Critics’ Picks

Mona Ardeleanu, Flexit 2021/V, 2021, oil on canvas, 47 x 40".

Mona Ardeleanu, Flexit 2021/V, 2021, oil on canvas, 47 x 40".


Mona Ardeleanu

259-269 Old Marylebone Road
November 26, 2021–January 22, 2022

In a car crash, a vehicle’s seat belt system constrains the driver’s forward motion, while the airbag absorbs the impact of the body. These safety devices will likely harm the motorist, just not as much as an unprotected collision. This tension—between our inherent fragility and the restraints that both injure and protect our bodies—animates Mona Ardeleanu’s paintings in “The Padding.” Based on a snowboarding accident the artist had in her teens, the canvases depict supple forms constrained by straps, ropes, and other tools of securement. Rendered with an ultrarealistic attention to detail, these shapes waver between recognizable imagery (a human stomach, airbags) and pure abstraction. In Flexit 2021/V, 2021, a safety-harness-cum-life-vest contorts a box-stitched cushion into a human heart.

Ardeleanu adorns these mysterious relics in elegant fabrics, which she draws from historic textiles sourced from a variety of locations and periods. Suspended against dark, flat backgrounds, her works suggest Deborah Remington’s delicate, steely forms, or an artifact in a museum display case. But much like the items themselves, the scenes on the fabric have been manipulated, filtered through Ardeleanu’s memory. At first glance, the fabric stitched to the pillowy mass of Drall 2021/I, 2021, appears to be light blue Toile de Jouy adorned with traditional idylls. Only upon closer inspection do we see that the patterns in fact depict skiers on a mountain, with the negative space of the white fabric forming the snowy peaks. In the middle of the cushion’s tuft, padded by her snowsuit, a woman on her snowboard struggles to right herself.