BECAUSE IT OR HE WAS YOURS, you are purple
although nothing purple was distilled*
In May 2014 Quintessa contacted me for the first time just to say hello. She had seen my work online and liked it. Of course I googled her and saw the most strange exhibitions on her website. I was immediately drawn to her work, its freedom, humor, its strangeness. It seemed easy, intimate and even fun but still had a melancholic sadness about it. And I didn't really understand what I was looking at. I took her interest in my work as a compliment. Later she came back to me to do a short interview and invited me to participate in one of the many shows she curated over the last years. I remember thinking about myself at her age and how I was bored, despite bursting with energy, with no idea what to do. I was a little envious that I'd totally wasted this energy which only comes with youth.
Anyways. The first and last time I wrote someone's press release (I always have to think of relief when I hear release) was for my friend Chiara Minchio's paintings, more than 15 years ago. Since then I only wrote press releases for myself. But here I am a fan again. And I was quite honored to be asked, that is, I said yes without thinking any further whether I really could contribute something worthwhile to Quintessa Matranga, My Celebrity Crush at Boyfriends.
The title suggests a personal show, and somehow a melancholic one, maybe. Aren't crushes always melancholic, in a sense of being unfulfilled?
The first thing I had to think of when Quintessa told me about My Celebrity Crush, the title inspiring Heath Ledger painting in the show, was the first time I'd heard of Heath. A friend I spent a few hours with of the early New Years of 2007/2008 told me then that she had a crush on Heath Ledger and later that night I had the worst one-night stand of my life. Worst in the sense of having astoundingly bad sex and having had kind of forgotten (lucky me) that this also was possible, bad sex, I mean. Although the guy was hot. (I didn't have a boyfriend back then, let alone Boyfriends.) But more importantly, Tan Lin's book HEATH** which David Jourdan and I bootlegged with Westphalie (formerly our and now his publishing house in Vienna) and later then Lin's happy approval. My Celebrity Crush, despite being loaded with death, youth and a whole lot else, brings to mind an even younger Heath whom Quintessa refers to as looking like a medieval surfer (!). I remember that it took me a bit to get Heath's and HEATH's sexyness. But then I sure did.
Lin wrote HEATH around the time of Heath Ledgers death and while it is not at all a book about Heath Ledger, he becomes a kind of organizational algorithm for the main nodes of the book. Lin's assemblage of HEATH is a kind of muscle memory for feelings that are erased, re-written, read, scanned and searched repeatedly within a complex system of users, readers, commentators, followers, friends and authors.*** That Lin was busy with his book around Heath Leadgers death was an accident, of course. But what really happens by accident?
Here Heath is accompanied by flying red hearts and a small portrait of a little girl, Quintessa, maybe? So first we have Heath and young death. As well might be reminded a little bit of a psychotic clown, the Joker, Heath's last role in A Dark Knight. And depression. Forgotten feelings. Feelings that are erased? Flying hearts. A celebrity and an old crush. And youth, of course. Next time I'm born in 1981.
Alongside My Celebrity Crush is I Never Want to Feel Pain, no painting, but a sculpture of a pyramid shaped punk stud(!), that is too big. About the size of a hand. The title, I Never Want to Feel Pain, seems like a rather adolescent statement. As studs now are little more than odd leftovers of bold statements, mere decoration. But then there are still punks out there. And this is nice, and sad, and weird, and calming in a way, I guess. And what does a painting become next to a big punk stud? It's hilarious.
Quintessa is also busy with punks elsewhere. I saw a jpeg of a painting of a (female?) punk with a flying mohawk, Full Blown Freak, in her recent solo show Screaming in a Cage in Hell at Sydney in Sydney and a jpeg of a drawing of another punk with a flying mohawk, The Flying Mohawks, in Dizzy World her also recent two-person show with Rafael Delacruz at Kimberly Klark in New York. And there definitely is some punk spirit in her work which is quite nice in todays so often too smart and professionally working art world. A melancholic interest, as a crush is, I would assume, and maybe as well a warm nod to some existential rebellion. Mohawks fly.
