NOW NOW NOW
“You’re beautiful, but you’re empty. One couldn’t die for you.”
The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Mia Enell is an artist of many contours and individualities. Her paintings, but most especially her drawings, small and intimate, seemingly innocuous yet deeply psychological, intricate and cryptic, drawn in nothing more than pencil and watercolour, portray human vignettes, spiritual events and unqualified forms of life. Enell’s work belies a visual conundrum that puzzles and teases us with a symbolic simplicity that should be not taken at face value.
Mia Enell works directly from dreams. Endowed with refined powers of observation and expression, surreal images and scenes that are created in the deepest parts of her subconscious come to light, on paper or canvas, mot-a-mot. Every one of Enell’s works offers a personal trajectory that combines the world of dreams, reality and fantasy with the realms of art, aesthetics, metaphysics and the subjective. Her recurring motif seems to be the shortening and blurring of the distance between what we call the fantastic and what we understand as the real. Her intricate, visual meandering through the lingual and symbolic, coupled with her idiosyncratic method of portraying and capturing the alienation of contemporary society, have coalesced into a distinct viewpoint. Subtle networks of imagery capture the penetrating activity of the oneiric, striving towards something physical and tangible. There is a lingering clarity of vision, a stubborn persistence to transmit the subject unmediated and pure in its detail, tone and nuance.
As in real life, Mia Enell’s solitary figures are surrounded by empty spaces, waiting to be filled, seeking to bestow meaning. In particular, the WiFi painting from 2016, vividly describes how the vibrations of technology, with their ever-sleeker invisible “clouds”, mute our sense of being with a never-ending stream of meaningless information.
Her subjects, often middle-aged prototypes caught in life’s insidious traps and stricken by their failure to come to grips with the passage of time, explore fundamental questions about their role in affluent societies. These characters stare back at us, caught in the middle of a metaphysical anguish, sometimes in fear, perplexed and unsure about their place in the world. In almost all the works on view here, there is hope that through some sort of endeavour, a “shedding of skin”, a proposal of “good ideas”, the arrival of a mysterious envelope, a travel to faraway places where the sky is red and the waves are black as bitumen, umbrella in hand, contemporary man will find salvation. Or, if not salvation, at least the hope of individual identity and lasting emotional contact that will not be denied or rendered “invisible”. It is unclear from the works if any of her creatures ever discovers this personal Arcadia.
In her childlike sketches and drawings, Enell seems to concur with Freud’s fundamental insight that the patient’s trouble is rooted in a general malaise, a sickness that cannot be cured by analytic therapy. Her characters cannot embark on the study of their place in a world that is no longer mysterious. As Sartre says in ‘Being and Nothingness’: authenticity and individuality have to be earned. The goal of Mia Enell’s work is to harmonize painterly formal and literal questions into a central, destabilizing quandary: “Why are things like they are and not otherwise?”