It is quite difficult to write about the essential things in paintings. You can write about what they look like and what they “represent”. Or you can write about their psychological content, what they tell or express about the artist’s mind. Or they can be put in the context of a style or earlier artists that can be concluded as having influenced the thinking or brushwork of the artist concerned.
And what’s that supposed to mean?
Mari Sunna’s (b. 1972) paintings make a very deep impression, but describing the reasons for that impression is difficult, with occasionally almost comical features. This has to with unresolved questions such as: Why does a certain form move the viewer and why does another one seem aggressive? Why does one feel great pleasure in seeing a brushstroke of sleepwalker-like assurance where two colours meet? Why is it exciting to see a part of painting whose form indicates volume but is nonetheless painted so as to appear completely flat? How can a painting be visually humorous even though it is abstract? What is abstract and how few hints does it need in order to become figurative?
Mari Sunna’s works often arouse conflicting sensations in the viewer, contradictory understanding. A painting by her can have three red ovals on a yellow ground. The ovals appear to be leaving the visible area of the image, moving towards its edges. This has to do with the visual dynamic of purely abstract forms and the colour of the ground and yet…. it’s a bunny… a Disney dog…
In another painting there is a woman. The three-dimensional illusions of the painting and its seemingly flat planes of colour create a tension that is not released. The work is entitled “Listener”. The woman certainly listens, but more to her own internal voice than to anything from outside. Or if she is listening to something from outside, she is concentrating on it so deeply, empathizing, that she gains through hearing a contact with something that she remembers or knows completely.
It is hard to say anything final about Mari Sunna’s paintings other than they feel important and true. They need to be seen. That provides an opportunity for strong and complex experiences that one can try to analyse, should one so desire…
Mari Sunna lives and works in Berlin. This year and last year she has participated in several international joint exhibitions, including Icons, Maison Particulière, Brussels; Don’t Shoot the Painter, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan; The Milky Way 2, Fondazione Pianoterra Onlus, Rome and Dark Days, Bright Nights, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City.