Thursday, 2 February 2017

Annegret Soltau - Stitching on Photographs

Surfing on the internet as I often do, this afternoon I came across the work of extraordinary German-born visual artist Annegret Soltau. Her work caught my eye because of her use of stitch on photographs ... but stitch with a difference.

Bilder Web

Soltau stitches into full-face portraits or into photographs of the human form. She uses simple conventional threads to play with and change the photos, often attaching other images in a thought-provoking and sometimes disturbing way. Below, in the first piece from a series of work begun in 2003 and entitled Personal Identity, she attaches a copy of her birth certificate to her own face. As in each case in this series, she allows the viewer also to see the reverse which has its own appeal, perhaps sometimes even more than the main image.

Geburtsurkunde (front)
(reverse)

She says of this work:

"In this series of works in progress, I examine the question of personal identity in the age of digital information. The series shows a search for biographical traces in self-portraits with sewn-in original documents, beginning with my birth certificate and continuing on to the SIM cards that are in everyday use and in which my Self is saved in digital format. 

The conclusion to this series will be a collage including my death certificate, to be put together by one of my surviving family members."

Later pieces in the series so far include parts of a shopping loyalty card,

Lindex (front)
(reverse)

and the front and back of her credit card:

MasterCard (front)
(reverse)

Some of these pieces give a particularly tantalising insight into Soltau's life. They include for instance a student pass, a medical card and, shown here, a dental card,

Zahnarzt (front)
(reverse)

and most beguilingly, two versions of her Mutterpass, a record of pregnancy and birth,

Mutterpass II (front)
(reverse)

Looking at other pieces on Soltau's website, I found much of her work intensely affecting and personal. In addition to the above there is also a series called Vatersuche (Try), shown below in installation view. This documents (literally) her long and fruitless search for her missing father who was lost or killed during or just after the Second World War. She describes this quest as 'a search in a place of emptiness'.


Portrait Annegret

However, the work is also at times most disturbing.  It even perhaps provoked revulsion and I have been careful about the images I've chosen to show here.

There are also things in her work that have set me thinking. I like the very simple way she uses stitch so that it doesn't intrude on the message of the work. I am also very taken by the thought of using one photograph / image on top of another and especially of somehow making my work more personal.



6 comments:

  1. j'aime beaucoup la dernière photo des séries et l'accumulations des oeuvres... bises

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    1. Merci Elfi - Une artiste extraordinaire et qui invite à réfléchir.

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  2. I had not encountered this artist before, but there are a few who stitch into photographs. I wrote a post about the subject for Ragged Cloth Café a few years ago: https://raggedclothcafe.com/2011/07/16/connecting-thread-by-olga-norris/
    I'm pleased that the work has inspired you - there's no accounting for what sets us going on our own work.

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    1. Very many thanks for this link, Olga. I'm currently away from home helping our daughter move house. I will follow it up when I return to sanity!

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  3. I have seen this technique before but it is always interesting to see how different artists use it. Thought provoking and somewhat disturbing, but definite possibilities ! Thanks for posting this artist.

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    1. Glad you found this interesting, Sharron. Disturbing indeed - but I found the linking of images through the use of stitch definitely something to consider.

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