CLOSE UP: Elaine Duigenan, Blossfeldt’s Apprentice

Shutter Hub member Elaine Duigenan is steadily gathering acclaim for her recent series ‘Blossfeldt’s Apprentice’, and has just won Gold at the Prix De La Photographie Paris. Here is the story of its making.


In April 2016 Elaine Duigenan launched the series ‘Blossfeldt’s Apprentice'. It was premiered by her gallery KLOMPCHING (New York) at AIPAD (the Association of International Fine Art Dealers) and has steadily been gathering attention. Aside from taking Gold at the Prix De La Photographie Paris, awards include two second places in the Moscow International Foto Awards and being shortlisted for the RPS Print Exhibition.  


Elaine is a photographic artist based in London. Her approach is one of prolonged focus on single objects. She has exhibited internationally and has work in collections that include the V&A and The Museum of Fine Art in Houston. In late 2009 one of her images was flown to space on the Shuttle Atlantis and photographed in The International Space Station.

Alongside making her own series of work for exhibition, Elaine undertakes residencies and works alongside institutions such as Wellcome Collection to deliver special projects. In 2013 Wellcome (known as ‘a destination for the incurably curious’) organised a groundbreaking exhibition called ‘Souzou’ (the word combines ‘imagination’ and ‘creation’). It featured the work of Japanese ‘outsider artists’. The artist Shota Katsube inspired her to make objects out of one of the most ordinary of  materials – the twist tie. Katsube makes tiny warrior figures but Elaine’s sculptures took an organic shape and she began to reference the work of Karl Blossfeldt, the famous German photographer. 

She handmade the subjects of some of his iconic photographs and then made images of those objects. Blossfeldt had worked with the ‘perfection’ of nature and Elaine, by trying to replicate his work, was taking on a dual challenge. The series was not resolved until the realisation that it was the imperfections that made the images ‘work’ – the tiny details of thread that revealed the evidence of making. 


‘Art and nature, the two great phenomena of our environment, are so closely related that one is inconceivable without the other’.  (Karl Nierendorf, 1928)  


‘If you take time to stare into the darkness for long enough you will know that it is soundless and silent.  Only light can ‘stain’ it.  In response to Karl Blossfeldt’s iconic images Elaine Duigenan has recreated nature with ubiquitous and commonplace sculptural materials:  twisty ties and cotton.  These markers of light are bound together with human hands.  The original, classical forms of the plants are remade to reveal both the limitations and the possibilities of an art work.  Nature already has all of the forms of beauty and our songs will always fall short.  But as long as the act of ‘holding up the mirror to nature’ remains a compulsion then we have life.  Whether it be the nature around us or in us, it does not matter.  What matters is that we recognise the act of looking and then communicating this to our fellow human and, therefore, for a brief moment, defeat time.’    Robert Bishop



You can see more of the work of Duigenan in her Shutter Hub profile here.


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