DUSSELDORF.- Beck & Eggeling
is presenting the new series of works Boo!-tiful by Stefan à Wengen exclusively and for the first time in a solo exhibition entitled Boo!-tiful. 100 Boo!-ties.
Boo!-tiful what is behind the unusual title? Well, it is cleverly chosen, as it unites two opposing poles - the frightening and the beautiful - and thus aptly describes the thematic focus of the series of works begun in 2020. The two-part title, which may sound like a dichotomy, indicates what is clearly reflected in the motifs. The so-called Boo!-ties, as Stefan à Wengen with a wink - refers to the one hundred paintings in his new series of works, show bizarre monster figures that mostly carry their female victims the beauties paralysed by the shock and fainting in their arms or actively frighten them with their creepy appearance. They are almost without exception scenes from so-called B-movies, which were made in Hollywood in the 1930s and today enjoy cult status. Just because these films, mostly belonging to the horror or science fiction genre, were made on a low budget and are thus unintentionally funny from today's perspective. Scary monsters that should give us the creeps at the time, nowadays makes one smile.
Although themes such as the uncanny, the foreign or fear determine the motifs of his painting, in his new works, the artist is less interested in the aspect of horror. It is rather about the tragic figure of the monster with regard to the etymology of the term. Monster or monstrum derive from the Latin verb monere, which in turn means to complain or to find fault with. And the monster suffers from a certain defect, that of ugliness. The determination of the monstrous always takes place in juxtaposition to the beautiful. Whether it's King Kong or Dracula, B-movies always deal with the story of the Beauty and the Beast. The latter eventually falls in love with the Beauty. Thus, the ugly creature is not simply a monster, but one with character even with soul that also only longs for love and affection. In fact they are love stories.
A film tells a story, while in à Wengen's paintings the narrative is ultimately conceived by the viewer. Painting, as we know, produces still images, and so it remains ambiguous here whether Beauty is kidnapped or rescued after all; whether she fears the creature or falls for the allure of the noble monster. As we know, painting creates still images and so it remains ambiguous here whether the Beauty is kidnapped or rescued after all; whether she fears the creature or falls for the allure of the noble monster. The interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. Likewise, it is similar with the scream. What is the meaning behind the scream? Does it cause horror? Does it cause horror or is the scream itself terrifying? Edvard Munch's The Scream, a key image in art history, has become a timeless expression of human fear. But in monster movies, the exaggerated facial expressions often make the screaming character look like a ghost himself.
Taking recourse to mass media, is not atypical for someone who was artistically socialized in the eighties under the sign of the so-called Pictures Generation, although à Wengen does not understand his works as Appropriation Art. Stefan à Wengen's new works are monotypes on canvas created by the artist using a transfer technique he developed himself, which is based on decalcomania (a reproductive procedure). They are unique pieces which, due to the monotype process, show unavoidable scratches and signs of wear, making the works appear older and thus all the more authentic. The golden ground reinforces this impression, and together with the small format chosen makes us think of Byzantine or Russian icons. Cult and holy images that were venerated. An ingenious coup by the painter because already in the golden era of Hollywood, actors and actresses achieved cult status through their film roles, were elevated to icons and idolized. A cultural and social phenomenon that today generates so-called superstars ever more rapidly. Influenced by one's own associations and memories, one immediately finds approach to Stefan à Wengen's new works, that always allow one to discover something new.