Quintessa's paintings are bad paintings (in Marcia Tucker's definition) I guess, but it seems too me, also in a sense of urgency, of putting an idea on canvas, now. Humor is important here, and laughing about one's own flaws, but Quintessa also knows that pain is in paintings too (cheesy me). If not death, although not so much anymore. Paintings stand beside themselves now (as zombies?, no sorry, I get the idea..). And they do so here too, of course. And without hiding their pain, they are wild and sensitive, sincere and hilarious. Goofy, maybe. Porous with freedom. And I don't even think I exaggerate.
And then there is a self portrait, Quintessa's first, Do I Look Like I'm Ready For Homework?! It is a thermal painting (colors correspond to heat imaging), and maybe a casual reminder that we're warm. Human? She smiles. Her posture seems relaxed, cool. And you need to be. But what about the title? Do I Look Like I'm Ready For Homework?! Does she? And what homework? What's an artist's homework anyway, despite that artists have to wash their dishes too? Having to be busy with organizational stuff, emails, phone calls, fb, instagram, income, showing up, smiling, drinking, pleasing, networking, looking cool. I tried to sneak away from some of these duties or tried to find my own terms with them, but it doesn't work that well, I must admit. Although I think that saying no once in a while, or just what you really think, is a more than viable option too. And I feel Quintessa knows that as well.
One Dimensional Loser is a replication of the record sleeve of Third Eye Blind, the first album by Third Eye Blind, released in April 1997. After the first 500.000 copies it changed from gold-tinted to red at the band's request and Japan got a cyan, negative photo cover. One Dimensional Loser features the red version. A screaming face of a woman who holds her arm before one eye. A gesture hard to define, expressing a feeling of anger or ecstasy. A mediated one, and twice so. Who is the loser? And how is he or she one dimensional? As I Never Want to Feel Pain, One Dimensional Loser is loaded with youth, even if with old youth.
And red hearts again. Our Special Life pictures the house, where Quintessa now lives, captured by flying red hearts. Which is kind of embarrassing and cute and a good example of, and here I guess, rather intuitive decisions. I would assume Quintessa knows of the power of not knowing and the sexiness of daring. She puts out and together stuff that might not make a lot of sense at first, it might not work, but in my view works exactly therefore. It's intimate, personal and weird. And yes, love is rare, and so very special. For a moment there was the idea of also inserting a painting of the cast of Sex and the City, but Quintessa decided against it. As far as I observe things, at least within the art community (probably community isn't always the right word, though) there seems to not be a lot of sex happening at the moment (let alone love, which involves pain and a lot of time, or even Boyfriends (what a great name by the way)), or money at least for most of us. But more and more drugs and heartbreakingly lonely young zombies at parties. There is fear. And people are sad. All seems sadder than in the late-nineties.
As Tan Lin's HEATH (check it out!) is all about how we read today and especially how we read on the web, it is maybe also because I only saw Quintessa's work online, that I cannot look at these paintings without also thinking of her other paintings, drawings, reliefs, toast-sculptures (!), miniature furniture, her cowboy boots-sculpture, and all that I unfortunately also only encountered as jpeg's.
It feels a little cruel that I have not yet gotten near touching her work, nor seeing these works in real life, but must look at them on my now sometimes blue-toned screen (apparently a much discussed but for me not yet solvable problem on MacBooks these days, which makes me feel strangely selected somehow if only in a lighter tone, and only on and off and very much to my annoyance, lately). Anyways I'm not there..
Although their work is very different, there might be something Quintessa Matranga shares with Tan Lin. And that is something about the importance of feelings..
And this, against all odds, today in New York again, thank you!
our feelings were made by hand inside a very soft index
[they] [you] are beautiful pop ups*
*Tan Lin in HEATH COURSE PAK, revised 2nd edition, abridged, annotated, 2012
**plagiarism/outsource Ed. Rev., Notes Towards the Definition of Culture,Untilted Heath Ledger Project, a history of the search engine,disco OS annotated or HEATH COURSE PAK
***Jai Arun Ravine, LANTERN REVIEW BLOG, Asian American Poetry Unbound, 2013