Elina Brotherus is a Finnish artist who works with photography and moving image. Her career as an artist began after she graduated with a master’s degree in Chemistry, and realised that her job was not fulfilling her need for introspection and emotional expression. She applied for the Photography Programme at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki (now Aalto University) and was accepted onto its highly selective course. Since then, she has gone on to win many prizes in photography, including the prestigious Carnegie Arts Award in 2004.
Her inspiration comes from looking at historical movements. Most notably, she is celebrated for her contributions to the Fluxus movement, which emerged in the 1960s. Its aim was to rebel against the vain and elitist climate of the established art industry by substituting expensive materials and academism with humour and chance. Her One Minute Sculptures (2017- ) series displays this best. We see misplaced objects, such as a shoe on the head, which – coupled with a very serious and intimate gaze into the camera – brings an honest, childish smile to the viewer’s face. In her interviews, she often mentions that her work follows her life, and how her creator’s block encouraged her to turn to art history as a way out. This approach is also well observed in her autobiographical series, such as Carpe Fucking Diem (2011-2015), or Annonciation (2009-2013), where she is both the author and the subject of her work. These series breathe with raw honesty, which makes engagement with her art very emotional, especially when she covers sensitive and sorrowful issues such as her attempts to become a parent in Annonciation.
Elina infuses her work with candour and sincerity that leaves no spectator untouched. It captures those emotions we don’t always know how to put into words, but we recognise them when we see them in the photographs she takes. With her two mottos, “what if” and “why not?”, she shows us how extraordinary our everyday lives can be.
By Olga Trunova