2016) and the Madame Figaro photo prize in Arles (2016).

Chère Pipi [Dear Pipi]

2018 Photographic Residencies

In 2017, Karen Paulina Biswell became an artist-in-residence in the Amerindian municipality of Awala-Yalimapo in French Guiana through funding from the country’s Institut Français branch. From this residency came the project La Dernière Lune - Nuno Onoï [‘The Last Moon - Nuno Onoï’], an invitation to personally meditate on, and philosophically explore, femininity and the power of its harmony with the plant kingdom.

In today’s world, where people see culture as a tool for dominating nature and exploiting its essence, Karen Paulina Biswell echoes the Amerindian Kalina culture — with its cosmogony founded on an analogy between humankind and nature — to promote harmony between women and the plant kingdom in regard to our lives, ways of thinking and relations with human and non-human beings.    
By choosing women as her work’s main theme, the artist has also chosen to honour them. Indeed, women are the custodians of ancestral knowledge that has been almost wiped out by a colonial culture of patriarchy.Through a photographic collection of portraits of women from the local community and portrayals of the region’s natural aspects, Karen Paulina Biswell explores femininity in its deepest sense: the vitality of its union with elemental forces like fire, water, light, night and earth. The power of women’s bodies is revived. In this way, the moon (nuno), which features in the title of the series, recalls humanity’s guide, a metaphor for femininity.   

Karen Paulina Biswell has chosen the Photographic Residencies to broaden the visible, geographical boundaries of her photography’s subject. In what will be her second residency in French Guiana, the artist intends to explore the Kalina area more widely, beyond the Amerindian municipality of Awala-Yalimapo, in search of communities living between French Guiana and Suriname. Karen Paulina Biswell seeks to examine this forgotten land that is very rarely photographed or only captured through stereotypes.

Series produced between 2018-2019.