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Shifted layers in Britta Benno's personal spaces

Mari-Liis Krautmann (1/2024)

Mari-Liis Krautmann analyses Britta Benno's work.


SUMMARY


Britta Benno's doctoral thesis, defended at the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) in 2023 under the title "Thinking in Layers, Worlding in Layers: Posthuman Landscapes in Extended Drawings and Prints"(supervised by Elnara Taidre), focuses on expanding the boundaries of drawing and printmaking. One of the three exhibitions reviewed during the doctoral process was titled "Of Becoming a Land(scape)" (22. I–20. II 2022, at the Tartu Art House), where Benno described the layered working process of printmakers through layered landscapes.

Britta Benno (b. 1983) has been immersed in art throughout her life, exploring various artistic expressions. Her professional career as an artist began with studying printmaking at EKA in 2003. Although her initial desire was to study painting, her drawing skills led her to pursue printmaking.

During her early years, personal struggles and joys played a significant role in Benno's work. For example, in the autobiographical series "Multitasking" (etching, aquatint, 2015), the artist depicted herself, her children and her family.

These works are not merely in dialogue with Raphael (1483–1520), Filippo Lippi (circa 1406–1469) and Elisabetta Sirani (1638–1665), whose Madonna compositions served as inspirations for Benno, but also relate to the works of Estonian printmakers from recent history. For example, in her "Tallinn Madonna" (1974), Evi Tihemets (b. 1932) portrayed her own daughter, Epp, as a baby.

A significant shift occurred in Benno's creative path in 2017. Instead of mundane everyday scenes, the artist began portraying various dystopian narratives. Places where the artist had lived (Lasnamäe and Mustamäe) or which were associated with her identity as an artist (Tallinn Art Hall, the view from the studio at Põhjala Factory) became submerged under floods or masses of vegetation. However, Benno's dystopias are not bleak or depressing; rather, they satisfy the viewer's longing for greenery.

For the exhibition "Ruinenlust at Lasnamägi" (25. XI–14. XII 2020, at the Hobusepea Gallery), Benno defined the space created as a heterotopia, connecting distant times and places. In her doctoral thesis, she consistently uses the term "self-space" to describe a special microcosm created by the artist.

The process of creating the artwork is also clearly visible in Benno's animations. For example, at the Lasnamäe exhibition, visitors could see a stereoscopic or spatial puppet animation. Such personal storytelling using various techniques and materials is also characteristic of the artist. While the dinosaurs of "Ruinenlust" appeared by putting on stereo glasses, viewing the animation in the exhibition "Polar Dream" (6. I–11. II 2023, at the Rüki Gallery) required bending over an iceberg and peering inside it.

Benno's work is often categorised as post-printmaking, yet traditional print elements are strongly present. The interlacing of various printmaking techniques ties her to the printmakers of previous eras.

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