Niki Elbe —Safari

Niki Elbe —Safari

Artist Niki Elbe lives in Berlin. Her work features not only room installations uniting design elements from film, photography, language, the objet, painting and drawing but also series of drawings and individual pictures. The findings and self-knowledge expressed in her drawings evidence a psychological strength drawn from the experiences of love and suffering, joy and sorrow, freedom and a lack of the latter, engaging in commitment and splitting up, satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Elbe’s works are thus deeply human ways of divesting herself of experiences, of a life that she has lived, experienced or desired.

Through her delicate drawing, her intensive use of color and her symbolically 
intense shape repertoire her lyrical pictorial worlds develop a particularly expressive 
narrative aura. What she produces is pictorial formulations that appear partly 
autobiographical, partly poetical and partly reflective, referencing the figure of the 
woman, subjective notions of the world, wishes, fears, dreams and experiences of 
reality.
 
The composition of Elbe’s compact designs is usually characterized by delicately 
and gracefully drawn women – naked, skimpily dressed or dressed. With only a few 
confidently placed lines Elbe outlines their bodies, accentuating parts of the latter 
and focusing on the face as a fundamental indicator of expression. The female body 
thus reveals itself in a number of works as a slender, delicate, natural womanly 
casing for sensual imaginings or experiences of life, whereas in other works it 
appears as deeply erotic and, it is suggested, challenging; in yet other instances it 
is hidden behind clothes or masks. The female form acts as a central component 
of narratives that present everyday events or activities in a symbolically enriched 
poetic background.
 
The pictorial worlds drawn by Elbe combine ideas from fairytales and myths, 
dreams and moments of reality. The scale she uses for the size of her figures, 
everyday items and their natural or architectural background adheres to the 
mediaeval principle of the perspective of importance and to the artist’s notions, 
with different figures being treated differently. The female figure is revealed as a 
being acting in harmony with nature, animals and plants, a figure aware of its natural 
significance and femininity and one who reveals itself as an individual with 
imagination, intuition, sensitivity and eroticism. The female body is seen firstly, 
as an organism full of desire for sexuality and secondly as a vulnerable organism 
very close to the delicate body of a deer or a bird. And so by placing the two on an 
equal footing symbolically or by creating parallels between the woman and the 
animal, Elbe hints at the inner affinity between them or even something that could 
represent a reciprocal congeniality of temperaments.
 
The often recurring figure of the hare, usually one of outsize proportions, is 
portrayed as a partner and friend, as a symbol of the constant presence of dreams 
and sexuality. Texts also take up this theme of the apparently clashing but, upon 
closer inspection, harmonious interplay of reality and dream, present and memory, 
visible and invisible events, vacillating between two worlds.
 
Elbe’s drawings clarify the role of woman in current times and present-day society 
particularly sensitively. Woman represents an object of desire for man, a being full 
of longings for fulfilled love, an element of nature, of the natural cycle of day and 
night, somebody who moves between the world of men, work, the home and her 
profession, bringing up children and self-discovery and who wants to be seen as an 
independent creature. She is however a being with many faces, one who knows 
how to hide and to reveal things, someone both familiar and representative.
 
Elbe’s poetic drawings confront us with the reality of life, the reality of an individual 
existence and the reality of a human type moving between the worlds of nature, 
culture, family and work, of desire , love and life. They are works of a great honesty 
and openness, works that simultaneously frighten and fascinate us.