Rites Revisited - Inge Aanstoot

Inge Aanstoot initiates visual dialogues that are meant to be resolved in the mind of the viewer.
She invites us into stories which she will not tell; instead she gives us their captivating illustrations. Pictures of the disordered and perplexing states of mind we all know, the bold yet hesitant patterns we walk, which we each try to organise into the individual stories we call our lives.

In a number of paintings, Aanstoot uses the self-portrait as a vehicle to examine universal concepts such as connectedness, cultural practices and myth. Her works are not decidedly autobiographical, but revolve around identity on a more general level. With or without self-portraits, her paintings tell personal stories as they reflect on herself and her relationship with her surroundings. Objects from her home, fascinations and personal idiosyncrasies are incorporated, together with references to things that capture her interest. Together with human figures, a wide array of animals inhabits the paintings. The presence of animals adds a fable-like atmosphere and opens for personal allegorical interpretations. They become part of the bigger story about our memories and how we attach significance to animals, places and random treasures.

Her works are large, detailed and densely layered, and her painterly space is ambiguous. Different scenes play out in a borderland between figuration and abstraction, the conscious and the dreamlike. One or a group of human figures are placed tableaux-like within a more or less recognisable universe, and she equates the realistically depicted human figures with areas of geometric patterns and structures or abstract formations. Outer environment and inner mental states cross, merge and slide into each other.

The figures look from the canvas directly at the viewer and make eye contact, beckoning us to come closer, asking us if we dare or telling us to stay back. Many of her paintings share a theme of bodily and psychological intimacy. The body's integrity is continually challenged in different ways - it gets undressed and touched or held by other figures, disconnected arms and torsos. Mouths are opened, examined or become portals for flowers and animals to pass through. Sometimes the paint spills or seeps over the boundaries of one body into another, fusing them together.

The figures assume positions that according to temperament or social conventions may mean e.g. vulnerability, anxiety, self-confidence or sexual allure. The viewer must decode these actions, which seem to be assigned to distant times, distant places, yet strangely familiar and intimately embedded in our own bodies.

The gestures and attributes, flower garlands, gatherings and sacrificial animals give associations to rituals which have lost their meaning today and are being done for the sake of dogma, tradition or habit alone. We as a society however keep repeating them, empty as they might be, wishing to belong or to inscribe ourselves into a system where we can find answers - be it religion, science or otherwise.

The painted characters are mainly young people trying to connect with - or detach themselves from - their surroundings or peers, searching for ways to communicate and navigate unfamiliar terrain. With the constant, unedited flow of information we need to sort through on a daily basis, finding answers that are truthful and reliable is a challenge. Aanstoot's works mirror our struggle to create meaning in an age of multiple meanings, and their ambiguous spaces become depots of diverse visual cultures and uncertain truths.

 Horror vacui: the rite revisited    Photo courtesy of Inge Aastoot  
 Wilhelmscream   Photo courtesy of Inge Aanstoot 
 Temperence is wickedness    Photo courtesy of Inge Aanstoot