In one part sweet & two parts bitter, Tamara Malcher’s women subjects explore a newfound ambiguity, displaying a surprising meeting point between hiding and power.
Malcher’s world is strange and sensual, a colourful range of liminal spaces through which flushed, full-bodied nude women dance, play, and run. From Ingres to Botticelli; the Venus of Willendorf to contemporary commercial photography, male artists have used the female body as a symbol for aspirational beauty, passivity, fertility or helplessness. In some of art history’s most canonical paintings, men have painted naked women in repose, lying seductively on a blanket or chaise longue. Malcher’s practice – with its in-your-face abandon – challenges this lineage. Unlike the silent, still women of 19th century paintings, ‘my women are loud, active, embodied,’ Malcher explains. They aren’t the objects of male fantasy, or the male gaze: energised and dynamic, they whirl and jump for themselves alone.
In a striking display of maturation, one part sweet & two parts bitter pushes Malcher’s concept to a new level, featuring fewer whole bodies than any series she’s painted before. Rather than dominating the picture plane with sprawling, enthusiastic activity, these bodies are largely depicted in fragments – as round bellies protruding over kneeling legs, eyes peering over deep water, or hands popping out from a dense cluster of black chicken feathers. The repeated visual motifs of this series are in fluid conversation, spilling into multiple meanings: notice that the same shape is used to depict leaves, feathers, hair and flames in various works throughout the exhibition. One part sweet & two parts bitter maintains the confident contradictions of Malcher’s previous works while unpinning her paintings from the art historical stereotypes that bind them. In so doing, the artist uncovers another layer of liberated female fantasy; a new freedom.
Tamara Malcher (*1995, Recklinghausen) is a German artist living in Münster. In addition to a recent solo show at Galerie Droste (Düsseldorf, 2022), Malcher’s work has also been included in group shows around the world, including Albertz Benda (Los Angeles, New York, and Miami), The Hole NYC, Galerie Droste (Paris and Seoul), and Gallery Daniel Raphael (London). She is currently a Meisterstudentin studying under Professor Cornelius Völker at the Kunstakademie Münster.