Exhibition: Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Parasol Unit, London, until April 25 2010
“Human dramas” may bring to mind the worst sort of sunday evening TV, but don’t be put off by Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s description of her own work.
It’s true the Finnish video artist deals with universal themes, such as love and death. Her primal emotions and strong characters will appeal to any primetime audience.
But unless you have found a channel simulcasting contemporary art reels and have a few large screens installed in your living room, there ends the comparison.
Ahtila’s films are multi-layered, her installations are immersive, and her narratives unfold in a complex, haunting way.
And although her scripts are well-crafted, they would challenge most commissioning editors with backdrops like the Algerian War, hardship on the coast of West Africa and, in one film, a house of mourning for a dog .
Indeed narrative conventions are pushed to their limit in The Hour of Prayer, as Ahtila disrupts the space, structure and causal logic of the unfolding tale.
All three video pieces are being shown for the first time in England. As important works by an artist with worldwide critical acclaim, they are recommended viewing.