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– THOUGHTS ON PICTURES BY ANNA KOLOD –

Elias Torra

– Thus, the range of Imagination is unlimited. Its materials extend throughout the universe. Even out of deformities it fabricates that Beauty, which is at once its sole object and its inevitable test. – 

(Edgar Allan Poe, On Imagination)

These pictures by Anna Kolod cut into the eye and drill into the brain. They startle and fascinate. They confront the spectator with extreme situations and strange creatures with great urgency. One looks, for example, at intertwined couples who seem to be in a violent act of love. Various images unfold a pandemonium of human destructiveness and aggressiveness. Incredible anthropomorphic beings appear with impossible twisted limbs and screaming or grinning mouths. Some of these figures reveal the interior of their cut-open heads. 

Where do these creatures come from? From which unknown regions do they originate? From what psychic layers do they rise? Do these images exist only to be observed or do they want to pull the ground out from under our feet?

„The Human Being + Other Excesses,“ the title of the solo exhibition by Anna Kolod (2010), could be an overarching description of the artist’s total output. For Anna Kolod, the man is excess. This is a philosophical statement. The philosophical formulation is no coincidence: thoughts, words, philosophical and poetic sources are significant inspiration for Anna Kolod. The images she creates can always be understood as „images of thought.“ They give us food for thought, demand the mental and emotional dispute, but they ultimately deny the ground for sheltered thinking.They interrogate and question the common human image.

Undoubtedly, through these images one encounters an idiosyncratic, very personal cosmos, without touching the private sphere. It exposes a fundamental view of man, like a gesture to fathom hidden human abysses. At this point, I perceive her graphic and pictorial work as strictly related to the philosophical project. In contrast to the philosophical questions, this exploration does not occur in the medium of language, but in the language of paint.

It is not without irony that Anna Kolod named the already mentioned anthropomorphic beings „Animals.“ The fantastic beings that inhabit her canvas and drawings are difficult to classify. It is not unchallenging to consider them human beings, at least close relatives of a man. However, they are not animals, even if they have isolated animal features, such as a tail rising into the air or a four-legged body. These beings are individual and have common, generic characteristics: a hairless skull, which is oversized in relation to the rest of the body, with a bulging forehead: the flattened, sometimes completely blackened, or distorted profile in the impenetrable confusion of the lines. Also typical are the protruding, tapering and conspicuously angled ears and the often superfluous limbs, which give way to tiny hands and feet.

In his „Physiognomic Fragments for the Advancement of Human Knowledge and Love of Man“(1775-1778) Johann Caspar Lavater defined the physiognomy as „the ability to recognize the inner being of a human through the external features.“ Lavater’s physiognomy encompasses „all immediate manifestations of man. All traits, outlines, all passive and active movements, all positions of the human body;

Everything whereby the suffering or acting human being can be directly noticed, by which he shows his person (…)“.

It is worth dwelling on the physiognomy of these beings, whose legs and arms can intertwine in a snake-like manner; like tentacles, they extend into all directions. The figures‘ behavior reminds one of the self-indulgent small children, who seem to lose themselves in a lonely game or a dream. Simultaneously, the childish nature of these beings is broken; they often appear elderly. These ambivalences, the ambiguity between man and beast, childhood and advanced age, vertebrate and invertebrate, could be categorized into the aesthetic category of the grotesque. Wolfgang Kayser defined the grotesque as the „attempt to banish and summon the demonic in the world“ (Wolfgang Kayser: The Grotesque). 

The peculiar oscillation of „Animals“ between abyss and humor can be understood as the grotesque element of Kolod’s work, like the lurking grin of a figure with a cropped skull. Another feature characteristic of the „Animals“ is the absence of a protruding nose; Kolod’s faces have often a flat profile. The cultural philosopher Rudolf Kassner, a later descendant of Lavater, on the face of Beethoven’s nose: „It is the nose of a man who comes out of the chaos, where there is nothing to smell and taste. It is there in the face between these eyes and that mouth, this chin and this forehead as the zero among the numbers. I think the same or similar nose in the face of Marsyas…“

Kassner continues:

„In the Russian nose are the holes, the caves, the significant, and not the nasal back. Beethoven’s nose is in rapport with the ear, which has become deaf. It is a nose without weather. The birds of the highest heights do not need to smell anything in the wind.“ (Rudolf Kassner, The Face of Beethoven, in R. Kassner: Spiritual Worlds, Berlin: Ullstein 1958, p. 52f.)

Anna Kolod’s creatures are obviously such „birds of the highest heights“ that have been sprung from chaos. For that reason, contrary to one’s first, superficial impression, these beings are not just living a miserable existence. They are captivating anomalies. The longer you look at them, the more agitated their gestures, the more cheerful they seem to bear their existence. And if we have been completely exempted from the compulsion to measure them against the norm of the average human anatomy, some may develop a grace which is unrivaled. And then, they experience their hovering, their flowing movements and their apparent quality as a moment of solace or salvation. The space that surrounds these beings is without limitation – except of the suggestion of a ground, which at the same time reminds us of the curvature of the earth or of a stage on which these figures, with a theatrical gesture at the center of attention, are placed, almost floating in air.

Wolfgang Kayser associated the grotesque with demons, and demons are considered menacing. They are overcome by naming them and cultivating them intimately. With Anna Kolod’s „Animals“ there is the same kind of process. A longer familiarity reveals mimetic differentiations of great delicacy, which no longer fit into the crude pattern of the usual psychological attributions (cheerful, sad, angry, …). The initially uncanny loses its horror. This is also borne out by the drawing style. Some of the drawings are on the border between figurative representation and abstraction. The unmistakable anthropomorphic outlines of the depicted creatures seem to follow the unplanned and impulsive free movement of the hand (at the same time), so that the creatures appear as pure expression of energetic currents.

Therefore, Anna Kolod’s pictures manifest themselves as representations of the invisible in the medium of the visible.

Her images are Inner-Pictures, Inner-Worlds and those who enter them will be lead into their own introspective world.

St. Gallen/Switzerland, 2016

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