In Nelli Palomäki’s work, the portrait acts as a support for the study of memory, time, the perception of the self and family relationships. For her exhibition at the gallery, the artist has chosen to present one of her latest series Shared, which explores the relationships between brothers and sisters.
The representation of siblings is a constant in the history of art. Whether they are mythological, historical or contemporary, siblings serve as a pretext for the illustration of power relationships at the level of society. Because it raises all the paradoxes of human relations, the sibling bond also covers a huge field of emotions which modern sociology and psychology continue to study. What is the role of sibling relationships in the construction of individual identity? Starting from these observations, Nelli Palomäki has chosen to look at the physical and spiritual relationship connecting brothers and sisters:
“Out of all our relationships this might well be the trickiest one. Underneath the cohesion and love, there are more complex emotions like competition, envy and concern for the other […] We use our siblings as our mirrors, through them we study both our worshipped and unwanted features. As a result we quickly begin to see ourselves in a relation to another. As a little sister myself, and as a mother of two little children, there are many personal interests involved too. No matter how equal we wanted to see our family relationships, there is always some disparity. This disparity, along with the comparison between the siblings, continue to follow us throughout our lives.”
Formally, her choice of timelessness is shown through the indistinction of the settings, hieratic poses and carefully chosen clothing. There is indeed a question of mise en scène, but here the children play their own role with a gravity not often granted to childhood. Patiently, Palomäki waits for unease to settle in, this moment when, in her opinion, the truth of the photographed relationship is found.
“Photographs shown here explore the siblinghood through portraiture. They show the physical closeness between siblings and simultaneously underline the uncomfortable of being so close to someone. Togetherness in these photographs is built around simple gestures like holding, grabbing or quietly leaning to another. Particularly different ways of touching the other has become a crucial part of the work. It is captivating to follow how some of the siblings are united while being portrayed, whereas some are suffering from being so close to each other.”
Like feelings, Nelli Palomäki’s photographs plunge us into an ambivalent reality. This hand placed on a brother’s face, apparently tender, could also convey the exact opposite.
Nelli Palomäki’s work has been shown in several solo exhibitions such as the Finnish Museum of Photography (Helsinki), Kulturhuset (Stockholm), Ordupgaard Art Museum (Charlottenlund) and Gallery Taik Persons (Berlin), as well as in many group exhibitions.