Beastly Arboretum: Monika Stricker’s first s...

Beastly Arboretum: Monika Stricker’s first solo exhibition at the P420 gallery in Bologna

Reflection on the stereotypes imposed by society becomes more urgent than ever when resonant differences are perceived in the world around us. The poetics of the German artist Monika Stricker (1978, Düsseldorf, DE) starts and develops around the perception that the male figure, for years praised as representative of power and virility, has suffered a weakening, as if the foundations of patriarchal thought, depicted for centuries also through art which has acted as its spokesperson, have been called into question. It is precisely from this constantly evolving reflection that the German artist presents, for the first time on display at the P420 gallery in Bologna, a cycle of works in painting and sculpture created specifically for the occasion. The exhibition itinerary, entitled Beastly Arboretum, curated by Marta Papini, will be open to visitors until 4 November 2023.

Monika Stricker, Beastly Arboretum, 2023, installation view, photo Carlo Favero, courtesy P420, Bologna

If previous works were characterized by the representation of a “mutilated” male groin, in this new artistic phase, Stricker emphasizes the sense of instability and fragility by which the male figure is affected. The exhibition itinerary, in fact, opens with three oil paintings representing men in movement in a timeless and suspended space, where the expressionist contrast of colors emphasizes the sense of precariousness of the protagonists who hover and move no longer with Michelangelesque strength and tenacity, but with a sweet insecurity with completely contemporary tones. Although the reference to classicism is evident, the artist manages to condense the restlessness of the soul in the pictorial line, giving voice to the ongoing reflection on the continuous changes taking place and on the new perspectives to be rebuilt. The fragility of the three figures represented, however, contrasts with the strength evoked by the portrait of the artist’s foot, which, bent and ready to leap, dominates the representation, suggesting to the viewer that sense of security, robustness and strength typical of ancient art.

Monika Stricker, Beastly Arboretum, 2023, installation view, photo Carlo Favero, courtesy P420, Bologna

Although evolving, Stricker does not give up on connecting with the idea behind the previous work, once again evoking, through the glazed ceramics present in the exhibition, the male groin, represented in multiple forms, innumerable polymorphisms of matter, shaped by the mind and the hand of the artist. Another theme addressed, in a completely engaging way, is that of relationships, which is described through the representation of some primates, both male and female, portrayed in the most intimate moment of interaction and embrace with their cubs. The strength of the bond is emphasized by the different colours, which alternate with the prevailing ones of the composition, guiding the viewer’s gaze towards these variations, which underline the intrinsic strength of the relationship with parenthood, which impacts and influences the single individual. This topic is dear and heartfelt by the artist, as it is reported by the latter to the curator Marta Papini, who in her critical text interprets this theme as “a way to dissect one’s anxiety in the face of the exclusive and excluding mother-child relationship”. For Stricker, in fact, art is a way of expressing oneself, one’s anxieties, one’s anxieties and, in the face of this awareness, the curator enriches her text with the quote from Mike Kelley: “I make art to give my problems are others”, a statement which further reinforces what the production the artworks represents for the artist.

Monika Stricker, Shepherd Dog, 2023, oil on canvas, 120 x 100 cm, photo Carlo Favero, courtesy the artist and P420, Bologna

The dependence that is created following the relationship is the other side of the coin, on which the work of the German artist leads us to reflect. Iconic is the oil on canvas in which a dog is depicted, whose gaze is aimed at any spectator who meets its eyes. The peculiarities of the work are represented not only by the sweet and magnetic gaze of the brightly colored animal, waiting for attention, but above all by the detail present on the paw: a sock, which gives a close bond of belonging with the owners of the house in which it happens to live. “The dog”, however, as defined in the critical text by Marta Papini “for the German artist is the symbol of domesticated nature, made fragile and harmless by virtue of its relationship with the human being”. From this it can be seen that for the artist dependence represents a factor that weakens man, even though it is necessary for the very survival of the species.

Monika Stricker, Beastly Arboretum, 2023, installation view, photo Carlo Favero, courtesy P420, Bologna

The Beastly Arboretum exhibition itinerary presents itself as a springboard for exploring and meditating on current issues, with the invitation to look at the world and relationships with more attentive eyes, through an introspective gaze, which with delicacy, but at the same time with determination, manages to highlight fragility, vulnerability, but at the same time the richness of thought that materializes thanks to the support of art.


Monika Stricker. Beastly Arboretum
23/09/2023 – 04/11/2023


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