Elina Brotherus (1972) lives and works in Helsinki, Finland and Avallon, France. She has an MA degree in Photography from the University of Art and Design Helsinki (2000) and a MSc in Chemistry from the University of Helsinki (1997).
She has exhibited internationally, most recently at Le Pavillon Populaire, Montpellier; Fotohof, Salzburg (2016); gb agency, Paris; Martin Asbaek Gallery, Copenhagen (2015); The Wapping Project Bankside, London (2014).
Brotherus work is held in museum collections throughout the world and she has received several awards among which are the Prix Niépce in France 2005 and the Finnish State Prize for Photography in 2008. She has released five monographs and her latest Carpe Fucking Diem was published in November 2015 by Kehrer Verlag.
Smith’s career has included a post-graduate degree in Philosophy at the Paris-Sorbonne University, a degree from the French national school of photography of Arles, the Aalto University in Helsinki and then at the National Studio of Contemporary Arts (Le Fresnoy), France. Smith’s work can be seen as an observation of constructions, deconstructions, displacements, and transformations of identity. Photography rubs shoulders with video, hybrid art and the use of new technologies.
Who? A dialogue between Elina Brotherus and SMITH (Dorothée Smith)
These are two exhibitions in one place and at one time, forming one proposition. They provide a central, indispensable and contemporary reflection.
Two young women, but from two different generations and two different cultures as well, even if they are Europeans, offering parallel reflections around the notion of identity. Who am I? Who are you? They give no answers, but sketch out pathways that trouble us, bewilder us, persuade us, offer us a mirror or disturb us in turn.
As they work with images, they both come from photography even if they prove ever more tempted by and sensitive to the possibilities of video or even film, they do not show it. But, like all artists working out of necessity, they know how to ask the right questions at the right time, with a prescience that singles them out, and they help us open our eyes to the real issues.
What do they have in common? Perfect mastery of their tools, meaning they can work in subtle colour palettes, revisiting classical painting and the notion of beauty in relation to German romanticism for Elina and the tension between effacement and addition, disappearance and future for Smith. They also have a common questioning of the nature of their tools as much as their possibilities of expression. And constantly pushing the boundaries of this knowledge. This allows them to ask questions of today about the body, in its plasticity and in its relationship to space, be it futuristic nature or dimensions. Myself, brought back to my body; what does that mean?
To bring these two works together for the first time is also to recall that some years ago these artists knew one another in a teacher-pupil relationship. A relationship of trust and dialogue making it possible to take a photograph in which both girls appear, questioning appearance through the simple medium of nudity.
They also have in common, although less frequently for Smith than for Elina, their use of the self-portrait. In a rare, profound, troubling way because, even if they could include a significant autobiographical dimension, they are never, truly never, complacent or narcissistic. The body of the artist as a tool is singular indeed, but as a tool, not as a subject and not as an object.
The way, mysterious and apparent at the same time, in which two works being built or developed hold a dialogue contains a real question: Who? Who is at work? Who is represented? What does this mean?