‘Au naturel’: this French word expresses ‘naturalness’, in English it usually means ‘nude’.
The skin is bare, completely at ease, and this sense of calm is one of the many things you feel when seeing Alina Gross’ photography for the first time. Her images are erotic and suggestive, with a subtlety that is so carefully crafted it makes you wonder:
we see genitalia as plants, bodies painted over, cropped, zoomed in, paired with nature. Her photographs are a spectacle of colour, of moods and textures and feelings.
Here a man’s face close-up, amphibian-looking, there a woman lying in the water, her face on the surface like a waterlily. These are photographs to ‘watch’ like film stills. Their special aura comes from the sense of ‘touch’ they inspire through gestures.
We end up somewhere ethereal, but in sync with ourselves: the body like a palette, a stage where the ambiguity is seductive.
Your photography tells us stories about the human body, with such a range of textures, colours, moods… I think of cinema and painting when looking at them up close. One of your series has this dark, baroque feel to it, plant-like hair against a black backdrop; and similarly in Neuss. What was the inspiration for these -perhaps in film, or music?
My inspiration is the human body and the whole body with its beauty and power and female desire. I’m interested in anatomy and prefer belongs to botany.
My statement is: all of these processes are natural and do not have to be taboo.
And yet on Instagram your photographs were censored… how did this happen? Maybe in relation to A.I only recognising naked body parts and not distinguishing anything aesthetically like a human eye would?
Portrait of the artist. Courtesy of Vanessa Hitzfeld
I believe that artificial intelligence censors images on Instagram and often cannot distinguish between a grapefruit or a vagina.
It is taking on absurd traits.
Instagram unlocked my account again after a month’s lock, stating that the lock was an accident.
The ‘surreal’ edge of your works reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, with a touch of humour and absurd…Does surrealism influence you -for the Hasselblad Masters for instance?
I would rather speak of the fascination for photographic staging. I never wanted to work as a journalist.
I love the fact that photography can be used to create worlds of images quickly and easily.
Can you share with us some insights on your project with Vanessa Hitzfeld on body painting? How do you go about setting the stage, with poses and gestures – similar to the ‘performance’ side of fashion?
I love fashion photography as its creating a room for creativity.
Well, the body painting is similar to clothing, hence the parallel to fashion. Vanessa is a painter and we develop together an idea or color. We have a similar vision as to what our values are.
Therefore the cooperation is very symbiotic.
Also, a lot of your imagery is sourced from nature. Between earth, air, fire and water, which for you best describes your personality?
The element of water is my personality best. Water can be deep and calm or it can make waves.
‘Nature’ can also be seen in your work in the sense of a ‘cycle’, of growth, of fertility, of motherhood… can you tell us more about the patterns you use there -and how you might have subverted them, or enhanced?
For the philosopher Baruch Spinoza, nature is God.
Everything that surrounds us is part of it, all processes are natural.
The cycle of motherhood can be represented well with elements of nature, including female sexuality and desire.
In my eyes, sexuality is very important, it is the basis for reproduction and the maintenance of evolution.
Your photography pairs a minimal aesthetic with a kind of eroticism. How do you reconcile the two, and which work you have made is most ‘sensual’ to you?
I like the portrayal of flowers growing out of bodies.
The pleasure turns into a flower. I like that idea.
“Nobody sees a flower really…it is so small it takes time….and to see takes time” [Georgia O’Keeffe]
Your work is so gripping because it builds up suspense: there is an ambiguity in what we see or believe to see in your photographs. They invite us to pause and take the time to look. With the image overflow on social media, seeing in slow motion is something quite precious! What is your relation to time in your practice?
Social media creates a certain pressure on me to have to deliver creativity and that regularly and at a high level. The consume of images is enormous.
I try to create pictures that are viewed for more than a few seconds.
When I’ve done that, I’ve achieved a lot!
…and last but not least, something you have changed in your practice or mindset as a result of the pandemic?
“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”
ALINA GROSS SHOWING AT “BODY – POSITIVITY” AT HAZE GALLERY
On February 27, HAZE GALLERY Berlin will host the opening of the BODY–POSITIVITY international exhibition, which will be held as part of the PURPLEHAZE MAGAZINE anniversary 005 issue launch.
The exposition will include works by contemporary artists from Europe, made in different media: graphics, installation, video and photography. The initiator of the exhibition project, which will become a platform for dialogue between authors from different art schools and cultural spaces, was the independent art community.
Opening | February 27, 2021 at 18:00 || Free admission | 16+
Exhibition Dates | February 27, 2021 – March 13, 2021 || Working hours | by appointment
Header Image: Alina Mann, Visions of femininity, 2020
Author: Alexandra Etienne