Unbelievable and undeniable : on Indra’s paintings
There is nothing safe about Indra’s work : any initial sense of security offered by the clearly recognisable figures, landscapes or architectural structures is quickly dispersed by the impossibility of grasping what the work is about. Like a dreamscape or a story unravelling as a stream of consciousness, we are transported into a fictional scenario that the artist has collaged together from different sources, primarily from the internet. Culturally specific motifs (such as the frequently recurring geisha women or the concrete bunker in Alm) and references from history, film or science fiction collide with environments that have become bland archetypes – forests, urban skylines or romantic landscapes. Projected and then painted onto the canvas, this disparate selection of motifs reflects the virtual world from which they are drawn in which anything is possible and where associations are made rather than stories told.
The ambivalence concerning our reading of the work is created primarily by the fluid perspective that increasingly characterises Indra’s style. The artist avoids stasis, playing games with our perception by a constant process of transformation. In Polar, for example, the two geisha women are in the process of dissolving, their lower bodies becoming ribbons of colour that float through the forest, mimicking the flow of the waterfall. In Alm the deer is reflected and in the reflection turns into a rabbit ; while the solid blue shadows of the trees take on an abstract life of their own, independent of the structures they are created by. The perspective in Indra’s work is constantly shifting, leaving the impression that the image is held together for just a short moment before dispersing again. Reality in these paintings is perceived rather than true, the most ‘real’ elements, such as the urban scene framing the lower edge of White Sun, often just the stage-set for the fantasy action.
The kitschness that initially confronts the viewer – horses from teenage girl posters, bland but beautiful geishas, opulent flowers – is offset by a playful absurdity that makes it even harder to pin the work down to a single category or style. The Boticelli-inspired Marie cuddles a smurf ; a geisha in a rickshaw in Lady_And is pulled by a Godzilla-like tyrannosaurus ; Stephan, the man born covered in hair, wears a girly bow and is surrounded by comic-book bubbles. As is so often the case in Indra’s work, these simple forms play a greater role in the overall image than at first appears, for the paradox of their Pop art frivolity contains within it both a compositional and an intellectual significance.
Drawing is the activity that lies at the heart of Indra’s work, the organic lines of marker pen painstakingly applied to the contours of primarily flat areas of acrylic enamel paint. She takes pleasure in the lightness and immaterial quality of line drawing, using the abstract patterning to provide the basic compositional structure - the ornamental underpinning of the image – as well as its sense of fluidity. Although the monochrome blocks of colour are juxtaposed with softer, modulated areas of spray paint underpinned with ink, Indra’s interest lies less in the exploration of brushstroke or the texture of paint but in how colour, in combination with line, can be used to create space. In this, her aesthetic is closer to computer imaging than to traditional painting, while the rapid shifts in perspective within individual works recall the dynamic of computer games.
Often the subject is almost a pretext for this investigation of how spatiality can be created on a two-dimensional surface, by exploiting the freedom and impression of endlessness offered by spray paint in combination with the marker pen lines that sit on the surface. In Frühnebel, for example, the white pools that lie like snow on the grass are both something and nothing, drawing our attention to the artifice of the work of art, its status as just paint on canvas. In a number of diptychs, such as Lady_And and Mariposa, the abstract painting on one canvas has been impressed onto the other to create a twin image. In several works a final monochrome flourish has been imposed on the surface, creating a bridge with the viewer’s own space, the points of irritation holding the paintings back from a too comfortable notion of beauty.
Where beauty is permitted, it is always slightly disturbing and tinged with the sense of its ephemeralness. The combination of black background, recalling the baroque convention for flower paintings, and the transparent, floating skeletons of the flowers themselves, make Mariposa particularly melancholy. The uneasiness of the work is heightened by the synthetic, hyperreal effect of the combined touches of spray and fluorescent paint in the muddy tones and pastels that Indra favours.
The artist’s fascination for Japanese art is apparent in both her subject matter and the organic linearity of the drawing. However, it is her identification with the Japanese philosophy that simultaneity is both possible and desirable, in contrast to the western notion of ‘either or’, that is the more important key to Indra’s fusion of sources, styles, media and perspectives. Eclectic, playful and independent, she creates virtual worlds that are both substantial and effervescent, unbelievable and undeniable.