Esther Teichmann: On Sleeping and Drowning

I have always been afraid of caves and grottos… It must be passed down - inherited. Because it is without explanation nor incident. I assume many others feel this way, and I assume this could be the intent of Esther Teichmann’s newest exhibition. A feeling of wonder… Yet an unease that can’t be placed.

Esther Teichmann, uses photography, film and sounds in this solo exhibition to create the experience of walking through a grotto. With women sleeping and swimming in the photographs this work is autobiographical with a hint of fiction. At the Flowers Gallery, Kingsland Road, London, between the 3rd of May and 22nd of June. This space will be transformed into a fantasy grotto… A marine cavern harbouring such personal stories.

At the top of the stairs I am greeted by a photograph of a woman, laying, covered in seaweed... The idea of being washed ashore, and I turn into the gallery to see the journey, or the storm, that washed her onto the beach.

The exhibition includes an installation piece of a shipwrecked boat; the sails made of material painted with storm clouds - as if to demonstrate the story of how this piece came to be. The caves are painted with pastel colours swirling and flowing like lava, and the collections of photographs correlate feelings to one another, for example a photo of a sleeping woman and then a photo of misting clouds as if to show time dissolving as she dreams.

I have always struggled with finding art to define ‘woman.’ In film there is a phrase; ‘male gaze’ suggesting that the camera is always male and women are viewed through the ideology of men, and sometimes, art can have that same effect. Moving between teenager and girl into a woman I find it difficult looking around to find the right imagery. But these pieces, showing woman as a natural form - just like the nature around, and seeming part of that nature, gives a refreshing view.

Stripped from social views and pressures, there is only the human body, but the photographs rage an inner turmoil in these woman - their bodies capturing all the emotions, complication and contractions of being female… Or, also, just being human. And some of them, show a peace within them, a dream-like daze, as the title of this piece would suggest. Figures such a Botticelli’s Venus and the Bible’s Eve in the gardens come to mind, and the long hair of these women reference mermaids and other mythical tales.

With a score composed especially for the exhibition by Deirdre Gribbin this is a cerebral experience. I am in love with the photographic work of this artist, and although the exhibition is not on for much longer, I am sure there will be more work in the future - and I can’t wait.

Photography - All images © Esther Teichmann, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery.

Written by Caroline Louise Hamar.

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