26 NOVEMBER 2022 – 8 JANUARY 2023
KÖNIG GALERIE is pleased to present POLYMORPH, an exhibition of new works by the Stuttgart-based painter, Mona Ardeleanu. For this show, Ardeleanu has created twelve oil on canvas works, all in the same dimensions, oriented vertically, and finished with a smooth varnish that grants them a glossy exterior that belies their otherworldly compositions. As source material, Ardeleanu employs fragments of patterns, textiles, colours, and shapes that she first sketches and then finishes through an organic, additive process of painting. This expands the initial drawing into an image of ever-greater complexity and detail, which hover like veils over their backgrounds, hanging in the space of the painted picture like ornaments adorning a regal edifice.
It is not uncommon for Ardeleanu’s paintings to recall faces or other vaguely recognizable forms: the tendency to rationalize the collaged elements into a coherent gestalt feels almost inescapable, underscored by the fact that each of the twelve canvases are given first names – Shelly, Malva, Abul, etc. Upon closer inspection, each painting’s ornate character creates a maze-like infinity of detail that blurs the larger whole and provides entry into a pictorial handling of space all its own. AYLA, 2022 (all works 2022), puts shimmering, beaded strands of colour on top of a jet-black backdrop in the form of a girl’s face, complete with pigtails. In BRUNO, a hairy scarf forms the arms of what appears to be a grizzly bear, whose sharp claws can be made out below the intersection of the scarf’s lengths. The mien is anything but frightening, however, as two goofy eyes stare back at their viewers, absences made present within the fabric of the pelt appendages.
Pareidolia is the name given to the uncanny effect in which vision imposes an artificial order or pattern on otherwise random objects or things in the world, and one common symptom of this condition is to see faces everywhere, in everything. Ardeleanu’s works anticipate pareidolia, performing and registering the effect with an exactness and attention to detail carried to such a degree that nearly every act of looking could become an instance of recognizing order where there is, in fact, none. POLYMORPH pre-empts the tendency to make random things into identifiable representations, and the awareness of this fact leaves viewers with a direct encounter with their own desire: to see as if through a process of recognition. One could run wild with the possibilities of such an awareness, from facial recognition software to surveillance to dating apps; it is endless, really. But Ardeleanu’s attention to the minutiae of representation suggests something else. That, in the language of painting, there is, strictly speaking, no requirement to paint what one sees, no secret contract that guarantees that what exists on the surface of the canvas is somehow magically connected to a “real” thing out there in the world. Space, depth, and pattern belong more concretely to Ardeleanu’s paintings than perhaps anywhere else – full of life and yet devoid of any sleight of hand.
Ardeleanu emphatically claims that her paintings are not the result of art historical inspiration or Old Master forbearers. For her, graphic novels, comic books, and the directness of drawing practices have served more influential roles. The compositional mashups that make up POLYMORPH are connected to making something completely imaginary, unreal, find a space within the confines of the painted support, not as a mirror of reality, but as a dissection of dependent parts into the elements that belong exclusively to the two-dimensional world as it is, right before one’s eyes.
© Images Roman März