8 November - 13 December 2014
Sanya Kantarovsky’s installation at LAXART the artist’s first work in animation. 'Happy Soul' overlays film animation upon a figurative painting hung in the righthand quadrant of the projection frame. The geometry of the film registers at the edges of the stretcher in a playful manner that pits the illusion of two images interacting against formal interventions – a cartoonish hand brushes against the seams of the white canvas and creatures fly in and out of the painting changing hues sporadically.
The painting depicts an isolated male nude gazing back at the viewer, blankly, covering his sex. The plane of the picture begins to signal a tangible, physical space as the montage shifts shape and transforms again. In the artist’s telling, the painting surrounded by cinema creates a theatrical environment for the static figure as the animations swirl around him; in one instance a spotlight falls directly on the painted figure literally signaling his entrance upon the stage. These interplays between the painterly depiction of the body and that body set in motion, as well as the somatic presence of the viewer, trace a correlation between an intimate, private space, and a public, theatrical one.
The animation itself incorporates an alphabetic repertoire of motifs – images adopted from previous paintings and drawings feel both generic and rehearsed – butterflies flutter, lighting roves the horizon, blank pieces of paper stir in space, watches tick, hands gesture, smoke bellows. These unresolved illusions set up expectations for a narrative that never comes into being. Rather, each element creates a mood driven by visual textures and thus joins the artist’s painting practice as a system of self-reflexive motifs, visual puns and allegories. One such example is the animated revolution of the painting upon an axis that momentarily reveals the painting’s stretcher bars and linen, as though it were the backstage entrance to 'Happy Soul'.
The soundtrack to the work consists of two a cappella versions of Motown songs, Marvin Gayes’ 'What’s Going On' and Smokey Robinson’s 'Being with You'. The former addresses a collective body in response to episodes of police brutality in the 1960’s: “Mother, mother There's too many of you crying.” In contrast, the song 'Being with You' embodies individual, intimate desire with lyrics like “I don't care what they think about me and I don't care what they say.” This contrast echoes the duality of interiority and exteriority, aloneness and togetherness in the animation and painting. The absence of the expected musical accompaniment allows the content of the lyrics to resonate in a more potent, and at times uncanny way.