susanna majuri: nordic water tales

“I want to show that one can find the fantastic from nearby. Fiction blends into our life. The imaginary is in fact actual.”

Stories are a wonderful thing! You can lose yourselves in them, assume a different form or personality – and yet, in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

Finnish photo artist Susanna Majuri (1978) is the storyteller of the North. In her pictures, her thoughts always return to Iceland, the land of her dreams. The wondrous island with its glaciers, waterfalls and geysers has long held her in its thrall. She takes inspiration for her work from the land of legends, fables, stories and music, weaving together her impressions to create picture galleries that tell of her own life and emotions.

Majuri portrays people living not only in Iceland, but also in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, because to her mind, there’s a little bit of Iceland in every Nordic country. She finds the common features of the landscapes just as captivating as the diversity of tongues spoken in the various countries. Her works therefore bear titles in different languages, as a way of opening up various ways of accessing the images. One might even say that Majuri illustrates stories as if they were images that form a common language shared by all the Nordic countries.

Naturally, her pictures are pure fiction, just as people like to make up stories about their lives. But one sometimes has the impression of encountering there figures from the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, from Hans Christian Andersen or Selma Lagerlof. The photographs resemble film stills lifted from the movie version of a fairy tale, or perhaps from a thriller, or a romance without a happy end. The many associations evoked demonstrate the enormous narrative potential that hallmarks her work, which is joined by a finely honed sense of composition and staging.

In her photographs set outside the water, Majuri creates panoramas that convey the state of mind and feelings of her figures, even though she never shows us their faces. Their mysterious behaviour seems to lend the landscape a deep emotional resonance. Water then either adds a protective and inviting quality, or it can seem to menace the figures or swallow them up.

For her latest works, Majuri produced wax fabric printed with motifs, in widths up to six meters, which she lowers to the bottom of a swimming pool. Her models dive down into the water, with Majuri acting as director. In these scenarios she’s not interested as much in the backdrops as in the secret stories her girls carry within them. She reveals in her photographs the whole spectrum of what it means to be a girl, from sister to girlfriend and then onward to becoming a lover, usually portraying her figures at the moment they discover their own bodies. The protagonists always play a dual role – they are heroines of the story but also the objects of sexual desire. The models are scantily dressed and often appear unconscious, or perhaps even dead and drifting. The dark currents of the sea wash around them, or they are enveloped by the crystalline transparency of a swimming pool. Water also becomes a place of danger here, where the protagonists lose their earthly gravity and are robbed of the air to breathe. Majuri lets the bodies blur, the surface of the water dissolving into what looks like myriad brushstrokes. She uses water as if it were paint, deliberately deploying its properties of absorption and its metaphorical dimension.

Majuri condenses all the strange tales, the yearnings and hidden secrets into pictorial atmospheres that somehow seem plausible despite all their magical qualities. Ultimately, it is the viewers who take on the role of storyteller here, projecting their own notions and emotions onto these pictures to bring to life the “Tales of the North”.

Until 5 March 2011
Galerie Adler Frankfurt
Hanauer Landstraße 134
60314 Frankfurt am Main
Germany

Images:
© Susanna Majuri

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