- Fine Art
Against one of the walls that Sterre Arentsen (1997) was given to use for her graduation presentation stands a modest collection of pot plants. They are gifts from friends and family, who know that Arentsen already has plenty of flora in her own home. In the caption to the presentation, Arentsen notes that she likes the fact that even in urban areas, a piece of nature is never far away. Later in the text, she compares a house plant in a pot to a coffee mug printed with a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. These ambivalent feelings are also communicated by her graduation work, a series of photos which she has entitled Miscellanea. The photos show flowers and other plants growing in an urban setting and touch the boundaries of abstraction. In many of the photos, the colour of the light is alienating and the composition is often a close-up, as a result of which the subject makes a mysterious impression.
Arentsen points to a photo showing barely recognisable red forms and explains that it evokes different associations in viewers, from flower petals to a pair of legs. She prefers not to say exactly what the photo is of because that inevitably makes you view it less actively. She prefers to reinforce the sense of alienation by means of what she refers to as analogue image manipulation: using a different colour flash, for example, or rubbing a bit of vaseline on the camera lens. By making photos that show the subject far less literally, she forces the viewer to take a step back, as it were: what exactly are you looking at?
From there it isn't a great leap to the question that Arentsen poses in Miscellanea: what exactly is nature? The selection she is showing during her graduation presentation is far from definitive, notes Arentsen, nor has it been put together as a series. The photos are all from a kind of personal archive that has grown organically over the past two years, without her really knowing what she wanted to do with it or why she was taking the photos. Looking back, she realised that she was unconsciously being led by her attraction to nature, however little it might be present in her immediate environment.
Author: Maarten Buser, poet and art critic