Elena Helfrecht – Plexus

Plexus is a photographic case study based on still lifes that emerge from inherited trauma and postmemory, exploring the family as an essential contributor to psychological and cultural processes across history. Following my grandmother’s death, I return to my family estate in Bavaria and use the house and its archive as stage and protagonists for an allegoric play.

In the process of reconnecting the fragmentary history of my female lineage, the term ‘re-membering’ becomes literal. Immersing myself into this story, I fill the gaps with dreams, associations, and imagined occurrences to create a narrative transgressing personal and national boundaries. The objects and architecture of the house become parabolic proxies and open a gate between the past and the present.

Permeating the imagery is a figurative search for apparently reappearing patterns in history, echoing my own repetition of my mother’s and grandmother’s behaviours. By confronting a past spanning across four generations, a renewed sense of identity provides ground for a detailed investigation of postmemory, mental health, war, and history.

Elena Helfrecht (born 1992 in Bavaria; based in London and Bavaria) is a visual artist working with photography. In 2019 she completed her MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in London, after receiving her BA in Art History and Book Science from Friedrich-Alexander-University in Erlangen in 2015 and studying Art and Image History at Humboldt-University in Berlin from 2016 to 2017. Elena’s work revolves around the inner space and the phenomena of consciousness, emerging from an autobiographical context and opening up to the surreal and fantastic, at times grotesque. Interweaving memories, experiences, and imagination, she creates inextricable narratives with multiple layers of meaning characterised by a visceral iconography. Growing up in the Bavarian countryside, the folklore and landscapes from her childhood are rooted in her heart and continuously influence her work, as does her love for Art History, Literature, and Psychology. In 2020, her work was nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award and selected as a finalist for the Sony World Photography Awards, the HSBC Prix pour la Photographie, and the PHMuseum Photography Grant, among others.

As a winner of ‘Camera Work’, her ongoing project ‘Plexus’ will be exhibited in a solo show later this year at Palazzo Rasponi 2 in Ravenna.