this issue contains
>> Portrait Cornelia Parker
>> Gerard Byrne: The world is a stage
>> Annelies Strba: Idyllic Worlds
>> Interview: Yehudit Sasportas

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The Light Shadows of Time
Annelies Strba's Photographic Family Excursions

It's a magical and entirely feminine world that Annelies Strba portrays in her photographic works. Her images oscillate between Romantic drama, neo-folk, and digital Impressionism. At the same time, her apparently idyllic worlds are in reality distanced, long-term studies of her own family: for over two decades now, Annelies Strba's daughters and grandchildren have also served as her models. Harald Fricke spoke with the Swiss artist about her work.

Nyima 317, 2006,
©&Courtesy Annelies Strba/Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin

They play the flute, comb their long hair in front of the mirror, or lie dreamily in bed. This is how Sonja and Linda spend their youth, a melancholy memorial frieze to the '80s. Gradually, the two girls turn into teenagers that hang up pictures of punk icons like Blixa Bargeld in their rooms; later, we will see Sonja holding her son, while it appears that Linda is turning into a glamour girl. All of this occurs before the eyes of Annelies Strba, whose series Shades of Time has used the camera to observe over a period of more than two decades how her daughters have transformed into attractive women and then into equally attractive mothers.

Nyima 318, 2006,
©&Courtesy Annelies Strba/Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin

The result is a wonderful document of what is usually the somewhat sluggish cycle of family life, which Strba sets in scene in unspectacular portraits and situations. In the late '90s, these images made the Swiss artist into one of the most important photographers of the present day: in 1999, Strba showed at the New Museum in New York; in 2004 she was invited to the Architecture Biennial in Venice. Her photographs belong to important collections such as the Kunsthalle Hamburg, the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie in Paris, and Deutsche Bank. Currently, her works can be seen in large thematic exhibitions such as In the Face of History at London's Barbican Centre and Fairy Tale at The New Art Gallery in Walsall in central England.

Les cathédrales de monnaie 02, 2002,
Deutsche Bank Collection © Annelies Strba / Courtesy Frith Street Gallery, London

Nyima 240, 2005,
Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin

Despite the keen attention paid to her work, Strba has always maintained a private sphere. Born in 1947 in Zug as the daughter of immigrants of Yugoslavian and Hungarian descent, the artist still lives in the small community of Richterswil, close to Lake Zurich. She finds large cities to be "completely awful", as quickly emerges in conversation: "I can hardly even stand it when I show." In order to work, she retreats to her studio in the even smaller village of Betlis (population 36), situated at an altitude of around 13,500 feet. There is a lot of forest in the area, as well as a high moor that plays a key role in the videos and photographs of Wonder and Frances und die Elfen: the daughters, grown women now, lie like Shakespeare's Ophelia in rustling dresses in moss; or they ride alongside trees in glaring light, the attenuated branches enclosing the women like a spider web.

Nyima 320, 2006,
©&Courtesy Annelies Strba/Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin

The place is both a magical fairy tale landscape and terra incognita. Here, on this side stage of civilization, archetypical tableaus and image series arise that are related to the Symbolism of the Fin de Siecle, although they've been digitally manipulated on the computer. In this dialogue between Romantic theatricality à la Lord Byron and neo-folk high-tech spookiness, the strange occurrences join together to form an allegorical dance, a ghostly waltz in Modernism's morning dew.

Nyima 154, 2003,
Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin

In terms of atmosphere, Strba's point of departure was the novel Wuthering Heights by the English author Emily Bronte. The book was a scandal when it appeared in 1847 – the story of an unconventional love that ends in hatred, revenge, and finally death departed too radically from the strict morality of the Victorian age. At the same time, however, the intensity of feeling that Bronte portrays in all its various facets became a tremendous inspiration for many artists of the generations that followed. In 1935, Balthus created illustrations for a new edition of the novel, of which Strba possesses several original prints. She feels a close affinity to the painter: while Balthus repeatedly represented young girls in a surreal, highly erotically charged world of enigma, she seeks to demonstrate "how my images can also be about something that anyone can interpret immediately, but not really comprehend."

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