Nele van Canneyt

Nele Van Canneyt is a visual artist who projects her dream world onto reality. It is often cities and urban environments that intrigue her. Nele Van Canneyt searches for stillness, the impenetrable, the unspoken, where coincidence and the reality of that one moment often play a role. She finds this perception both during the day and at night. The images are not staged. Since lockdown (2020), she increasingly discovered her own environment and her own country, which is reflected in her series ‘Inner land’. She often combines different locations and moments in series. This creates new meaningful connections between images.

In early 2021, Nele Van Canneyt exhibited with the solo exhibition ‘Inner land’ in Musea Brugge. The same year, her book ‘As if the day never existed’ was published, from which 20 photographic works were presented at ‘Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie en Gaspésie’ in Canada. Last year, she made the solo exhibition ‘Awakening’ at CC defactory in Zaventem/Brussels. In recent years, she has also created video installations, including ‘The grand’, 2023, in which she zooms in on details in a historic building in Nieuwpoort, the city where she had a residency in preparation for the ‘Silent city’ exhibition.

Text fragment from Indefinable world by Stefan Vanthuyne

(…) Van Canneyt’s photographs are about something that would not exist without the photograph.

They are bathed in twilight and shadow, sometimes in strong contrasts of light and dark. They show places that can be geographically located – she sometimes simply lists the countries where she travelled too – but that ultimately and above all exist in a world that is entirely hers, that exists only in her images. They depict events and situations that seem to have become detached from space and time for a very brief moment. One wonders whether she actually sees the image that way herself, at the moment of printing, or whether she rather senses it, that she anticipates its arrival. That she perceives that charge.

Van Canneyt’s photographs evoke comparisons with film (noir) and painting, but it pays to approach her work very consciously as photography – the medium she consciously chooses, after all -, especially with Wessel’s quote in mind. It is not that her images are not painterly or cinematic (those references are certainly there, no doubt for her too) but they are paintings that do not exist, scenes from films that do not exist. Van Canneyt’s images are not born of fantasy or fabrication, but are formed in an essential present; a brief but, for the photographer, intense present; an essential but fleeting and difficult to grasp.


Van Canneyt’s photographs make you stop. They are unsettling in their quiet power, in their narrative, in their silent mystery. They are gripping. There is a calmness and a kind of wistfulness that, I suspect, exists only in the photographs; a nostalgia for a moment that we recognise but was never there.

That feeling is strong in As if the day never existed; semi-dark images taken in deserted streets, bars and hotel lobbies, soaked in a classic American atmosphere, starring the night and a solitary character. Not infrequently, a lonely wishful thinking hangs in the air, something we share with the anonymous men and women in the image.(…)‘ – Stefan Vanthuyne