Soaked in spectrums spanning from iridescent to infrared, Anja Salonen’s solo exhibition Runoff pours forth excess in an exploration of water cycles and the bodies they navigate. Referencing a surfeit of water which flows over a surface, the show’s title points towards the volatile relationship between waste and surplus, and the power of this dynamic to transform how we see our place in our shared world. Rendering the chimeric stone sculptures of Italian fountains as stretched and misplaced in time, glitched in washes serene and foreboding, Salonen’s new paintings visit anachronistic vignettes of subjects like spitting cherubs and sipping deer, seen through a warped imaginary both ancient and very much a product of the digital age.
Loyal is pleased to invite you to Runoff, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Los Angeles artist Anja Salonen at LOYAL in Stockholm.
Approaching interference as an allegory for painting’s potential in an increasingly anthropocentric and visually-dense world, Salonen’s work reconsiders relating as event-based, and as something which affects us more deeply than simply looking or being looked at. Employing digital image technologies which prosthetically extend human sight, the artist utilizes the visual lexicons of science and surveillance to present that which is taken for granted as “natural” as, in fact, eternally precarious–not unlike our shared biospheres burning in wildfires and choking in polluted waters. Working with paint as a kind of aesthetic prosthetic that offers the possibility to reach beyond the flatness of the digital, the artist makes herself a chimera in the generation of hybridized image structures, mimicking tensions between dichotomies from the ontological bottom up. The paintings suggest that, with a good sense of humor towards our illusions of stability, we might have the honor of participating more creatively as members of much larger networks than what our eyes can see. Where interference is not antagonistic but generative, runoff becomes not wasteful, but necessary.
In Runoff, Anja Salonen presents a kaleidoscopic gallery of sipping and splashing, generating a virtual plaza in which the viewer themselves might get soaked. From perched doves sipping from the iridescent pools of dawn to the stone chimeras brought to life as their breasts spurt glimmering paint, no fully-human figure is to be found in this water cycle. In Cloud Iridescence / Harpy, a winged siren coyly peeks past the viewer as water passes through her body–equally transformed by and transforming the substance as blood, as ichor, or as the river pushes away that which it plucks from the banks. A polychromatic plume hangs behind the creature, burning like radiation through the foreground of stony purples. The cloud’s rainbows are roped in by an ambiguous border reminiscent of some forgotten map drawn from memory; a kind of anachronistic, tongue-in-cheek patriotism for our collective loss of place and what it means to be everywhere and nowhere, eternal and ephemeral, watching and being watched throughout millennia past and to come.
With each painting, we are faced with another node in the cycle of flow; each a phantasm of the lesser-seen events which bind us, and how technologies of visibility alter what we endeavor to behold. In Solar Flare / Jeanneke Pis, a crouching figure once seemingly solid appears stretched as though being pulled apart, lit by golden flames as it releases glittering liquid into the darkness. After the birds have flown and the sun sets, deer can be seen drinking from the waters shared upstream, appearing only as vespers of their body heat seen with the aid of infrared optronics.
Taking lessons from the mermaids and demigods which flank the fountains of Rome, Salonen presents this new suite of works which refuse to consider overflow as merely waste, but viscous with the potential to project and transform. Draped in ever-flowing sheets of sparkling water, the stone figures of Italy’s sculptural fountains are metamorphosed into moving mirrors of their surroundings, flickering in and out of the piazzas over which they have stood surveilling for centuries. These hybridized creatures, ever wet and watching, are collaged, distorted, and re-rendered in Salonen’s saturated palette, squirting and spitting rainbows of burning light onto the viewer, their canvases becoming fountains anew.
—Lindsey Lascaux, Austin, TX, August 2023
Anja Salonen (born 1994, Los Angeles, CA) is a visual artist based in Los Angeles whose work splices classical oil painting technique with the visual language of digital imagery, contemporary figuration and the chemical landscape to consider how painting functions in image culture today. Interests in formal rendering and color theory merge with contemporary aesthetics and esoteric imaginaries, creating visions of clashing perspectives where unseen connections are realized and uncanny realms are rendered material. Complex scenes of eco-horror and sensual ecstasy emerge through a world-building process resembling collage that draws from art historical, ecological, and scientific imagery. The paintings are scorched with the acidic colors of chemical contamination, paradoxical spatial relationships and porous representations of the figure, with bodies in slippery relation to their environments. Salonen studied at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2015 and received her BFA from California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) in 2018. Solo and two-person exhibitions include Arsenal Contemporary Art (with Miranda Byk) (New York), NOON Projects (with Ben Borden) (Los Angeles), in lieu (Los Angeles), Five Car Garage (Los Angeles). She has participated in group exhibitions including Loyal (Stockholm), Harkawik (Los Angeles), Seasons (Los Angeles), Sow & Tailor (Los Angeles), Kravets Wehby (New York), and Fredericks & Freiser (New York). This is Anja Salonen’s first solo exhibition with Loyal.