ELKE ANDREAS BOON
Permissions, Prohibitions and the Perplexing Present
Elke Andreas Boon’s art is engaged with observations of daily life and personal history. Her multiplatform projects and installations include videos, photography, paintings, drawings and sculpture. The subject matter in each work dictates the form and language she uses to express her ways of reading the world and her engagement with it.
As the artist says, “I look at the world and I see the constraints of all of the systems, traditions and dogmas. They organize and torment us at the same time, keeping us from reaching our full potential.” In her work, feeling is paramount and becomes the force that guides an insightful analysis and stinging critique of political, religious, economic and societal relationships. Boon is an artist who looks at life and in her urge to understand its shape and dimension she finds hopes through reform, rebellion and resisting expectations.
Initially gaining attention and notoriety for her sensitive, often nude, photographic portraits, it’s impossible to grasp the breadth of this artist’s worldview without taking into account the comprehensive scope of her work. Her work demands that the audience engage with the full oeuvre to understand and appreciate her explorations into the construction of identity in the present day. Her work confronts the questions, “How do we belong?” “How do we survive?” “How do we turn pain and hurting into healing?” “In the face of suffering, how do you understand empathy?” It feels natural that this multidimensional artist should communicate across platforms, as it matches the myriad possibilities we have to express the complexities of modern life.
Every drawing, painting, sculpture, video and photograph is a window that offers a visual of her perspective on life. To see the full breadth, you must take a step back and see the entire house. Every experience is full of beauty and hardness too; there is struggle and sublime hope; there is injustice and yet the search for identity is the strongest force in the universe, but will it prevail?
Her work gravitates toward an exploration of permissions (what we are allowed to do), prohibitions (what we are not allowed to do) and the consistently changing hardships we face in the modern world (the perplexing present). What does it mean to be alive today?
From within these expectations, forces that seek to constrain creativity, voices and human will control the patterns of life.
In one example of her work, with a purposeful delicacy, she has drawn a tattered cityscape, a landscape perspective of a city ravaged by war. This intricate drawing traces the outlines of the architecture and possibly what remains. Like most of Boon’s work, it challenges the viewer to look closely and examine the codes and presumptions we make when visually scrutinizing the world. Is the city destroyed, or is it being rebuilt by the sensitive insight of the artist’s hand? The drawing itself is beautiful and therein lies part of the contradiction, because war is not beautiful. But here, she has created or re-created a world of beauty, and one that’s worth fighting for, even when that fighting leads to so much destruction. Within softness, there is rebellion at work.
The recurrent theme in Boon’s work is her exploration of the human condition and her fascination with humanity—the sensitivity of our condition, the frailty of human life and the immeasurable creative will we have to exist within the powerful systems that control our daily lives.
In another work, she explores coding through the every day object of the sheet, that thin cover we use to keep us warm at night. Through a subtle change of placement and urging the viewer to look and look again, a slight move of the sheet from above and below the head reveals the short distance between what we understand to be a state of sleep and a state of death. The distance between silence, soft sounds and shrieking isn’t so far after all. Her work encourages multiple viewings and news ways of looking at the same thing twice.
As an artist, she communicates what is essentially the most important thing we require of all artists: that they possess the innate urge to understand things and the talent to express this understanding and share it with the world as though we are seeing it for the first time.
(Michael Gardner, May 2015)