Domestic Zirkus


28 February - 4 April 2015

The Whitecross Gallery are delighted to present Domestic Zirkus, a wonderful and intriguing “theatre of the absurd”, created by brothers Tobias and Joseph Feltus, exhibiting as FeltusFeltus, together with their respective partners Caroline Bliemel and Elizabeth Krause.

The work is a series of thought provoking photographic images that are strong and vibrant in pictorial composition. They explore the innermost personal side of an unsettling group of characters, born into the world of performance and forced into a niche of empty stereotype. These characters are inspired by the circus of the late 1800’s, driven by the fear of lost virility, the loneliness of childhood and the depression of a de-sanctified saint.

Primarily using one another as subjects, the artists engage in surreal self-portraiture, embodying these characters in a style that evokes the films of Fellini and the paintings of Christian Schad. It is through these series of characters that they explore the human condition of which they find themselves interpreting.

The term "Domestic" may represent the notion of limitation, which stands as an important element in their working process. The term "Zirkus" represents not only the theme of part of the show, but also the wildness of the fleeting emotions the brothers create and capture through the lens.

“FeltusFeltus mix mediums as much as possible. The limitations of painting bring us to photography, but to a photography that tries to embrace the qualities of painting, and to a film language attempting to create moving paintings that strive to become symphonies.”
(Joseph Feltus, 2008)

Shooting exclusively on film, the brothers are dedicated to a pictorial notion of classic photography, and replicate digitally manipulated images exclusively by means of in-camera techniques, on film. This limitation they set themselves by working exclusively on film, often using cameras dating prior to the 1930s, has been a clear element at play in the establishment of their distinctive style. The sons of figurative painters Alan Feltus and Lani Irwin, the Feltus brothers are clearly influenced by a strong symbolic language, particularly that of the Renaissance, which has been very present in both their photographic work, as well as in their cinematic endeavors.

What is striking about Domestic Zirkus is the contrast between the figures outer image, and their own underlying personal identity, belonging only to themselves, as opposed to the exterior image that is tailored for a public spectacle. The strength of the characters of Heimischer Zirkus inspired the short film HZ-kino that portrays these figures during the photographic session, adopting an independent life of their own.

A portrayal of "behind the scenes" and the actual "eye of the artist", the film was shot through the viewfinder of an old medium format camera, including its grid, its dust and scratches, and the grainy texture of the glass, capturing authentic stills during the making of the film. The filming of the photographs offers the opportunity to witness the artist actually working with these strange subjects, so where photographs are frozen instances of the characters, interestingly the film reveals their behavior a few moments before the flash and shutter of the camera, and a few moments after.

FeltusFeltus were born in Washington DC in 1979 and 1982, and later moved to Assisi, Italy in 1987. They have collaborated in photography since 1997. Both artists graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art. In 2006 they had their first solo exhibitions together in two northern Italian art galleries. They have won numerous awards for their short film 'Solo Duets' and for their photography. In December of 2007 the brothers decided to expand FeltusFeltus by including Elizabeth Krause and Caroline Bliemel into the synergy. Krause was born in the UK; she studied Costume Design at Edinburgh College of Art. Bliemel, born in Dresden, Germany, studied Theatre at the University of Derby.

View interview with the Feltus brothers with an insight into their work: