Elina Brotherus 12 ans après – Wapping Project, Bankside

18th November 2014

Elina Brotherus is a name that has come up in talks, discussions and written articles time and time again in the few years I’ve been studying with the OCA, so at last a chance to see and hear the artist in the flesh and to look at her images in the first exhibition of her work in the UK.    Taking time out especially to provide a talk to students from OCA she gave us just over 45 minutes of how her career has developed, some of her motivators and philosophy about her work.

Like a lot of artists her work has clearly been influenced greatly by what has happened to her personally throughout her life, the ups and downs, the highs and the lows, which she’s transferred into the work she produces.  She has a clear idea that any work she makes has to be left for an extended period of at least months, and can be years, before she looks at it after making it, and before she begins the post-processing to bring the work to ‘market’. She made a statement about this to the effect that the minimum time she leaves work before looking at it is six months, and what she calls her current work was made in 2010-11, so any images she’s making at the moment probably won’t come to full fruition for a couple of more years.  I found this a very striking thing to do and can relate to the fact that when she does finally get around to working with her images, they have a different look and feel to her from when first made.  This allows her to see things that perhaps weren’t initially prominent when making the images and allows different reactions, feelings and narratives to surface bringing new meanings to them.  Having seen similar things happen to images I’ve made over the last couple of years makes me believe that this is possibly worth considering as a definite ploy, although whilst studying for a degree the images have to be brought to finish in a much shorter time, and can one have the infinite patience this process needs to wait so long?

The patience that this approach requires I think falls over into the way she makes her work, there doesn’t appear, from listening to her describe her processes, to be any intent of what she’s looking for when going out on a shoot.  The fact is she prefers to work alone and stops at places she finds interesting enough to set-up her gear and make an image without any preconceptions and then wanders on waiting for the mood/idea/feeling to hit her before another image is made.  A new methodology has arisen from her collaboration with a Dutch book designer where images that at first don’t seem to have any connection with each other are randomly laid out and looked at over a period of time, then selections are made that appear to complement each other and an edit undertaken; this has resulted in a new book to be published sometime in 2015.

I think the most telling words she spoke were when asked if any particular meaning should be ascribed to a certain work, her answer was, “No, why should there be?  Can’t an image be made just because it looks good?  Does there always have to be any associated meaning?”  To me that was a priceless gem of wisdom to be taken away from a fascinating talk that ended all too soon.


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