The Little Things

New work that takes the form of a homage to small items – although tiny, they have the potential to become something big, bright and beautiful.

The bright colours and almost plastic aesthetic of Elisa Von Brockdorff’s work are familiar to many in Malta. But her deceptively simple popish style hides a painstaking process and a meticulous attention to form that are not always obvious at first glance. Her new work takes the form of a homage to small items – although tiny, they have the potential to become something big, bright and beautiful.

Elisa Von Brockdroff at her exhibition The Little Things at La Bottega Art Bistro in Valletta. Photo by Matt Thompson

The little things was born out of the restrictions of lockdown – with limited space and access to materials, Von Brockdorff turned to her practice for strength. What started out as a determination to keep working grew to become a compact body of work, offering a much-needed counterpoint to the seriousness of our times.

It’s the little things that you miss – hugging a friend, or popping out to the shops – that only become important when you don’t know have them anymore. Similarly, tiny objects – chess pieces, marbles, clothes pegs and toys – take on a heightened significance. Upon imposed close inspection, they expand to take up space in our consciousness, and develop characters and meanings of their own. Placed meticulously within a highly stylised composition, they become important in their own right.

Those that are familiar with Von Brockdorff’s work will notice a slight shift in dimensions however. This new collection includes the depth of a mirror, that reflects a distorted image, as well as a sharp, crunchy line of light.

Photo by Matt Thompson

A further development from her usual work are some images containing water, and – notably – flowers and petals, which create a textural and painterly quality. Her signature bright colours and tiny objects are still there, but the surface of the petals and the depth of the water mark a departure from her previous work.

However, even the more organic form of the petals – with a seemingly soft surface – is structured in its composition. It is clear that composition is always important in Von Brockdorff’s work, as are balance, colour and texture. The repetition of shapes creates a rhythm within the image.

As she speaks about her work, Von Brockdorff compares her use and re-use of objects to the use of language – she’s speaking through their placement and repetition, much as we use words to build sentences and meaning. Each object alone remains silent, but placed alongside others they form a secret narrative and a depth – both in space and in meaning.

Von Brockdorff speaks modestly about her work. She has a solitary way of working – a sort of thinking through doing that requires time, contemplation and meticulous placement. The lightness in this collection belies the monotony of lockdown with an intense appreciation for small details. She has participated in several group exhibitions over the past few years and has collaborated on many projects. She is now contemplating a larger solo show. In the meantime, her new body of work at Bottega provides us with a glimpse of what’s to come.

The little things runs until 10 September at La Bottega, 201 Merchants Street, Valletta. For more information call +356 99292488 or view www.artsy.com/lily-agius-gallery

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