Meral Alma - A highly analytical observer of her environment, which she mirrors in a diary-like manner and transforms into painting.
Everything Meral Alma paints is on a large scale – large, colourful and exciting. But that’s not the only reason her work attracts attention; it also attracts attention because her figurative universe of images is easy to read at first sight. And because – upon further examination – it tells of something which directly appeals to viewers, reaches out to them emotionally, sometimes even amuses or puzzles them, and therefore stimulates both their eyes and their minds.
In addition to pieces depicting smaller groups of people, particularly in pairs or clusters of four, and therefore conveying the notion of personal attentiveness, many more of the canvases feature large numbers of figures and objects, where one subject is usually highlighted by its size or striking colour. It may be a man, a clothed or naked woman, an angel or even a guitar.
Almost everything captured in Alma’s imagery has its own, very restricted space, which, in rare cases, is designed in landscape format, but is usually narrow, tall, and therefore cellular in nature. The different sized spaces aren’t always next to one another; they are also offset or bordered off from those directly adjacent to them. Their ‘inhabitants’ either do not overstep the boundaries of their different coloured abodes at all, or only do so slightly by virtue of some intentional and therefore only seemingly untidy painting outside the lines. They sometimes also use movement or accessories to break up the composition’s rather static basic pattern of horizontal and vertical concepts, adding an element of dynamism to the image. A few diaphane motifs placed in front of this image plane generate a certain degree of spatial depth.
Single-room inhabitants of varying sizes and therefore different hierarchical ranks live adjacent to one another, with the artist placing nudes or animal portraits directly next to hybrid, caricature-like creatures of undefined species. Largely disregarding real proportions, she creates a curious, even grotesque, distorted collection of subjects. Some figures drawn only as outlines look as if they have been cockily scribbled on a wall in chalk by pubescent teenagers. In many cases, the entire body is not depicted; only the head, whose facial expression is indicative of its current state.
The most diverse of characters are presented in profile, en face, in motion or posing, with seeming affection or with a sword in their hand. Usually, however, the people have nothing or very little to do with one another, and remain alone, on their own, even if their arms are outstretched towards others. Pictograms such as keep out signs and crossed out circles, objects such as hats, crowns or halos, and a raised index finger are all part of the artist’s repertoire of motifs. Apart from a few exceptions, everything is transferred expressively to the canvas in a full spectrum of bright, even loud, acrylic colours, bold contours and action painting techniques without any preparatory drawings, and then revised with oil paints, edding pens or oil sticks. Paint smears running across the surface in long strands enhance the notion of something unfinished, rough and makeshift, but also of something fluid, in keeping with the panta rhei idea from ancient Greek philosophy. In addition to these seemingly random smears are mesh structures which conceal things the artist deems as excessively dominant. They are locked away without totally disappearing, and thus lose their power. The emotionally charged pictures Alma creates through gestures, facial expressions and suggestive colours reflect modern-day human lives, which can be perceived as a cramped, sometimes harmonious co-existence and interaction, occasionally also disrupted by sensory overloads. She is a highly analytical observer of her environment, which she mirrors in a diary-like manner and transforms into painting.
She consciously sends signals relating to the various scenarios in which the protagonists find themselves. Any viewer will be familiar with the know-it-all’s raised index finger. A rut-like situation is symbolised by a one-way street sign, and the crossed out circle represents something which has lost its original perfection. Meral Alma’s painting style is thus reminiscent of the self taught Jean Dubuffet. In the 20th century, the Frenchman bucked the aesthetic standards of the academy with his raw, sensuous work created using the simplest materials and establishing an independent art form in 1945. This “raw art” which describes anything rough, disagreeable, and even ugly, was also adopted by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a New York artist from Andy Warhol’s circle, who similarly did not want to conform to the classic understanding of art and its demand for beauty. On the contrary: His work, like Alma’s, was defined by the depth of individual perception, and the overheated impressions of an urban environment.
Written by Sabine Heinke