Elsa Ers, Body Is a Temple, 2012
6—20 December, 2012
Elsa Ers’ newest series of paintings, titled Body Is a Temple, presents highly abstracted yet figural compositions that raise questions on the dichotomies between the sanctity of the spirit and the temporal flesh. Driven by extensive experiments in process that are – in and of themselves – excavations of the terrestrial female body, Ers’ large-scale mixed-media paintings summon the opposing realms of the sublime and the profane, whose locus is found in the human form. Ers, a young artist from Istanbul (by way of Paris), employs a methodical process that has developed over time and through series of works that consistently demonstrate her occupation with the human body. In Body Is a Temple, the body is subject to extensive, systematic investigations; fragmented and multiplied, it melts into a greater framework comprising flesh, architecture, nature, decay, spirituality, and the entire history of humankind. These monumental bodies, dividing and metastasizing before our eyes, refuse to submit to a hierarchical gaze on their headless, universal forms; their flesh, which bears the imprints of the forces of nature and passing time, is resolute, deeply stratified, and eternal.
Body Is a Temple is the continuation of the artist’s explorations into the effects of various textures and surfaces upon the imagery of the body. In this series, she projected plant motifs on the bodies of female models and photographed them. She then subjected the photographs to digital manipulation and printed the resulting images on paper in large format. Using traditional paint mediums, she transferred the prints to canvas, and – in a systematic process that involved the treatment of several paintings at a time – painstakingly removed the layer of paper to reveal the imagery left behind. The paintings were then built up with layers of material: first linseed oil and varnish to create a surface tactility resembling skin; then oil paint, graphite, chalk, and additional layers of varnish to deepen the quality of the textures. The resulting compositions, large in scale and infinitely kaleidoscopic, recreate the transcendent experience of Gothic cathedrals, manifesting the domain of the holy on the site of the fleshly body.

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