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Anja Niemi. Characters with cracks in their facades

Author: Luisa Bernal

Section: LAB

Date: 07.2013

 

Anja Niemi defines herself as a Norwegian photographer who plays dress-up for a living.

As a teenager, Anja realised she had the ability to manifest her imagined reality through photography: “It was a huge turning point for me. I was never good with words and finally I had found a way of communicating. I never imagined doing anything else ever since. I feel pretty lucky to be able to have the job that I have. Being able to dress up and tell stories for a living is pretty amazing! I have to admit, though, that I do work really hard every day trying to make it work, and as an artist there are no guarantees. I think every bill paid is a goal, and there are many more bills to come!”

 

Anja Niemi l DRESSLAB

 

Anja is fascinated, she says, by all that crawls below the surface: “We have a tendency to hide all the ugliness of life and I wanted to create characters that had a few cracks in their facades. I think most of us could benefit from letting our guard down now and again!”

The search for these fissures where, to a certain extent, we yield to our less conscious selves, is possibly the reason why the photographer openly declares her admiration for surrealist cinema and images such as the severed ear found in the grass in the film “Blue Velvet”…”It’s an image from childhood that just never left me. David Lynch has a beautiful way of blending the surreal into mundane everyday life, and I often go back to his work for inspiration, even if it’s just for his amazing colour palette!”

 

Anja Niemi l DRESSLAB

Anja Niemi l DRESSLAB

 

Another key that may help us explain Anja’s work is the fact that she grew up in the presence of the paintings of Edvard Munch, “…my grandmother was a painter and she introduced me to his work when I was very young. Munch often used himself in his work and talked about the necessity of using private, subjective experience to create ‘universal’ statements and imagery. The surreal, the mundane, and the personal are all parts of my work today”.

 

Anja Niemi l DRESSLAB

 

Yet another key for exploring her universe is the film PINA, by Wim Wenders, where Pina Bausch says to one of the dancers, “You just have to get crazier!” “That really got to me. It was like getting encouragement to do what I always thought I needed to stay away from”.

While Anja has always been creating self portraits, she recognises that when she was younger she couldn’t separate her personal life from her work. “After becoming a mother I felt protective and began to become more aware and uncomfortable with the exposure. There were a few years where I hardly made any work, and it was not until *Do not disturb*, that I managed to find a way to combine everything in a way that I felt good about. Still using myself, but protected by the characters I created. I continue to share personal experiences, but prefer for it to be unclear what represents me playing out a narrative and what it is a more intimate moment”.

 

Anja Niemi l DRESSLAB

Anja Niemi l DRESSLAB

 

As an artist whose work contains so much subjective experience, I asked her if she thinks there is such a thing as women’s art, “I think great art should be able to communicate to anyone regardless of their gender”.

The perfect creative environment for this artist is “…solitude and an endless amount of time in an inspiring room with Jun Miyake`s Lilies of the valley playing loudly”. In her next project, however, she will be renouncing this solitude. For many years now she has wanted to collaborate with her sister, the writer Lena Niemi, “…finally we have begun our project which will be included in my next series which has the working title ‘The Flamingo Motel’. I can’t wait to get started!”

 

+ info_ Anja Niemi

Texto_ Luisa Bernal

 

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