Article by Alice Bardos in Berlin // Friday, Mar. 04, 2016
A visit to Melike Kara’s In Your Presence makes viewers feel as if they were sent floating down the river Alph through Xanadu. Anticipation might build, though Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan does not actually await within the caverns of Peres Projects. Inspired by her own, mostly unpublished poems, Kara’s works contain vibrant expressive brush strokes which, through layering, compose the artist’s figurative two-dimensional world. Yet, they are piercing with their exaggerated depictions of indulgence and over-indulgence – rendered in a mostly pastel and cobalt blue palette. Though there is no cohesive narrative to connect all of the pieces, the many messages and atmospheres of her work interact with each other, inviting viewers for an intoxicating experience.
In one of Peres Project’s interior alcoves a few paintings seem to depict characters and their dangerous materialistic tendencies. A head carries a table on it, surrounded by cluttered objects of opulence including a vase, a fish in a jar, and even birds. The weight of the figure’s tray puts pressure on the fleshy-red hands which contrast the body’s otherwise delicate rosy complexion. Though, as with many of the other expressions in the gallery, the face of the subject is almost euphorically entranced. Nearby, there is an individual whose gloves and shoes are lost amid another array of possessions, including a lobster and a glass cup – the near deconstruction of a person. It seems that for these subjects, their love of objects consumes and subjugates them through the allure of pleasure.
Just a few steps away, similarly-rendered, stylistically Near Eastern-looking figures are mingling in each other’s company, while billowy and even phallic plants occupy the surrounding spaces. The mostly unclothed interactions centre around a contrasting sensuality and vulgarity, as some individuals seem to share in flirtations, while others boldly squat awaiting attention, or even squeeze at the skin of others. There are also interchanges coming from violent oral excretion: stand ins for love, dialogue, drink, smoke and even vomit. The pieces seem to explore the binary pleasure and pain of social spheres.
Not all figures are surrounded, some – particularly those rendered on pains of glass – revel in solitude. They stretch out comfortably, or are twisted and contorted to fit into their medium, while voyeurs simply watch. Here, individuality is felt and expressed in bodily positions.
However, the full impact of the exhibition cannot be felt until the blues of Kara’s paint are mirrored by the twilight of sky outside. This is when the full orchestration of the artist can be felt as the the layered painting and glass installation interplay between all forms of indulgence. What emerges from the images, despite what they lack in rendered three-dimensionality, is a realism and liveliness. Just as the rectangular contours of the forms blend in well with the architectural features of Karl-Marx-Alle, the figures to whom these contours belong also form a debaucherous social-scape which is fitting for the Friedrichshain setting.