TRUDI VAN DER ELSEN
Trudi van der Elsen, is a visual artist born in a bog-land area in the south of Holland known as "the Peel". She visited Ireland on a cycling tour of West of Ireland bogs in the '90s. She has since made her home in Co.Clare where she has built a solid reputation as an artist and art teacher over several years. Bog-lands are a major inspiration for her. Much of her artwork - painting, drawing and photography - resulted from research into bog-lands and the people who live in such areas.
This fascination, which continues with new research on the bog-lands of Ireland, was triggered in 1973 by a newspaper review of The Bog People, a book by P.V. Glob centering on the Tollund Man. The strange story of Tollund Man, and the Danish bog in which his remarkably preserved 2,000 year old body was found, made a profound impression on the young artist, although the photographs of the Tollund Man's body in Glob's book gave her the impression that the body was that of a woman! The atmosphere in those bog-lands and the tale of the mysterious Tollund man were the inspiration for a remarkable and highly acclaimed photographic series. She explains:
"I was curious about what the bog people had experienced. I wanted to gain a better understanding of what Tollund Man and such people, killed and buried in bogs at that time, felt, heard and smelled when they disappeared in the bogs. So, as part of my research, I tried to reproduce the experience of being consigned to a bog, and documented the process. I followed a geological line of bog-lands through Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, making black and white still-shots which resemble freeze frames from an interrupted motion film. For me, the results were profound. The process had many remarkable resonances, and there were numerous connections with powerful, primal symbols which are fundamental to western culture. I was reminded of legends such as Narcissus and Ophelia and of symbols which have entered the western canon: the four elements (earth, water, fire and air), the four temperaments (sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic and melancholic). All these informed or found expression in the images generated by my research".
An academic analysis and appreciation of van der Elsen's images of 'bog people' was published in December 2009 in the University of Chicago Press book Bodies In The Bog and the Archaelogical Imagination written by Karin Sanders, professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of California, Berkely.
As well as the photographic series, the Bog exhibition also includes examples of some of the artist's varied and eclectic painting styles. These include a remarkable new work portraying the artist herself painting an abstract inspired by Clare's Burren area.
The exhibition runs until April 1st.