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World as Lover, World as Self

Los Angeles | June 5 - July 20
Opening Saturday June 5th 12-5pm with piano performances by Anja at 2pm and 5pm
Opening Sunday 6th 2-4pm with piano performance at 4pm

“Medieval writers knew well that the world has never been still, that humans may dream a separation from nature, may strive to exalt themselves from the recalcitrance of stone, but remain earth formed from earth, living upon the earth through alliance with earthen matter, returning at death to Earth again.”
Jefferey Cohen in ‘Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman’.

Anja Salonen’s second solo show at Five Car Garage, World as Lover, World as Self, presents the intricate dreamscapes of her painterly worlds, stretching concepts of selfhood, body, and relationship through deep geological time. Salonen paints visions of reality that transcend the perceivable senses, where the unseen is tangibly realized and imaginal realms are rendered material. The title is drawn from eco-philosopher and systems theorist Joanna Macy, who proposes paradigmatic shifts in self-identification as necessary for ecological renewal in the midst of the existential crises we currently face. Meeting the gaze of our living world, Salonen’s paintings render visions of body as ecology and matter as vibrantly conscious; the self as walking Earth; a porous, fluid, permeable system; a multiplicity of multiplicities.

We are organisms among organisms, without clearly defined boundaries between inside and outside, private and public. The predominant ideological separation of self from world and culture from nature sets up a failure to discern how we alter and are altered by our environment, the ecological dimension of our being. To use eco-theorist Stacy Alaimo’s term, recognizing the ‘transcorporeality’ of our bodies allows us to perceive the fluidity between material and theoretical bodies, challenging binaries and dualism. Humans are inter-and intra-connected with the more-than-human world, our inner substance indivisible from its outer environment. The porosity of bodies allows the outer world to flow through them in an erotic exchange, an intimacy with the world beyond the boundaries of membranes.

In Salonen’s paintings, entities overlap in an entangled embrace, irrevocably modifying each other in states of constant transformation. Stone figures rising to life from the earth, a waterfall permeating the body, a drop of water in relation to the ocean, a single flame and the sun. These paintings remind us that the material that passes through a body also transforms that body. The fluid shapes the apparently solid, as water shapes stone in geological perspective, reminding us that what appears stable or static in human duration is a river of matter in deep time. This series brings to life an interdependent vision of reality where erotic exchange takes place in all encounters, where we are entangled, altered and altering always. The duality of subject and background collapses and hierarchy crumbles beyond separation. Our selves do not end with our skin: we eat the stone, bleed the ocean, breathe each other’s breath.

This vision electrifies each painting of Salonen’s new series. The alchemical androgyne celebrates the union of opposites, while Neolithic, estrogen-rich stone figures, a dripping sprout emerging from sand, and a cow-woman enveloping the sky employ the symbolic imagery of mythology and the unconscious to conjure the intimacy of our ecological interrelationships, and the queering and slippages involved. Exploring the inner reaches of exterior space in paintings within paintings, cow-woman unfolds into megalithic arches, while an ancient sculpture of Eros and Psyche embracing in a glowing vortex envelops a veiled stone touched with a red handprint. Each of Salonen’s new paintings reflect her pursuit to blur the boundary between image and object, between rendering and the real. The oil paintings are sedimentary layers of paint, tracing motion through time, imbuing their own vibrancy. With these works she forms worlds that bring the realm of the unconscious into physical objecthood, in collaboration with the agency of living material, to envision the expansive identity of living material.

Written by Anja Salonen and Emily Lucid