Monika Michalko

12 Jun - 19 Jul 2014

© Monika Michalko
Reisemaschinensachlichkeit II, 2014
Oil on fiber
21 x 30 cm
photo: Jan Michalko
12 June - 19 July 2014

Monika Michalko. From Rome to Benares.

[...] Similarly, Monika Michalko’s installations and paintings reveal a field of exploration that is marked out by her creative imagination and simultaneous awareness of working within the frame of the achievements of her colleagues throughout art history. The highly colourful paintings (some are painted on Hamburg painter and professor Willem Grimm’s old canvasses), which often defy perspective, look like test arrangements for experiments with the unknown, replete with filigree linkages, vegetable-technological constructions, loops, antennae and garlands. The flags, tubes and wheels seem to flutter, inflate, turn, seek contact and want to enter into a dialogue with the unknown spectator. As if preparing an unspecified launch, or a laboratory test without any fixed purpose, Michalko assembles various symbols – interconnected or surreally disengaged – in the space, raising tongue-in-cheek questions about logic and functionality. “Keiner sieht alles” (“Nobody sees everything”) was the thematic title of Michalko’s 2011 exhibition in the Produzentengalerie Hamburg. Picture titles like “Absurdistan”, “Paranoia”, “Wo bin ich hier?” („Where am I?“) and “Unbewegte Beweger” (“Unmoved Movers”) convey facets of a search for insight and coherence. But Michalko’s imagery is by no means a random concoction. It calls to mind periods in modern art history when counter movements emerged in reaction to the academic, museum-focused art world and the officially approved aesthetic of high culture. The naïve, folk culture, and the cultures of pre-industrial societies on Europe’s periphery and beyond have served as a reservoir of inspiration for European intellectuals and artists since the second half of the 18th century. There have been various phases in which the dream of escaping civilization has been asserted as a form of protest and proposal, as an attack on the complacently prosperous bourgeois world. But it has also triggered actual journeys to unfamiliar lands, to Africa, the far-off South Seas, or the Orient – see Pierre Loti, Paul Gauguin, the German Expressionists – injecting new impetus into art and shifting its parameters. In addition to these history, geography and politically related renewals in art, a pioneering interest in the expressive power of children and outsiders pointed artists, such as those of the Surrealist movement, in another direction. Michalko’s paintings, both the mask-like portraits and self-portraits and the landscape visions, contain obvious references to works by Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Paul Klee and even Jean Tinguely’s functionless machines, as well as links to folk art traditions and certain expressions of Cubism, familiar to Michalko from her birth country Czechoslovakia (today the Czech Republic). Room installations also play an important role in Michalko’s work. Here, typical elements of her paintings, such as colourfulness and ornamental forms, reappear on walls, ceilings, rugs and floors as well as in patterns on furniture. In this way, she transforms exhibition spaces, rooms and studios into dreamy ensembles, which can be regarded as lavishly designed counter-worlds to the rationally austere White Cube, keeping out the cold with their emotional force. [...]

Claus Mewes
Translation: Charlotte Kreutzmüller

Tags: Paul Gauguin, Paul Klee, Monika Michalko, Joan Miró, Jean Tinguely