500 Words on Sanne Maloe Slecht

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This text is a review of artist Sanne Maloe Slecht's body of works.

American pink, amethyst purple, citric yellow

Slecht's affinity with graphic design is patent, as much as Pop artists liked advertisement and longed for the immediacy of its language. The filiation is assumed, in colour and tone. Each of her compositions is a theatre where acid colours run an antagonistic show, only paused to admit angular cutouts, found pictures or computer-generated images. “How it ends” (2011) shows for instance a fire, cut in a carnivorous mouth, sinking its blaze orange teeth despite a backdrop of algae green, into the monochrome square of a birch forest.

Her pieces impress by their visual presence. It is an achievement which cannot be underestimated in our picture-saturated culture. Even her three-dimensional works exult a pictorial essence, their physicality being overwhelmed by the retinal images they radiate. The parasol head of “mountains #2” (2012) rests half spread, its circumference on the floor. The narrow plastic strips hanging from it, together with the hollows created by its ribs, confirm the shape of a rocky peak. Yet the most striking element is the fluffy gradient of its strips, bubble gum pink bleaching during the ascent into snowy white.

Palm leaves, perfect droplets, synthetic landscapes

In her early works, Slecht’s raw material, besides colour, was Internet’s banal imagery. Turning to images of kittens, bosoms and sunsets, she dismissed taste as a relevant criteria, by folding in her works common examples of aesthetic pleasure. This appropriation, like any other, was ambivalent. Did Slecht abhor or adhere to her material? The question fails to grasp a practice which accepts this visual production as a potential culture, and celebrates this potential for its energy. The seduction of Slecht's work lies there, in the interstice between innocence and irony, where it works at its best.

Mountains, the awe-inspiring archetype of the Sublime, are a leitmotiv in her œuvre. These majestic landscapes get squashed into computer-generated fractal imagery (“mountains #3”, 2013) or cut into corsets for artificially generous breasts (“mountains #1”, 2011). Flatness relieved Warhol and Lichtenstein, among others, from the solemnity of high art. Their flatness was visual, literal, a racy "it is what it is". If Slecht also embraces flatness in her works, she adopts a different tautology: it is not what it is not. The factitious is her flat fact. The effect is as delectable — meaning is combusted in an ephemera, the Real seized in a laughter.

Facticity, plasticity, potentiality

Her most recent works seem left intentionally unfinished. In “mountains #4” (2013), a painting, covered hastily on one side with almond white and the other with amaranth purple, features a central, uncoated stride revealing the underlying plywood plank. In another work (yet to be named), a series of colourful paintings is arranged in a corner, starting from the floor, covering the walls, occluding each others, as if this was a temporary storage solution, in situ, before the final installation.

These recent works attest to a natural development in her practice. Investigating thoroughly the factitious will bring you eventually to its birthplace, art itself. Slecht faces this reflective moment elegantly, by withholding the closure we expect from an artwork. The audience is no longer exposed to an aesthetic realisation, but to a work in the making, a potential. Plastic is authentic when it is malleable, seems to say Slecht, and so is her practice, when she shares with us the obvious pleasure she takes in making.

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