»PAINTING MEANS TO MAKE ENERGIES VISIBLE. AND MERAL ALMA DEVOTES ALMOST EXCLUSIVE ATTENTION TO THIS WHEN SHE IS PAINTING.«
Countless layers are painted on each other, which gleam through to each other and give a dense, impenetrable field of figures. The faces and figures that come into being are not casually coming by, but concrete people, who call them on the screen and bring them together. That‘s why the pictures touch so much. Each of her pictures, even the individual portraits, forms an assembly of humans, a formation of community that tells a new story that transcends this assembly. The overall project of Meral Alma turns out to be utopian. Fortunately, she always stays on the ground of the picturesque facts.
Everything Meral Alma paints is on a large scale – large, colourful and exciting. But that’s not the only reason her work attracts attention; it also attracts attention because her figurative universe of images is easy to read at first sight. And because – upon further examination – it tells of something which directly appeals to viewers, reaches out to them emotionally, sometimes even amuses or puzzles them, and therefore stimulates both their eyes and their minds.
In addition to pieces depicting smaller groups of people, particularly in pairs or clusters of four, and therefore conveying the notion of personal attentiveness, many more of the canvases feature large numbers of figures and objects, where one subject is usually highlighted by its size or striking colour. It may be a man, a clothed or naked woman, an angel or even a guitar.
Almost everything captured in Alma’s imagery has its own, very restricted space, which, in rare cases, is designed in landscape format, but is usually narrow, tall, and therefore cellular in nature. The different sized spaces aren’t always next to one another; they are also offset or bordered off from those directly adjacent to them. Their ‘inhabitants’ either do not overstep the boundaries of their different coloured abodes at all, or only do so slightly by virtue of some intentional and therefore only seemingly untidy painting outside the lines. They sometimes also use movement or accessories to break up the composition’s rather static basic pattern of horizontal and vertical concepts, adding an element of dynamism to the image. A few diaphane motifs placed in front of this image plane generate acertain degree of spatial depth.
Single-room inhabitants of varying sizes and therefore different hierarchical ranks live adjacent to one another, with the artist placing nudes or animal portraits directly next to hybrid, caricature-like creatures of undefined species. Largely disregarding real proportions, she creates a curious, even grotesque, distorted collection of subjects
Some figures drawn only as outlines look as if they have been cockily scribbled on a wall in chalk by pubescent teenagers. In many cases, the entire body is not depicted; only the head, whose facial expression is indicative of its current state.
The most diverse of characters are presented in profile, en face, in motion or posing, with seeming affection or with a sword in their hand. Usually, however, the people have nothing or very little to do with one another, and remain alone, on their own, even if their arms are outstretched towards others. Pictograms such as keep out signs and crossed out circles, objects such as hats, crowns or halos, and a raised index finger are all part of the artist’s repertoire of motifs. Apart from a few exceptions, everything is transferred expressively to the canvas in a full spectrum of bright, even loud, acrylic colours, bold contours and action painting techniques without any preparatory drawings, and then revised with oil paints, edding pens or oil sticks. Paint smears running across the surface in long strands enhance the notion of something unfinished, rough and makeshift, but also of something fluid, in keeping with the panta rhei idea from ancient Greek philosophy. In addition to these seemingly random smears are mesh structures which conceal things the artist deems as excessively dominant. They are locked away without totally disappearing, and thus lose their power. The emotionally charged pictures Alma creates through gestures, facial expressions and suggestive colours reflect modern-day human lives, which can be perceived as a cramped, sometimes harmonious co-existence and interaction, occasionally also disrupted by sensory overloads. She is a highly analytical observer of her environment, which she mirrors in a diary-like manner and transforms into painting.
She consciously sends signals relating to the various scenarios in which the protagonists find themselves. Any viewer will be familiar with the know-it-all’s raised index finger. A rut-like situation is symbolised by a one-way street sign, and the crossed out circle represents something which has lost its original perfection. Meral Alma’s painting style is thus reminiscent of the self taught Jean Dubuffet. In the 20th century, the Frenchman bucked the aesthetic standards of the academy with his raw, sensuous work created using the simplest materials and establishing an independent art form in 1945. This “raw art” which describes anything rough, disagreeable, and even ugly, was also adopted by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a New York artist from Andy Warhol’s circle, who similarly did not want to conform to the classic understanding of art and its demand for beauty. On the contrary: His work, like Alma’s, was defined by the depth of individual perception, and the overheated impressions of an urban environment.
Robert Fleck in celebration of both advancement awards for Meral Alma
Meral Alma’s general theme is the examination of the human being. In her paintings, the artist addresses numerous tonalities, states of mind, emotional forces and incidents that correspond to the contemporary experience of human life – not analytically, but emotionally. Her paintings present a panorama; a small encyclopedia of contemporary emotional states.
Several large images resemble painted collages of human categories of experience. For Meral Alma, the face often plays a central role. It is examined with regard to the positive and negative forces expressed within it. The face is rarely treated in a three-dimensional, plastic sense. It is part of the level plane of the image. Just like the large painted collages, this has a lot to do with the contemporary world of computer screens. However, Meral Alma’s painted depictions are more expressive than the phenomena on a screen.
With this mode of depiction, Meral Alma builds on the Byzantine pictorial tradition, which represents an important moment in European painting. This is not a thing of the past. In modern art, this tradition has been repeatedly updated, in Gustav Klimt‘s work and Viennese Art Nouveau around 1900, as well as by artists of our time.
Many works by Meral Alma feature iconic pictorial forms, interlinked with expressive elements such as the deformation of the line, which plays an important role. The expressive elements allow for forces and emotions to be portrayed directly. However, this is not the subjective expressionism like that of the German Expressionism with its self-examination by the artist, but rather an expressionism stemming from observant investigation, as it existed in Austria in connection with Byzantinism. Meral Alma’s professor at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, Siegfried Anzinger, also comes from the background of this tradition.
Meral Alma’s works convey an optimistic outlook, although the darker aspects are never excluded. Even when deep emotions emerge in all directions, they are full of power and life.
In 2015, Meral Alma received the Mercuri Urval/Düsseldorf Art Academy talent award for the second time in a row. This was the first time this occurred in the Düsseldorf Art Academy cooperation with sponsoring partners. The award is well-deserved.
Compared to 2014, a rapid development can be noted, for example in the four paintings of ballet dancers, which are the first life-sized full-body works. The movements of these figures is convincing, even though it is extremely difficult to realise such movement visually, as painting can only suggest movement. What is also very beautiful about these paintings is how the feet touch the imaginary, insinuated floor. The way in which a foot is placed on the ground or a hand touches a piece of fabric – this is where it becomes apparent whether or not someone can really paint. The paintings of the dancers demonstrate a very open space, comparatively emptied vis-à-vis earlier works, as well as delicate dialogues of colour transparencies and of contour and figure. In the period from 2014 to 2015, Meral Alma has not fallen back with her themes and her repertoire. It is always the human being, sometimes as a dream-like creature, that expresses the forces of life. The paintings take shape through the colours, and these colours are becoming richer. Visitors of the annual exhibition couldn’t help but notice during the opening that this is the type of art that touches viewers deeply. This is a rarity in this form and is one of the artistic qualities that comes to light in Meral Alma’s work.