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VERSATILE ODDITY

Alina Frieske combines painting and photography, creating portraits of an infinite number of strangers, posing as different versions of themselves; sometimes reduced to no more than a colour or a shadow.

ARTWORK BY ALINA FRIESKE 

TEXT BY ITIR YILDIZ

 

The vitality, radiance and layers unique to oil paintings, brushstrokes, colour transitions, shadows... If we were impatient and told you about Alina Frieske’s work by just praising oil painting and the illusion it creates, it might not feel strange initially, but it would definitely be misleading. It appears that her explorative spirit has driven her towards a style where she works with photography as a material, using collage as a technique, finishing her work with the use of bold painting effects. Imagine a portrait reflecting snippets of images cut out of photographs and a seemingly endless crowd of strangers, posing as different versions of themselves; shape-shifting into a multitude of different forms. In other words, Frieske dissects everyday images to create brand new compositions, a pixel-by-pixel pursuit, if you will. From a distance, tiny collages serve as a colour palette, striking the viewer with the vitality of an oil painting and making the texture of the objects come to life. In their new forms, the selfies circulating on social media, the ‘still life’ photos and other details create a unique portrait, maybe as an interior design texture, strands of hair or a reflection in a pair of glasses.

Born in Germany in 1994, Anna Frieske got her MA in Photography from Lausanne University of Art and Design (ECAL). In 2019, she was a finalist at the internationally acclaimed Hyères Festival of fashion and photography. A year later, she was listed in the British Journal of Photography’s Ones to Watch. She participated in solo and group exhibitions in cities such as Paris, Lausanne, Rotterdam, Milan, Zurich and Dusseldorf, with work from her series: Hold Dear (2022), Second Passage (2021), Can you see me better now? (2021), and Abglanz (2019).

 

An adolescence, that coincided with the period in which social media took over our lives, may lie at the root of why Frieske felt the urge to ponder the virtual realm that she was born into and ponder the meanings of the images people choose to display online. Her work reflects the visual cascade of the digital universe, not only as context or material, but also in form. The transitivity of images is easy to notice, probably due to our scrolling habit, which developed while searching for online visuals or information on our smartphones. An image in the digital world migrates to the physical world in a completely different form and, in relation to other visual components moving away from its initial context, original meaning and integrity. Blurred or crisp collages fixed to close-ups seem to refer to a user’s online perception of being ‘alone’, whilst also being immersed in themselves, and serve as a means of socialising, by sharing a presence.

 

Frieske collects and assembles images from social media and the infinite pool of visuals on the web with the dedication of an archivist. Her collage techniques and illustrations, superimposed onto the images, occasionally give the impression of brushstrokes. She builds on her creations with what we believe to be the patience of a saint, enjoying the liberty of choosing between what she wants to reveal or conceal, to distort or deform.

 

‘Timelessness’, the word we generously use to describe such things, manifests itself as a feeling in her work, embracing the simplicity of the everyday objects she uses as props, the casual atmosphere of her scenes and the models themselves – who are left alone with perhaps their most bare thoughts and mundane existence. Frieske’s work might comply with contemporary practices, but her scenes transcend the boundaries imposed by the times, the conditions and the geographies that we live in. Her work holds a resonance that pushes far beyond the boundaries of the digital world that she finds inspiration in – perhaps this explains the strength of her impact?

 

Frieske’s work also comes loaded with questions: how does photographic material serve the art of painting, beyond being a source of inspiration? How does it contribute to, shape and change it? The following quote from John Berger’s Ways of Seeing resonates with Frieske’s work and offers some ideas worth considering:

 

‘Every drawing or painting that used perspective proposed to the spectator that he was the unique centre of the world. The camera - and more particularly the movie camera - demonstrated that there was no centre. The invention of the camera changed the way men saw. The visible came to mean something different to them. This was immediately reflected through painting. For the Impressionists, the visible no longer presented itself to man in order to be seen. On the contrary, the visible, in continual flux, became fugitive. For the Cubists, the visible was no longer what confronted the single eye, but the totality of possible views taken from points al round the object (or person) being depicted.’