Critics’ Picks

Gina Malek, Activities of Daily Living, 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 52 x 56".


Gina Malek

Magic Beans
Auguststraße 86
November 11–December 22, 2016

In her paintings, Gina Malek does not just depict human figures in moments of physical action or tension; she transmits physicality directly through her mark-making. It is difficult to decide who the protagonists are in her paintings: the abstract marks, appearing boldly against colorful backgrounds, or the figures moving through and between them.

The eleven oil paintings on view here spring from the expressive potential of contained painterly gestures. The use of transparent layers, as in Forward (all works 2016), creates the impression of a light source is coming from behind. At times, figuration almost dissolves in the surrounding light, as in Stay. For Activities of Daily Living, a doubling is created by a shadow that is as present as the figure itself.

These subjects are rendered through partial abstraction, as in the omission of body parts for Uñas de color rojo (Red Nails), where painted nails prompt one to search for corresponding hands or feet. Elsewhere, only the contours of figures are shown, as in the monumental Barbara. Paradoxically, through this distanced view, one gets the feeling of becoming a close witness to these beings. Apart from formal interests, the works seem equally driven by the curiosity, compassion, and enchantment to be felt in the way figures are staged.