by Ioana Manolache* “this side up” (Pedro’s Flag)
this side up are the words inscribed at the top of a paper American flag, one of the many flags included and distributed through the newspapers in New York City following the events of 9/11. Thirteen years after, the symbolic object is sun bleached and brittle, taped high on a glass façade as it conjures a haunted air of grandiosity and patriotism. I was attracted to this object due to its solemn silence.
Hung high in a window, above our standard field of vision, the iconic flag evidences the passage of time and the reification of an icon losing its symbolic properties in a physical way.
Red, white and blue are formal elements that have been domesticated, sacralized, and ingrained in history and social memory. The draining of physical color due to direct sunlight parallels the metaphorical decay and archive of the collective memory of the viewer. The still life painting of this side up is an attempt to explore and regain that memory while paying tribute to the loss of life and loss of color.
The etymological understanding of the term “still life” sets up an enlightening paradox where still is defined as “motionless”, and life embodies exuberant “existence”. The still life as art form implies a kind of being which is constantly self reflective, in a charged equilibrium between past and present time, extant yet inert.
Painting directly from a subject can be better understood as a constant taking of temperature. Because temperature is measured according to a comparative scale and is perceived by touch, so does the still life imply a reciprocal relationship between two entities. The practice of painting from life redacts a haptic memory of the world and presents a view that is constantly evaluating the past experience of being through material articulations. Paint is a flaccid solid that through process attempts to transform into an image, another object, a gesture, but is always residing in its own materiality.
Through the devotional exercise of painting, I seek to investigate materiality and illusion by melding the perceptivity of the painting process with the myth of images. My work questions and re-presents notions of time, memory, reality, illusion, and perception as transformed through the physical material of the paint medium. My paintings, including this side up, encapsulate a stretch of time, and the gestures which once took place. The flipping of a newspaper page, the cutting of paper, and the taping of a flag are sculptural markers of a vanishing present. The objects in my paintings remain in a state of reverence while the actual, material items return to the mundane or disappear as debris.
*Ioana Manolache completed her studies at The Cooper Union (BFA) in 2011 and is currently pursuing her MFA at Columbia University. She was the recipient of the Betty Goldin Memorial Fund Book Prize (2011), has been nominated for the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Artist Grant (2011, 2012), and has exhibited in New York City. She has been awarded a residency at the Contemporary Artists Center at Woodside in Troy, NY and has an upcoming curatorial project “Re/Presented” at the Leroy Neiman Gallery at Columbia University. Ioana was born and raised in Romania, and now lives and works in New York City.