Eva Stenram examines the act of looking at photography by digitally cutting up existing images – taken from vintage pornography and erotica – and rearranging the original photograph’s compositions so as to unravel its visual cues. Stenram places herself in the same position as a viewer: she has no direct contact with the women who appear in her works. This once-removed relationship to her subjects allows her to explore how we see photographs of women, and therefore reveal dramatic new tensions.
In her series Drape, for example, Stenram plays with the curtains usually used as backgrounds, making them cover the models up instead: “It became both a way to highlight the viewer’s voyeuristic desires and to refocus attention to the rest of the photograph. The photograph’s hierarchies were reversed – background became foreground, the exposed became hidden, what was overlooked became significant,” she says.
In another series, pornography/forest_pics, she digitally removed all the bodies from hardcore pornographic photographs found on the Internet. It also points out our expectations as viewers – rather than to show us something about the women in the images, reversing the power dynamic that usually exists between a viewer and the viewed. “My interest was first of all in erotic imagery and pornography. These photographs are captivating partly because they are so functional, their purpose is clear, and also they are of course very strong images that never fail to elicit some kind of reaction. They are intimate, yet they are made for public consumption,” she adds.
For her latest exhibition at The Ravestijn Gallery in Amsterdam, entitled Offcut, the east London-based artist continues to dissect vintage pin-up photographs, this time focusing in on the textiles and fabrics that appear in the backgrounds of the found imagery she uses as her material. Using a similar approach as in her previous work in order to subvert the act of looking, in addition Stenram has also introduced fabrics themselves into the space in tactile form – covering a chair, and hanging as drapes from the gallery walls. The effect is uncanny in a Lynchian way, leaving the viewer to wonder, what has been removed from the frame?
Eva Stenram 'Offcut' is on view at The Ravestijn Gallery until October 22, 2016.
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