Sunday, March 05, 2006

Very low horizon

Continuing the theme of Mark Rothko’s influence, there is the contemporary example of Finnish photographer Elina Brotherus. In Low Horizon (2) (2000) the cloud has the consistency of Rothko’s paint and Horizon 7 (2000) resembles one of Rothko’s late black paintings. In other works, like Very Low Horizon 2 (2001), she reduces the landscape to a zip of colour and creates an image that recalls the paintings of Barnett Newman. Speaking at Tate Modern on Friday, Brotherus was happy to talk about the influence of painters like these (she also mentioned C├ęzanne, Bonnard and Vuillard), but it is clearly their formal characteristics that she is interested in: colour, light, shapes… She is not particularly interested in landscape per se. Her photographs use the landscape like a palette to explore the concerns of Modernist painting, and indeed her recent work has been exhibited under the title, ‘The New Painting’.

Postscript, ten years later
Looking back at this I see the links to the images no longer work and don't appear on the artist's website, but you can google them.  One of her photographs from 'The New Painting', Der Wanderer, has since been used as the cover for a useful survey of landscape photography by Liz Wells, Land Matters (2011). In this book Wells notes that in updating Capar David Friedrich (e.g. Wanderer above the Sea of Fog) Elina Brotherus unseats the male gaze, but also, more generally, her work shows the female body at ease in and unthreatened by the environment.  The video below, Silent Lake, is one of several she has made over the years in which the artist walks out into a Finnish lake (I'm not too sure about the musical accompaniment, although it gets less jaunty halfway through!)  The ripples she creates are a kind of ephemeral land art, linking her body to the wider landscape.

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