Saara Ekström’s work finds its power in contrasting pairs. Reversed sides of different phenomena such as death and life, absence and presence, pleasure and repulsion are often brought together in her art. Challenging our perceptions of beauty Ekström´s work creates meanings that question the idea of a world clearly divided in light and darkness.
Ekström started her career as a painter, but moved on to work with mainly photography, video and installation. Her work has found a source of inspiration in both Asian aesthetics and Western 1600-century still-life and nature morte tradition.
Natural or man-made, the objects Ekström uses often contain strong symbolic values. Fruit, flowers, hair, milk and other organic and everyday materials are emblematic to her work. Installation with shaking aeroplane trays and videos of symmetrically moving dirt particles in the silent video titled Dust, 2011, give tribute and draw the attention to small and seemingly unimportant phenomena in the edge of our perception.
The video installation No Body, 2007, discusses the feelings evoked by the body, while the will and identity gradually become exposed and disintegrated. The video is based on a monologue wherein the female protagonist records the phases of her slow evanescence. Merged with the text, images of slowly turning flower arrangements in an intensive red lighting create a spiraling and hypnotic background to the monologue.
In another video, Man before a Mirror, 2011, Ekström focuses on the Dadaist text titled Men Before a Mirror (1934) – a confession of masculine vanity. It is a work about selfhood and otherness, the narrative relationship between text and image and the exchangeability of gazes and modes of being. The work combines a video of a male tailor meticulously cutting and sewing a man’s suit and an audio element of a woman reciting a text adapted by Ekström.
Ekström spent her 6-month artist-in-residence period at ISCP in July–December 2014. ISCP is a residency-based contemporary art institution in New York that aims to support international exchange between artists and curators. The Finnish Cultural Institute collaborates with the Alfred Kordelin foundation in enabling residencies for Finnish visual artists.
http://www.fciny.org/residency/pekka-teija-isortty http://www.fciny.org/residency/minna-pllnen http://www.fciny.org/residency/caroline-slotte