Artwork Detail

Melencolia
2008
German, b. 1960
Acrylic, oil, and charcoal on linen
85 1/2 x 82 1/2 "
University purchase with funds from the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation, 2011
WU 2011.0004
Highlights
Charline von Heyl’s large-scale paintings create a seemingly paradoxical space that hovers between abstraction and figuration. The result is a startling shift in perspective, often reversing the relation between figure and ground and generating a disorienting three-dimensionality. In Melencolia, this shift in perspective is deeply rooted in the tradition of art history. Taking up the entire surface of the canvas is a rendition of Albrecht Dürer’s famous four-by-four magic square from his engraving Melencolia I (1514). A riddle of numbers, Dürer’s magic square depicts the sum of 34 in different mathematical equations. Von Heyl turns Dürer’s magic square into the ground for her own painting of the same name, adding discernable markers of painterly expression by expanding its dripping grid across the picture plane. On top of that image is her second art historical allusion, the convex mirror in Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding (1434). Juxtaposed with the grid-like surface of Durer’s magic square and out of its original context, the convex mirror takes on its own magic quality of a mysterious, three-dimensional shape. It becomes increasingly clear that the artist understands these two famous artworks not just as references, but as the material ground on which her own paintings can come into being. [Permanent collection label, 2017]