It usually happens moments after waking—lingering at the edge of our dreams, still held in suspended logic, before we’re jolted back into recognition and contemplation. Here, caught in the cross-tides of our wandering logic, we allow an uncanny process of rearranging ourselves, untangling our thoughts, fears, and desires. Interpretations become condensed and superimposed upon one another. Navigating this misty nether-time we let our minds wander. Past, present and future silently accordion, compounding and expanding. Inevitably, the renewal of logical, linear thought pilot reverie into our waking hours. Swedish, Finnish, and living out of Berlin, painter Elisabeth Mladenov explores both waking moments and instances of suspended rest in her most recent series of portraits, In Bed.
Intimate, contemplative and highly intuitive, her works peer into the lives of others at their most vulnerable. Drawing on friends, lovers, acquaintances, and family, Mladenov portrays sitters awake and reclining, caught in the maximum state of passivity and quiet honesty. She gravitates towards a muted color palette of blues, whites, creams and gentle yellows that aids in her delicate approach to portraiture and painting. Although the palette is nearly identical to her highly abstracted construction works, In Bed is forcefully rooted in the body and the experience of being human.
Elisabeth Mladenov, Everything will be Fine III, 2012, oil on canvas, 70 x 50 cm; Courtesy of the artist.
Mladenov’s path as a professional artist stems from a Master’s degree in Art Education from the University of Art and Design Helsinki, where she also taught. These experiences, particularly in academic life drawing, are an undeniably influential lens by which the artist filters artistic concerns. She employs classic painterly techniques and frequently gives her models careful instructions on how exactly she envisions a pose. There is an interplay between her search for the model’s unique traits and her simultaneous actions as a choreographer who stages an artificial scene. The result is a creative non-fiction, whereby portraying those around her becomes a process of self-discovery. Each portrait stands alone as an isolated meditation on a particular relationship with the model—be it with a casual or intimate friend. In many ways the process itself is akin to the moments of introversion and meditation we can only often experience in the privacy of our own bedroom.
Her recent work employs a range of physical depictions, from lengthy vertical portraits that mimic the romance of a drafted body, horizontal pensive snapshots rendered in great detail, or depictions of truncated limbs that hint at unrest and motion. This interest in both formal and psychological explorations of her subjects formulate for Mladenov a social landscape that teeters between personal recognition and disassociated incomprehensibility. For the artist, a story captured becomes almost inextricable from the reality observed. Once a portrait is created—an impression documented, a subject interpolated—it seems almost impossible to observe one without another.
(Image on top: Elisabeth Mladenov, Inertia, 2011, oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm; Courtesy of the artist.)