Marenne Welten

It's not alright

1 November 2014 - 4 January 2015

"There's a moment when a painting falls into its shape. The only thing I need to do is to see and to recognize that moment.

 The colors that Marenne Welten employs in her paintings evoke the thought of sunlight playing on colored glass: leaf green, turquoise, pale pink, deep purple, rust, radiant yellow. That association is probably the result of way in which she applies the oil paint to the white linen, fluidly and transparently. The colors don't blend until they reach the canvas, in the brushstroke. And as your eye roams about the painting, it follows the painter's gesture: from its first impulse to its final departure from the canvas. In that brush technique the dynamics take shape. Sometimes this can consist of a distinct rhythm of short strokes, at other times bending and searching lines. They automatically give rise to the lengths of wallpaper, the folds of a curtain or the pattern on a chair or sofa.

The motif of these, mostly small, paintings is the interior: living rooms as we know them from an older uncle or distant aunt, full of polished parquet, lace curtains and chairs upholstered in velour. Occasionally a lonely person plays a main role, but usually that role has been granted to an empty armchair. The paintings—which, due to the way of working, need to come about in one day—are not copies of the photographs that Welten simply finds on the Internet. She sooner shows us rooms of memory, rooms from the house as a metaphor for the psyche. The way in which a living room is furnished says a great deal about its inhabitants, and it's impossible to avoid wondering just who sits in such an emphatically present chair. Or why that room in the one painting is almost claustrophobically crammed with chairs and sofas. What's that lonely lady doing in front of the window in that kitchen? And why is the floor curling up around her legs? Striking is the work in which a curtain puffs up so much that it takes the shape of a madonna: caught between the floor and the ceiling, the nebulous mass becomes an all-pervasive 'elephant in the room'. The floor disintegrates into a sensual and organic play of brushstrokes that crawl up the walls like groggy slugs. In other paintings the play of light on a floor transforms into rippling waves, and pale-pink walls become blue-veined like skin. The spaces between chairs and coffee tables acquire shiny fish scales.

A tension arises between the matter-of-fact, everyday objects and the space around them. "The oil paint pushes and pulls the forms out of their recognizable contours and causes them to become alien," Marenne Welten wrote in her journal. Sometimes the residual form becomes so obtrusive that it pushes the furniture away or lets it dissolve into an abstract play of brushstrokes. There, in that unsteady balance between figuration and abstraction, lies the struggle of the painter who continually seeks to innovate: "It isn't quite right—and if it is right, don't trust it." 

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