London based Dutch artist Tisna Westerhof offers a witty and poignant critique of the daily diet of violent and banal imagery presented in the Western media. Through playful subversion 'Digest' prompts us to ask ourselves what the media feed us and, as we digest it, what we become.
At first sight, the display of wall-hung plates exudes an old world, folksy charm. But on closer inspection we discover pictures of Ebola dead; a white policeman beating a black woman; an Islamic State fighter holding a baby. Painted in a naïve, tentative hand on flimsy disposable plates, these dark, unsettling images, once released from their original context, start to resonate with pathos, absurdity and tenderness. The accumulation of functional paper plates, rendered useless by painting, embodies the disposable nature of news media, where catastrophic events are reported on in a moral panic and just as quickly forgotten. While her practice is grounded in printmaking, the artist revels in breaking down the limitations of materials and reinventing traditional handicrafts. She produces highly tactile works that capture a child-like sense of delight with a combination of humour and melancholy.
In her large embroidered portraits of young male and female subjects, Tisna combines patterning and decorating patch works, sewing together newspaper reports of refugees and police brutality with fabrics from clothes she wore as a child. Inspired by Japanese war kimonos Tisna applies an ancient craft technique, traditionally handed from mother to daughter, to initiate a dialogue about inheritance and creativity in response to media representations of violence. Using snap shots of family life as her source material, alongside imagery from historic films/- documentation, her subjects, the quietly strong but vulnerable young sitters are a metaphor for - and explore the theme of innocence. They seem to be disengaged from judgement and criticism, which enables an examination of the principles of equanimity, humility and acceptance that is installed in all of us.
About the artist
Tisna Westerhof is a London-based artist working across a range of media. She is co-founder and director of hARTslane (2012), an experimental art project space in South London. Tisna studied Printmaking at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and has an MA in Scenography from Central St Martins, London. Awards include the Royal Dutch Printmaking Award and Siemens Art Award. In 2013 she was elected a Member of the London Group. Tisna has exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include ‘Apârtment’ at Bow Arts, ‘Silent Movies’, DeptfordX Festival, the Royal Academy Summer Show, '400 Women', APT-open curated by Paul Noble and 'Fit the Slit' Alberoni Beach Lido in Venice. She has undertaken numerous commissions and has work in private and public collections in Holland, France, Germany, Italy, USA and the UK.