Annegret Soltau

Annegret Soltau, Permanente Demonstration on 19.01.1976, 1976 - 2008. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

Annegret Soltau, Permanente Demonstration on 19.01.1976, 1976 - 2008. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

Annegret Soltau’s carefully threaded, sewn and sutured photographs have become her trademark. Arising out of early performances from the 70s, where she would literally tie herself and audience member’s up, covering their face with black thread. These works make as their contested subject the face: the thread, comparable to makeup, marks the face as a palette for consumption. Influenced by the Viennese Actionist movement (in particular the radical performances of Günter Brus) these performances evolved into her web-like drawings, using the thread as a subtle form of self-mutilation: “I am using myself as a model because I can go the farthest with me.” Important solo exhibitions include Share_Connect, Kunsthalle der Sparkassensti ung, Lüneburg, Germany (2016); Personal Identity, Maurer Zilioli Contemporary Arts, Munich, Germany (2015) and Oneness and Separation, Frauen Museum, Bonn, Germany (2014).

Annegret Soltau (b. 1946,  Lüneburg, Germany) lives and works in Darmstadt, Germany. Born after the close of WWII, Annegret Soltau grew up impoverished and in relative isolation on her grandmother’s farm outside Lüneburg, Germany. Her father, unknown to her and her mother, had gone missing during the war and her mother had virtually deserted her at the age of 7, leaving Soltau under the guardianship of her grandmother. Soltau spent much of her youth working on the farm - collecting hay, tending to the crops and garden, knitting, darning clothing, and sewing the intestines of slaughtered pigs together.

These early experiences had a profound impact on her later artistic practice, with its particular emphasis on the body and sewing.  A student at the University of Fine Arts, Hamburg (1967-72), Soltau studied drawing, painting, and etching. A preoccupation with the human body and psyche led her to experiment with performance and photography: using thread and cords, she wrapped her own body, and that of her consenting audience. The resulting lines, and the trace of those lines when the thread was removed, was like a subtle form drawing and self-mutilation. The documents of these performances, the photographs, began to take on a more central role in her practice and she shifted to performing directly for the camera rather than an audience.

Taking staged photos of herself, she sewed through the photographic print; or  ripping photographs of herself and others, she sewed them back together. Creating perverse and often unsettling photomontages of the female form, she reminds the viewer of the physical traumas our bodies endure: of scarring, rupturing, and surgery.  This is most literally done with her series documenting pregnancy and childbirth. Exploring issues related with female identity, these works are among her most well-known and  continue to dominate her practice.