I watched a video of the talk given by Elina Brotherus to a group of OCA students in 2014. It includes some interesting insights into her work and some practical tips regarding style and creativity. The main points of interest for me are as follows.
12 Ans Après (1999 / 2011-2013)
When selected for the prestigious artist-in-residence position at Musée Nicéphore Niépce located in Chalon-sur-Saône, France in 1999, Brotherus needed to learn French. So she stuck post-it notes onto objects with the French name; ‘concrete’ names like ‘toothbrush’. And then photographed it.
In 2011 she was invited back by the museum to undertake workshops with 17 and 18-year-old art students. She insisted on staying in the same room as she had stayed in 1999. Once again she stuck post-it notes around the walls But now with better French and more mature outlook the notes contained much more psychological thoughts. She describes the 2011-2013 collection of post-it notes as a ‘position statement’. Reflecting on her life as a 40-year-old woman she says
In every picture I see my future death
She talks about the work having all the themes that are important for her: very simple landscapes, fog simplifying the view, reflections, the human figure in the landscape, and classical/art historical references about how a human being should be presented in natural surroundings or an interior. She concludes this part of the talk by saying that the 2011 to 2013 work are more autobiographical.
If you have the luxury of time, use it!
Brotherus Says that she often takes six months before looking at her work for the first time. She describes becoming detached from the pictures and can, therefore, better see what works or not.
Interestingly, when asked if the location has any particular meaning to her she refused to answer saying ‘We all read pictures through our own lives. It’s really free for you to feel the way you want about it’.
The work ‘Annunciation’ was a five-year autobiographical project covering her failed IVF treatment. Speaking of the taboo nature of female fertility treatment she says ‘It’s difficult to talk about it and that’s maybe why pictures can be like a route into or a pathway into those questions’. For Brotherus the photograph is a means of distancing herself from the experience. She talks about making something into a picture, printing it and putting it on the wall and then stepping back from it. She says ‘That’s a way of seeing myself as part of a bigger picture maybe’. In other words, perhaps seeing herself as a human being many of whom have similar issues.
Theme and styles
When asked if an artist has to have a style or a theme brother offered some great advice. She said don’t worry about a style or theme as long as that you work in a sincere way. It as it’s all your work it will eventually come together. Trust your intuition and work. It’s better to work more than sit at home and think. You can do the thinking afterwards. Print the work and then put the edit together.