Feral Eyes

  Cave I
2021 / Ditone (Pigment Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta) / 35cm x 51cm / edition of 5
  Cave II
2021 / Ditone (Pigment Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta) / 35cm x 35.5cm / edition of 5
  Cave III
2021 / Ditone (Pigment Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta) / 35cm x 51cm / edition of 5
2021 / Ditone (Pigment Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta) / 26.8cm x 23cm / edition of 5
  The works in Feral Eyes were exhibited in a solo exhibition in May 2021, at Galerie Barbara Thumm's New Viewings.
This virtual exhibition was curated by Clémentine Deliss, as part of her exhibition program DELERIUM.

To tell the story, we begin with Runner, a fractured woman, her head severed and face distorted, who flees across the gallery towards prehistoric caves.

She is a composite made of cut-offs from different photographic stagings, like those found in sports magazines, fashion imagery, pornographic sets, but also visual instructions for handicrafts. A few years back, Eva Stenram was commissioned by Numéro magazine to shoot a feature with Chanel clothes. The model, like all the personae she creates, was constructed from the face and limbs of easily ten different women.

For DELIRIUM, Stenram returns to this avatar and recalibrates its static, eroticised arms and legs into those of a female sprinter who appears to be running off track, literally out of the frame of the photograph. Her face combines determined emancipation with the frantic expression of witnessing domestic and corporeal disorder. For Stenram, the trope of the cut-up is a meta-commentary on collage but also on the need to work through the biases and directives targeted at women in mid 20th century commercial publishing. This is the suffocating iconology of home life, which can be read in the patchwork bedspread, the patchwork dress, and the patched together person. Our runner is escaping the conjugal bedroom, hurrying toward the caves, while the transfixed eyes of porn actresses look out at the action.

“As with a lot of my work,” she says, “it’s about creating a dynamic or relationship between looking, being looked at, and who is looking at whom,” she says. “Initially I wanted the eyes to appear like those of wild creatures, peering out of the dark. Then I thought they would be stronger if they were camouflaged into the structure of the grottos. You don’t see them at first and then they multiply, and the looking process begins. Your gaze conjoins the multitude of eyes in the picture.”

The sequence, Cave I-III, began with the purchase of a second-hand book from the 1970s containing images of Germany’s natural wonders. Stenram connects these outlandish stone-age formations to Plato’s cave, and the agency of photography to dupe vision and conjure up the fabulatory. For New Viewings, Cave II hangs from the gallery wall like a vast magical tapestry. We walk into the underworld through this virtual portal. In the pitch dark of the cave, we see mineral formations that have dripped down through centuries until fluids congeal. Between nature’s limbs are human eyes, barely perceptible yet shining out from cracks in the rock. There is a smell of decay, like leaves of paper rotting or mildew on leather stored in cellars over time. Petrified flesh seeps out of the gallery roof, human organs are grafted onto nature, and arms burst out of tree trunks. Stenram explains, “The arms punch the sky, as if in a joyous mood of defiance. They’re really cheering you on! But they also appear stuck, like stumps. I am interested in the uncertainty of growth and the death angle of the photographic. I also like the fact that the scene is humorous. It reminds me of Claude Cahun’s Je tends le bras from 1932 in which you see two arms extending out from a hollow cavity of stone.”

Eva Stenram’s virtual exhibition invites us into a psychological and environmental set. There is one actor, and there is you, finding your trail through the labyrinth, in this inner land of lingams, located on the threshold of animist transformation.

text by Clémentine Deliss

  Link to New Viewings - Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin (DE)
2021 / Ditone (Pigment Print on Hahnemühle Ultra Smooth) / 22cm x 26cm / edition of 5
  Watch Stenram's two-minute audio guide to the exhibition: