Els Geelen - Advanced Art

Curatorial Statement

Project Non-autonomous

Drawing directly from her personal experiences managing an organic turkey farm, artist Els Geelen’s recent series of paintings and photographs, titled Non-autonomous, redefines the position of the “bird’s eye view.” She evokes the conventional understanding of this vantage point in Utopi, her series of ambitiously scaled landscape paintings that rely on an aerial perspective. Yet, Geelen also alludes to a more literal characterization of this term, as the viewer’s gaze meets the birds at their eye level in the painted portraits of hatching turkeys and photographs of the young flocks that also comprise Non-autonomous. Geelen approaches her subject broadly, in intent and media, to portray an understanding of the human experience as something that is ultimately both uniquely singular and oppressively identical.   


Employing printmaking techniques as well as painterly abstraction, Geelen challenges traditional methods of both linear and atmospheric perspective. Seen from above, as if in flight, her topographical landscapes depict the ridges and valleys of mountain ranges with peaks covered by snow or obscured by clouds. The scenes tilt and shift from material flatness to geographic depth as the viewer imagines flying, birdlike, above an untouched natural landscape. Here, fjords are confused with snowy mountaintops; shadows suggest forests and chasms, and washes of white assert the painting’s fundamental materiality as a two-dimensional surface. Geelen’s method conceals particular details of the landscape to signify a larger sense of the whole environment.


As with her landscapes, Geelen’s purposefully blurred photographs of dense gangs* of poults, or young turkeys, straddle the formal thresholds of abstraction and representation. The seemingly formless images provide entrée into a kind of collective chaos whereby this throng of birds, undoubtedly in constant motion and amid an imagined a cacophony of noise, is encountered as a single congregation of creatures. While the eye may seek out the recognizable form of a single chick, ultimately Geelen denies viewers the satisfaction of locating any one bird in its entirety as each blends in varying amounts into the larger visual collective. In contrast to the biological specificity that Geelen explores in her delicate poult paintings, these photographs strategically affirm the kind of abstraction consumers willingly accept, namely the general reluctance to identify one’s food with its living, breathing source.  Geelen makes visible what often is invisible to most viewers and exposes these seemingly humble animals as conceptually and aesthetically complex.


Concentrating the focus on her subject with a kind of scientific precision, Geelen paints individual poults in their fragile infancy with visceral detail. Because of her experience as both an academically trained painter and committed turkey farmer, Geelen’s approach to the birds appears quite empathetic and personal. Where her photographic studies of these animals illustrate a massed congregation of beaks and feathers, her paintings emphasize each bird as a remarkable and individual living creature. Although the turkeys are raised to be slaughtered, Geelen’s ecological dedication affirms their wellbeing. With sustainability and humane farming practices in mind, Geelen’s delicate brushstrokes delineate a paradoxically peculiar and intimately beautiful portrait of these tiny turkeylings. Geelen’s paintings prompt her viewer to consider the relationship between the strange beauty of this animal and its fate as a familiar food source.


Taken together, the topographical landscapes, the abstract photographs, and intimate portraits convey larger themes of individuality and community.  The title Non-autonomous implies a sense of dependence, an awareness that the individual exists as part of a multitude. Ultimately, Geelen’s works oscillate between seemingly competing notions of isolation and belonging in both art and agriculture, as well as offering a compelling look at what constitutes a meaningful existence from the poetically existential vantage between the whole and the one.


*A group of domesticated turkeys are referred to as a rafter or a gang.


Shannon Egan, Ph.D.
Director, Schmucker Art Gallery





Els Geelen

Born 1969




1992-1996           Fine Arts, Amsterdamse Hoge School voor de Kunsten, Nederland

1989-1991           Biologi, Universitet Utrecht, Nederland


Solo exhibitions

2020                    Galleri Buen, Mandal Kunstforening

2020                     Lørenskog Kunstforening

2019                    Galleri Aamodtgården, Kongsvinger Kunstforening

2019                    Galleri Mjøsvågen

2018                    Drøbak Kunstforening

2018                    Sandnes Kunstforening

2017                     Bømlo Kunstforening

2016                     Galleri Puls, Norheimsund

2015                     Norsk Skogmuseum, Elverum  

2015                     Galleri Hagalid, Sofiehuset, Hjelmeland 

2014                     Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg, USA  

