About the work

ELINA BROTHERUS

ABOUT THE WORK


  ELINA BROTHERUS
    

Miroir, 2001
Video/film

Miroir functions as a self-portrait. Elina Brotherus herself is the person who gradually emerges in the video. The video is a pendant to Brotherus’ work Le Miroir, a series of five photographs. As does the photographic series, Miroir centres on identity and the work enters the long tradition of artists’ self-portraits.

However, Miroir is not only concerned with the artist herself but with a situation which most people are familiar with. Brotherus distances herself from the genre trappings of the portrait. She chooses an intimate setting in the banal and everyday bathroom scene rather than the stylised pose in a representative room. In this manner she highlights a universally human experience.

REFLECTING PHOTOGRAPHY
Miroir too holds a comment on the creation of the work itself. Thus the work can be viewed as an allegory of the photographic medium which originally functioned as a form of mirror. The so-called daguerreotype comprised a silver-plated copperplate whereupon an image gradually emerged during the lengthy development process.

Elina Brotherus employs the medium of video as a foundation for exploring herself and her life. The relationship between art and life is essential to her. Although in Miroir she has chosen video as her form of expression, Brotherus first and foremost considers herself a visual artist. She considers not the medium itself but rather its applications to be crucial. It is all about what she wants to say with the individual work, and the form or expression she decides on is often part of the work’s meaning. Thus too in Miroir where reflections over the medium and the process are integrated in the finished work.

Elina Brotherus’ art in general
In a documentary and objectively recording imagery, Brotherus’ works are occupied with identity. The point of departure is her own personal stories and private experiences. Her photographs and videos range from self-portraits over treatments of emigration, homesickness and the significance of language to explorations of the issues challenging the art of painting.

In the series Suites Francaises 2 Brotherus uses herself as model. Based on her experiences in moving from Helsinki to Paris, she reflects on the difficulties in adapting to a new country and acquiring a new language. Brotherus is also her own model in the series Model Studies and The New Painting which the video work Miroir is from. In these series Brotherus goes beyond the self-portrait, instead focusing on the possibilities and limitations of painting as well as the utilisation of the body as model.

SHAPES, COLOURS AND ART HISTORICAL REFERENCES
Brotherus has a keen interest in art history and finds many similarities between a traditional medium such as painting and more recent media like video and photography. This manifests itself in her approaching her videos and photographs as a painter would his painting. I.e. by exploring compositions and experimenting with the use of light, colour and models.

Evident in Brotherus’ work is the presence of a long art historical tradition. In her paraphrasing works for instance, she playfully recalls Caspar David Friedrich’s famous paintings The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) and The Polar Sea (1823-25) and Paul Cezanne’s Women Bathing (1895), thus reinterpreting a number of major art historical works. Partly by updating the original subjects to a modern context and partly by rendering them in a new medium.

A BLANK SCREEN
Brotherus’ work is self-reflective. Her artistic explorations are concerned with the medium and the tradition of subjects which her works enter, as well as the thematic content. Therefore Brotherus’ works do not offer conclusions or definitive answers. Rather they are contributions to a visual dialogue which involves us as viewers in active conversation. Of this interpretative openness Brotherus says: - When life is shaky I get the urge and passion to make photographs… In every person’s life there are both large and small tragedies, much and little happiness; there are emotions and needs. That is why fragments from my life might seem familiar to others as well. In a way, I provide the viewers with a blank screen, a surface on which to project their own feelings and desires.

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