The work of Finnish artist Aurora Reinhard is built upon different observations and theories on gender and sexuality. When asked why she keeps exploring these topics, Aurora sincerely answers – „It is not my decision“. Although contradictory at first, the answer makes sense when looking at her oeuvre. For Aurora, being honest and grappling with the uncomfortable mess beneath the surface of the society and oneself is the only way of being an artist. Through her candid photographs, sculptures, and videos, she has been compulsively questioning gender tensions and media representations of women as part of our cultural and intellectual history long before the recent feminist debates. An emphatic and often surreal look at various expressions of womanhood was central to her work since the beginnings of her art career in the 1990s. Refreshing as ever, a collection of her pieces that allows for new considerations of familiar issues will take up the exhibition space of Salon Dahlmann during the Berlin Art Week, as well as in the following months until December 15, 2018. We met up with Aurora before the opening of her show "High Rider" to discuss her work and understand what lies beneath.
Can you introduce us to your exhibition at Salon Dahlmann? What are the main ideas throughout this show?
I use two rooms in the show. The first is showing new works, mostly made in the past year. The other room shows older works, mainly from the Miettinen Collection.
Lately I've been inspired by art history. There is, for example, a new self-portrait called "Untitled“, which is inspired by a painting of the decapitated head of St. John the Baptist. It shows my head on a table. Even though it hints to decapitation, the expression on my face is really peaceful, almost like sleeping. With this work I wanted to show myself after a long time of working with masks and always hiding myself.
Aurora Reinhard, "High Rider" at Kunstverein Ruhr (exhibition views), 2018. Photo: Lukas Vogt
About the work "Madonna & Child“: I have been working with the face mask and silicone breasts for several years and I made a show called "Venus“ last year. But images in the "Venus“ series are all about popular culture, pin-up, porn etc. Since my art history fixation got more acute, I got an idea to make my own version of the Madonna and child theme. It is not about blasphemy, but thinking about myself, a woman who doesn't have a child. It seemed to make sense to make an image of a woman who tries to keep looking young and hot and the baby she's holding is also an artificial one. A mean-looking boy, actually already a man, trying to grab her breast.
There is also another work with direct art historical motif. It is the work called "Martyr“, a 3D-printed sculpture. It's a self-portrait after the famous motif of the martyr St. Sebastian. I am presenting myself as the martyr of love. The three arrows represent three people who touched my heart and stained it.
Where does the title "High Rider" come from? Why did you choose it for this exhibition?
"High Rider“ is the name of one work in the show. It is depicting female legs, which are united with a pair of scissors as her upper body. I chose it as the name because it depicts the mood of the work for me. Curator Peter Friese suggested it as the title of the whole show.
Aurora Reinhard, "High Rider", 2018. © Miettinen Collection. Photo: Lukas Vogt
When doing the piece, I was thinking a lot about the work of Lynda Benglis where she is posing naked with a huge dildo betwen her legs. It is a very famous art historical and feminist image from the 70s. In my piece the legs represent the human/female side, and the scissors represent the more cold, business-like, or robot-like approach. Sometimes I feel that I need to harden my surface in order to function in a man's world.
I always liked surrealism and it is also visible in this piece.
Aurora Reinhard, "Flowers No 4", 2013. © Aurora Reinhard
What informs and inspires your artwork the most?
At the moment and already for some years, art history has inspired me a lot, specially renaissance painting. All of the pieces in the show have a link to art history in some way, either from the theme, or how they are displayed, or both. And I've been thinking a lot about the image of Woman's body through times. The styles are changing, but the naked or semi-naked female torso always stays. But in general, gender and how it is represented by us, as well as the interaction between the different genders is at the core of my inspiration.
Why are these topics - body, sexuality, gender – important to you as an artist?
These themes are at the core of our society. Sexuality and reproduction are the most important aspects of humans.
I don't exactly know why I keep on exploring these topics. It is not my decision. But the basic questions are who I am, what kind of a woman I am, will I ever find real love and be able to accept myself fully as the person I am. And I haven't got the answers yet.
Can you name a specific work or event that had a special impact on you?
A lot of the works are somehow inspired by the people I meet. Long time ago, when I did a video called "Boygirl“, it was inspired by meeting the people who I am interviewing in the video. I met them, and with the video I wanted others to meet them, too.
Aurora Reinhard, "Boygirl", 2002 (video still). © Aurora Reinhard
Aurora Reinhard, "Dream Team", 2017. © Aurora Reinhard / Zetterberg Gallery
For example, a 3D print work I did last year was inspired by the curator David Elliot. I was in October Salon in Belgrade, which he curated, and during the process I got an idea to make a portait of us, so I made a 3D portrait which is called "Artist & Curator“. And as I was doing the works for the October Salon and sending him images, he pointed out a work by Félicien Rops called "Pornokratès“ which depicts a woman walking a dog. From there I got the idea to make a 3D work depicting me walking a man naked and blindfolded, called "Dream Team".
What are you currently working on or planning, besides the show at Salon Dahlmann?
I'm continuing on the themes and topics of the "High Rider“ show.
I'm taking part in a group show at Port25 in Mannheim in November and I'm doing a solo show at the Zetterberg Gallery in Finland also in November.
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Aurora Reinhard — "High Rider"
Salon Dahlmann, Marburger Str. 3, 10789 Berlin
On view until 15.12.2018
Opening Hours during Berlin Art Week:
Meet the artist: Aurora Reinhard is present at Salon Dahlmann on 29/09 & 30/09, 12–18h