At first glance, her paintings seem like something you’ll have to research. Mona Ardeleanu masterfully paints virtuously folded fabric bundles, bound textile objects, hair, and an origami of traditional costumes. Knowledgeable art historians might quickly take note, recognize the fabric patterns and folds, assign them to countries, regions, and eras, and thus arrive at very conclusive interpretations, such as, “This blue fabric was worn by peasant women during the historically little-known, rural women’s revolt in 1723 in Russia; consequently, the artwork not only represents an important piece of research, but transfers political and pre-feminist statements to the present day.” If the material were then combined with another fold, for example, that of a secret spiritual society from sixteenthcentury Burgundy, the art historian would barely be able to contain the urge to further expound. But it’s not like that. Mona Ardeleanu tells us that she doesn’t go to museums to look at Old Masters or seek inspiration. “Not at all,” she says with a laugh. She has a few books with patterns for folding, but she prefers to stick to her world when painting. That’s exactly the right approach, even if it means disappointing the overeager art historian. Ardeleanu’s pictorial objects emerge in their final form only on the canvas. Although she examines photographs of folds and fabrics, she collages, invents, samples, and, in the end, creates something like an image of historical nature or ethnological sampling. Ardeleanu’s subjects are often figments of her imagination. Rather than believing that she has an artistic calling to embark on a folkloric archival mission, she prefers to indulge her creative urge. Surreal, floating objects emerge, just as the references are surreal. Her paintings are primarily emotionally — not scientifically — received. Of course, there are also other tendencies in the art world in which the opposite is true. A long and interwoven list of references often seems to give the appearance of scientific gravitas. Artists’ journeys and archival research are illustrated and amplified by souvenirs, readymades, or visual quotations, so explanatory accompanying texts or guided tours are unavoidable if one wants to understand the construction of this content.It is the kind of conceptual art that often appears in large installations and carries political, ethical, or scientific messages. Of course, this forum for art is justified; it belongs, above all, to the established palette of languages for works produced after 1950. In contemporary painting, however, some counter-tendencies place the power of design as a surreal creative force in the foreground. The focus here is on designs of the world, which are frequently developed in an increasingly complex and sophisticated manner over several series of works. The art is not intended to represent reality, rather, the truth of the image. Ardeleanu’s truth is, therefore, not found in archives, but on the canvas. It does not need an explanatory guide next to the painting; it only requires the individual, personal perception of forms, colors, and folds, which can be personified or applied to one’s own body. It could be fish embryos, what looks like wrapped human organs, clothed structures, or sci-fi historical fashion. The monochrome backgrounds are refrained, might sometimes give off a little light, but are otherwise rather straightforward and museum-like. Nothing interferes with or disturbs the main object; it is and remains safe, preserved for posterity. The object itself defies a more accurate label. It resembles a piece in a Wunderkammer display. Was it found like that, or did the kooky and eccentric Wunderkammer owner manipulate it without telling anyone? In the past, some exhibition pieces have indeed been manipulated in the interest of spectacle, visitor numbers, and fame, for example, the remains of alleged mermaids or other human mutations. Other innocuous details that give wing to fairy tale fantasies have also been faked or invented. Ardeleanu’s creations could also have new labels added to them. The viewer is invited to take on this task. The art historian can also participate if they leave their books behind. It is unusual that a young painter has opted for a style like that of an old master. A rarity, but also not the main feature of her works. What distinguishes her painting is how it liberates itself from the present—from classical models of interpretation, art-historical references, politically illustrative concepts, and art-political marketing strategies. Precisely this makes the works independent. To over-interpret material, even if it is painted, is a trait of the twentieth century. Deconstructing motifs stylistically or elevating them to conceptual, theoretical symbols is also a common thread of the last century. A liberated, surreal play with presumed artifacts of cultural history attests to a lightness of the floating apparitions or unidentified flying objects draped in fabric. The uncanny, the ambiguous, is part of a mystery that appeals, above all, to the senses. History may be exciting, especially that of motifs and ethnology, but not compulsory for artistic creation. It is possible to consider references, for example, to infer from textiles and the history of clothing the role of women in corresponding epochs, but not be ruled by them. Sometimes you can ignore history, sometimes you can yawn at its archives. Make it new, make it different. Create sensual images. It is precisely this approach that makes Mona Ardeleanu’s pictorial worlds so timely.

© Text Larissa Kikol