in medias res

tai mitsuji
margaux valengin

Margaux Valengin, Infernal Power, 2021. Courtesy the artist.

“Valengin traffics in an economy of recognisable symbols that, under her surrealistic hand, become estranged from their previous meaning and semiotic stability…

… Put simply, she makes the familiar strange. Infernal Power rips its subject from the sphere of tamed imagery and domesticised animals. Here, the dog and the bones emanate a raw psychic force that stretches our assumptions about the animal, and moves beyond the intuitive archetype of fidelity, or the well-worn shorthand of “man’s best friend.” Here, the dog is not a pet; it is an animal. The ease of the former category, gives way to the complexities of the latter. This reality finds ground in the painting, as the dog stares at us through the compressed aperture of the bones, which move from being a consumable treat to a structure of containment—almost resembling prison bars.

Margaux Valengin, Infernal Power (detail), 2021. Courtesy the artist.

These bones, which should not balance vertically, which should fall to the ground in a lifeless heap, stand upright in Valengin’s composition, recalling the shape and weight of a live form. And they do feel alive. Despite their grisaille styling and surreal configuration, the bones retain a representational mimeticism and, more than that, an essential believability. Look, for instance, at the small pools of shadows that sit at the base of each bone, subtly suggesting their weight and volume. Valengin’s work turns upon this factual-fiction, and the coherence of its own internal pictorial logic. To wit, its ability to present an impossible scene and garb it in the trappings of the possible…

… It is something akin to flying in a dream, while you still have to negotiate the forces of gravity.”



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