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Christel Pilkaer Thomsen

MA work

Tracing Entities

Shifts between Figuration and Abstraction 

The work Tracing Entities is a collection of different segments from a greater body of work created by Christel Pilkaer Thomsen, during her time studying Photography at the RCA.

Tracing Entities explores different issues of identity, memory and representation centring around contemporary political problematics. In this first chapter, the presented work deals with the subject of trauma and healing from war and the psychological complications that people who have been exposed to traumatic events, especially from war, have to deal with. The work is based on personal stories and encounters with Danish veterans who are dealing with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and collective responses to trauma. In relation to this, the work wants to explore how photography can be used as a tool to visualise the non-visible. Through different strategies, by working collaboratively with the subjects involved in the project, through conversations with the subjects, traditional analogue portraiture, documentary photography and through abstract and alternative photographic processes, the work creates a constant shift between figuration and abstraction. This specific work explores the dualistic relationship between what has been exposed and developed, the physical and the psychological, what is whole and what is broken, the personal and the abstract, the tangible and non-visible, and most importantly, the process and the result, since it is through the process that the work engages with the subjects, methods and materials.

In the installation of Tracing Entities for the Degree Show 2019, Christel hopes to create a space that is both intimate, powerful and engaging at the same time. It is not her goal to provide answers to the questions that the project is raising, but instead, the work should be a starting point for conversation and debate. The RCA MA Degree Show is not the end result of her work, it is more an encounter with the work at a certain point in time and place. The work will continue and develop after the Degree Show in the years to come.


  • MA Degree


    School of Arts & Humanities


    MA Photography, 2019

  • Christel Pilkaer Thomsen, born 1988, has studied MA Photography at the Royal College of Art from 2017–19. Here her photographic practice has grown and expanded, shifting between figurative and abstract photography. Her practice is eclectic, mixing both traditional analog portraiture and documentary photography with more alternative and abstract photographic methods and techniques. Furthermore, Christel is also incorporating different tangible mediums into her practice such as textiles, clay, porcelain and bronze, but in such a way that they give a different perspective on the medium of photography and create different layers in her projects.

    Christel has previously studied photography and art in both Denmark and Iceland, and she holds a BA in Dramaturgy from Aarhus University, Denmark. Therefore, one will find that storytelling is often at the core of her practice, connecting her background in theatre and stage design with photography.

    Her subjects and the themes for her photographic projects are often centred around identity, memory, contemporary social and political issues and how photography can represent and visualise these issues. Often her work, therefore, raises more questions than answers, and she is interested in how we can perceive and understand situations differently through different perspectives, conceptions and artistic methods.

    During her time at the RCA, Christel was also selected to take part in the mentoring program of  Parallel Photo Platform conceived by She was selected as an artist for their 2nd cycle and has been developing her project Tracing Entities with the support of the Parallel Photo Platform program. In the summer of 2018, Christel was also selected for the 6 Academies – European Photography Award and took part in the Unseen Photo Festival in Amsterdam, 2018. Recently, Christel has also been selected for the After School – Collective Strategies workshops which she is taking part in during the summer and autumn of 2019.

  • Degrees

  • BA Dramaturgy, Aarhus University, Denmark, 2014
  • Exhibitions

  • After School - Collective Strategies -, Lewisham Arthouse, London, 2019; Parallel Intersection Budapest, Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest, 2019; 'em <BODY>ment', PPS (Photography Project Space), Royal College of Art, London, 2019; SCREWED, Royal College of Art, Battersea, London, 2019; 'Femininity', PPS (Photography Project Space), Royal College of Art, London, 2018; 'Ed. 01', PPS (Photography Project Space), Royal College of Art, London, 2018; 'Sailing on a plastic Sea', Sail Britains Coastline Project, St Katharine Docks, London, 2018; '6 Academies' – European Photography Award, Unseen Photo, Amsterdam, 2018; 'Parallel Intersection Zagreb', Organ Vida, Zagreb, 2018; 'Family of No Man', Cosmos Arles Books, Les Recontres d'Arles, Arles, France, 2018; Work-in-progress Show, The Royal College of Art, London, 2018
  • Awards

  • 2nd Cycle Artist, Parallel – European Photo Based Platform, 2018-19; Shortlisted, European Photography Award, 2018
  • Publications

  • T O M R U M, white_crystal Publications, 2018