Sunday, January 24, 2016

Forming Experiences

"What you see determines how you see it.
Mernet Larsen

For the American painter Mernet Larsen the content of her paintings is paramount in the depictions of the everyday scenes she commits to her canvases. From shopping at the mall to working out at the gym, from attending committee meetings to reading in bed, Larsen’s geometric figures placed within her unique perspectives are origami like analogies of the remembered activity.

 As she told the Huffington Post’s Priscilla Frank “You're always observing things from the outside. And I wanted you to be in a situation, where you were more involved in it. So, what I use are these perspectival ploys -- diverse perspective, parallel perspective… You're always sort of moving around inside the painting; you can never quite figure out where you're standing, so you kind of absorb it.”

Larsen obtained her Bachelor and Masters in Fine Art in the 1960’s when abstraction was the rooster in the art’s barnyard. But she was more interested in expressing her life experiences.

About which she has said "I was kind of discouraged about art because, at that point in time, art was very much abstract expressionism, period. Very academic, very intellectual… "I remembered having the thought that I didn't want to express myself through my art. My life was fairly mundane at that point; I was living at home. So I didn't want to express my life, I wanted to give meaning to my life. It had to be a constructed thing. Also, I wanted to make it from my experiences. I didn't want to do something abstract, and I didn't want to deal with intellectual issues.

And it is these experiences and how they are perceived that inform Larsen’s work.

As she says “The content determines the form. The way I saw cows, for example, was really different from how I saw a sofa in my living room at home. So I started concentrating on one item at a time and thinking -- how will this make me work? I did my sisters jumping in the living room, dancing to the music. I did aquariums, I did the insides of cars. Everything that I did and focused on gave me a different way of working. I had to accommodate my way of working to those things.“

About which she has elaborated, saying “People often look at the works and say, "Oh, these look like computer generated images." But if you look at them, they have no system like that. There's no adherence to anatomy. The structures give you enough clues to think they're conventional figures, but when you look at them, they're not. They're just structures. They're structures that work in an analogous way to people and situations you recognize, but they get at some more essential quality and they also defamiliarize with conventions. You are able to see them in a fresh way, hopefully."

Larsen’s current exhibition Things People Do is on show at New York’s James Cohan Lower East Side gallery until the 21st of February.

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