01 Jun 2021

Spotlight on: Eleonora Agostini

Unframe London

Spotlight on: Eleonora Agostini

This week, we look at Italian artist Eleonora Agostini’s photography which is driven by her interest in the redefinition and reconsideration of the everyday.

This week, we delve into photography work by Eleonora Agostini, a graduate from Royal College of Art, London.

Based in London and Venice, Eleonora Agostini mostly encompasses photography, performance and sculpture in her practice. She is interested in the redefinition and reconsideration of the everyday. By studying preconceived structures, Agostini aims to investigate the struggles of the constructs of human experience. Whether physical or psychological, Agostini addresses these themes through a number of different mediums. This is often through documenting conventional activities in everyday life.

Eleonora Agostini
‘A Study on Waitressing’, 2020. Eleonora Agostini. Courtesy of the artist

Agostini is particularly interested in the possibility of fractures within socially constructed rules and spaces. Predominantly, in her photographs she studies either the fabrication of scenarios for the camera or the documentation of conventional activities. As well as this, she uses humour and absurdity as vessels for the discovery of new meaning within the mundane. Ultimately, she transforms an ordinary space into a place of experimentation.

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Angolo Cottura

Agostini takes still-life photography to a new level in her 2018 piece ‘Angolo Cottura’. She chooses the Italian word for kitchen as the title. In this image, the entire contents of the kitchen from Eleonora’s family home are on display. Various objects are precariously balanced. We see a knife hanging over the edge of the table, as well as salt, coffee pots and a ladle, all teetering. In this way, everyday objects celebrated. However, much alike to all still lives, the imagery takes on allegorical meaning. Initially, the objects symbolise the family and the home, where there is a careful internal order and balance. 

However, this is not immediately visible. For her composition, Agostini makes a direct reference to the home in other works from the same series, for instance ‘Family Portrait’ and ‘Relaxation Island’. Similarly, she conveys and explores the idea of instability in her precariously balanced compositions. All in all, not only does the subject matter raise the question of the role of labour within the borders of the home. It also questions preconceived structures, whether physical or psychological. Therefore Agostini aims to engage with the difficulties of how human experience is constructed.

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Folded Towels

Monochrome photography is key for Eleonora Agostini and she uses it to great effect in this particular photograph. In ‘Folded Towels’, Agostini focuses on the seeming simplicity which underlies complex themes. In the work, she shows all the towels from a single household piled neatly onto one another. However, Agostini carefully stage-manages the scene precisely, to capture the everyday scene. Above all, this allows the work to become a contemporary still-life. In a similar way, the textures and colours of the towels in the pile become like a treatise on the formal qualities of artworks. Although, Agostini pulls it back to the context of the domestic. She achieves this with the inclusion of the arms at the top and bottom, which encourages the viewer to imagine the narrative behind it.

This work is part of a larger series of photographs and sculpture called ‘A Blurry Aftertaste’. Driven by Agostini’s interest in the reconsideration and redefinition of the every-day, the series explores the complexity of the domestic space. The examination of the towels typifies this. 

Works from ‘A Blurry Aftertaste’ series have been exhibited at the South London Gallery and are kept inthe Government Art Collection.

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A Study on Waitressing

In her 2020 piece ‘A Study of Waitressing’, Agostini uses collage as a form of exploration on rituals, repetition and the photographic process. In her practice, Agostini often combines pre-existing materials from the darkroom. This includes materials such as contact sheets, test prints, cuts and experiments. She seeks to explore the performance of labour by analysing the job of the waitress. Through this, she seeks to find a connection with the process of the photographer. In the same way, the artist’s studio similarly then becomes a platform for the re-enactment of everyday labour. The piece is a collaboration between the artist and her mother, the subject of each of the images. Agostini’s mother often features in her work.

The photographic collage is part of an ongoing series. The work was exhibited in the group exhibition ‘With Monochrome Eyes‘, alongside work by Martin Parr and others. The work portrays the movements of a waitress through the technique of collage. In doing so, it references the work of early photographers. For instance, referencing Eadweard Muybridge, who was famous for his pioneering work in photographic studies of motion.

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Eleonora Agostini

  • MA Photography, Royal College of Art, London (2016-2018)
  • BA Photography, Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan (2010-2013)
  • Exhibitions include: Festival Circulation(s), Paris, (2021), Latitudini Quotidiane, Photo Open Up Festival, Padova (2020), Guest Room, L21 Gallery, Palma (2020), With Monochrome Eyes, Borough Road Gallery, London (2020). As well as, Bloomberg New Contemporaries, South London Gallery, London & Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds, UK 2019; Future Shock, Fonderia Napoleonica, Milano, Format Festival, Derby, UK; UK Parliament, London, UK and A Blurry Aftertaste, Premio Francesco Fabbri Per Le Arti Contemporanee, Pieve di Soligo.
  • Awards & Residencies include: Bloomberg New Contemporaries Artist; Premio Francesco Fabbri per le Arti Contemporanee, Finalist;Metro Imaging Lab Award, Shortlisted; European Photography Prize, Shortlisted; and Selected Artist in Residence, School of Visual Art, New York.