Marion Bataillard, Ditptychon, Öl auf Holz, 2009,
620 x 235 cm; Courtesy STYX Project Space
Marion Bataillard: Paintings
STYX Project Space
Old Brewery Friedrichshöhe
Landsberger Allee 54
11 November through 16 December, 2009
Looking at Marion Bataillard’s paintings is like peeking into a sort of madhouse or cult compound. Her figures are not quite gruesome enough to be called grotesque, but they aren’t pretty, either, and they inevitably bear expressions of rapture, existential befuddlement, and dementia. Her works are the expression of a very private vision of hell on earth.
The twenty-six-year-old painter is currently having her first show at Berlin’s STYX Project Space. Of the six paintings on display, the centerpiece is inarguably the very large painting that takes up the entire back wall of the gallery. (Note that none of Bataillard’s paintings have titles; it seems that the artist doesn’t wish to detract from the visceral, purely visual impact of her worlds by burdening them with the weight of names.) From left to right, a bizarre narrative plays itself out within a white-walled interior that could fathomably serve as an extension of the gallery space. A vertical slice of canvas is separated from the larger work, as though to isolate the image from the rest of the depicted room; in it, a grinning girl leans her cheek up against the wall. She is naked except for a folded towel covering her privates. It is as though she is being held up by her smile. She does not resist the scene playing itself out behind her, in the larger right panel of the painting; from the angelic way she is lit, one could fathom that she is in fact the one conjuring it.
In the background, a group of people surround a stone-faced woman with a guitar, apparently caught up in some sort of dance. The foreground features a man and woman busying themselves at a round table with various fruits and vegetables, seemingly oblivious to the musical scene behind them. To the left, two women recline on a blue sofa seat, their heads resting on a green pillow large enough to fit both of them. In front of them are seated dumbfounded, genderless twins; a bald man attempts to communicate something to them using his hand. Whether he is hypnotizing them for sinister purposes or attempting some sort of therapy, one cannot determine. It is this vignette, rather than the detached image of the girl described above, that forms the most striking contrast with the rest of the painting, which is fluid and musical, as established by the dancing scene occupying the center of the image (as well as the swinging lamps above its inhabitants’ heads.) The painting is a great mystery narrative that manages to spur an immense deluge of emotional ambiguity.
Fat, troll-ish faces are Bataillard’s hallmark. Exaggeratedly unattractive, her figures ultimately evoke a medieval ribaldry that is pointedly Rabelaisian. Another standout painting depicts two figures that are about to commence beating a third, whose arms are limply embracing a metal pole, his face evincing an anguished helplessness. The face and deformed expression of the victim suggests a childishness that one finds in the severely mentally handicapped, and the torturers seem like peasant avengers out of some nigthmarish horror film. But to make any further effort at sense of such images is futile, as Bataillard’s logic is uniquely her own.
Marion Bataillard, Öl auf Karton, 2008
180 x 250 cm; Courtesy STYX Project Space
Travis Jeppesen's novels include The Suiciders, Wolf at the Door, and Victims. He is the recipient of a 2013 Arts Writers grant from Creative Capital/the Warhol Foundation. In 2014, his object-oriented writing was featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial and in a solo exhibition at Wilkinson Gallery in London. A collection of novellas, All Fall, is forthcoming from Publication Studio.view all articles from this author