Crowns & Gladiolas
Jonathan, they call
a little blood
just a little blood to top off the honey
Galerie Suvi Lehtinen is pleased to present the first major Berlin solo exhibition of Iwajla
The photographic portraits featured in “Crowns and Gladiola” take as their inspiration the
Yona Wallach poem, “Jonathan,” in which the author imagines herself a young boy being
slain by other children wielding gladiola as swords. Here, Iwajla Klinke’s fascination
with human ritual – previously explored through portraits of young male subjects adorned
in arcane religious cloths – is expanded to explore cultural practices situated even further
from the center of mainstream Occidental discourse. Idylls from Wallach’s poem are
interpreted almost literally in portraits of fencers; a series of models bearing bridal
crowns evoke a not-so-distant time when girls of a similar age had their futures
determined for them through arranged marriage; and ritual of a very different sort is
evoked through Klinke’s depictions of young suburban Berliners obsessed with American
football and boxing.
While the use of elaborate costumes and other totems traditionally affiliated with
pageantry could easily come across as a camp or absurdist gesture, Iwajla Klinke’s
subjects captivate us with their austere expressions. Unlike other photographers who take
children as their main subject, Klinke is not attempting to formulate a definitive
commentary on youth and innocence; rather, her work startles with its dignifying
suggestion that children are as capable of seriousness and meditative contemplation as
their adult forebears.
These recent images extend Klinke’s oeuvre to include a range of “contemporary magical
knights,” which is how the artist thinks of many of her subjects. Taken together, these
boxers, American football enthusiasts, and Orthodox princesses could be viewed as
characters plucked from a modern day fairy tale.
Klinke never grasps for universality in her images; in fact, she is fascinated by the ways
that humans grasp for universal meaning by entrenching their lives in the symbolic. It is a
fascination we can’t help but share, communicated as it is through one of the most
strikingly original voices to appear on the scene of photography for some time.