Sean Mullins “Protracted yawn, evanescing Eos” at FRAGILE, Berlin
A black mirror is an optical device made of a slightly convex glass that is tinted a dark color and bound up like a pocket-book or in a carrying case. In order to frame a view, artists, travelers and connoisseurs of landscape painting in the eighteenth century would turn their back to a scene and observe it through the mirror in order to frame it. The reflection in the glass abstracted the subject in view from its surroundings, simplifying the color and tonal range of the scene with a painterly quality, thereby provoking a future that is structurally retrospective.
Informed by the history of painting and the mythologies it contains Sean Mullins readdresses the underlying narratives of image making. In the work both painting and writing are deployed as means to set up a condition of reality. The paintings come to us like a tablet, presenting scenarios, a foreshadowing or an anonymous myth that we can’t name but yet we seem to be strangely familiar with the story’s characters. In it the sky over the Hudson Valley is similar to the one of two hundred years ago, but this time Uncle Sam fractured his head growing tired of wanting you for anything and the burden over his own embodiment of a national tale. In it Henry bending over to kiss Kye, not knowing Munch titled his painting Vampire. Figures of speed have been reincarnated through time, there’s Hermes, the flash from DC comic books and a figuration of Paul Virilio. In place of Odin hanging himself on Yggdrasil, is an open subject in the arms of Thor, seeking a knowledge perhaps only permeable through death. Through the metrics of representation, “now” becomes liminal, figures of myth and those of certainty index simultaneous tangibility.
The historical emergence of the figures that populate the works of Mullins merge personal and universal mysticisms. We are not the same as our predecessors for obvious reasons but we are formations of assumptions cultivated from our collective past. The historical and contemporary emergence of these figures, the cultural metamorphosis that they undergo through the currents of time, indexes an inconsistency. We acknowledge ourselves in process just as painting gestures approach their own becoming. The narratives of Mullins works are porous and allow for melancholic drifters – not Doppelgänger of the characters we read about in Greek mythology, the Edda or in Marsden Hartley’s letters to a friend, but figures that decided to hang around in the 21st century and share our reality. As if linear time were collapsing on them, they seem to have found refuge in the space of Mullins’ paintings, who offers them a myriad of variable times, places and bodies.
at FRAGILE, Berlin
until 19 February 2019