2014                     Galleri Bergslien, Eidfjord  

2014                     Galleri Puls, Norheimsund  

2014                     Galleri Oz, Os  

2013                     KABUSO foyé, Kunstmuseum Øystese  

2012                     Galleri Syningen, Ål Kulturhus, Ål  

2012                     Hardanger Natursenter og museum, Eidfjord  

2012                     Galleri Rallaren, Tyssedal, Odda  

2011                     Hardanger Kunstsenter, Norheimsund  

2010                     Hardanger Folkemuseum, Utne  

2009                     Galleri Rallaren, Tyssedal



Group exhibitions

2020                    Haustutstilling, Haugesund Biletgalleri

2020                    Galleri Mjøsvågen, Osterøy Kunstlag

2019                    Haugesund biletgalleri

2019                    Bienala Albastra, Brasov, Romania

2018                    Haugesund biletgalleri

2018                    Face to Face, Cinctor, Romania

2017                    Haugesund biletgalleri

2017                    Hardanger Open, Odda

2016                    ¨Sjå¨ , Utne

2016                    Sommer utstilling Galleri Hagalid, Hjelmeland

2015                     ARTBIKEfrihjul Landart , ArtInstitute Tjorn, Sverige

2014                     Diplomatic Art, Helios Gallery Timisoara, Romania  

2014                     ¨Mellom himmel og fjord¨ Norheimsund 

2013                     ¨HiH¨ Hardanger Folkemuseum, Utne  

2013                     Amuses Mouseion, Amsterdam, Nederland   

2013                     HardingPuls, Norheimsund  

2012                     Museum of Contemporary Art, Recita, Romania  

2012                     Galleri Puls, Norheimsund  

2012                     Romanian Cultural Institute, Szeged, Ungarn  

2012                     Voss kunstlag, Voss  

2011                     Galleri Puls, Norheimsund  

2011                     ¨GREP¨, Fykse Landskapspark  

2011                     Garana Arthouse, Romania  

2011                     ¨Hardanger-Berlin¨, Eidfjord, Odda, Norheimsund  

2011                     Kinckhuset, Strandebarm  

2011                     Hardanger Folkemuseum, Utne  

2011                     Kunst Museum Timisoara, Romania  

2011                     ¨MNEMOSYNING¨, Budapest, Ungarn

2010                     ¨Kunstløype¨ Mælen Landskapspark  

2009                     Hardanger Kunstsenter, Norheimsund  

2009                     Gamlebanken, Norheimsund

2008                     Harding Puls i HT08, Hardanger

2007                     Søgne Gamle Prestegård, Søgne

2005                     Galleri Rudolf V, Amsterdam, Nederland

2005                     Loods 6, Amsterdam, Nederland

2003                     Kunst Kerk, Amsterdam, Nederland


Artist in residency

2018                    Cinctor, Romania

2017                    Hardanger kunstnarleigheit Berlin Tyskland

2017                    Timisoaro, Romania

2015                     Tjörn, Sverige

2011                     Garana, Romania

2010                     Hardanger kunstnarleigheit Berlin Tyskland

Other artistic related work

2016/17                Styreleiar for Kunstnarhuset Messen

2015                     Fungerande styreleiar for Kunstnarhuset Messen

2014                     Styreverv Kunstnarhuset Messen. Styreverv HAKU (Hardanger Kunstskule)

2013                     Styreverv Kunstnarhuset Messen. Styreverv HAKU (Hardanger Kunstskule)

2012                     Styreverv Kunstnarhuset Messen

2011                     Delt prosjektleiar Kunstnarhuset Messen. Arbeidsgruppa Galleri Puls

2010                     Prosjektmedarbeidar Kunstnarhuset Messen. Arbeidsgruppa  HAKU

                               (Hardanger Kunstskule),arbeidsgruppe Galleri Puls. Kulturmedarbeidar Kvam kommune (2007-2011)



Hå Prestegård, Stavanger

Galleri Trolltunga, Odda

Homlagarden, Norheimsund