review

'Manon Bara: Faces': Gluttonous and generous

Onze score

May you envelop Manon Bara with love. With her first solo at Mathilde Hatzenberger Gallery, the Brussels-based artist elicits a laugh, poignancy, an insatiable hunger, and love. Gluttonous and generous.

We once described the work of Manon Bara – or at least the way it burrowed into our veins and wreaked havoc there – as: “Too much and never enough.” To be clear, we were talking about the “insatiable desire” that sprang up when looking at her exuberant use of colour, her fluid, almost naïve compositions, her sense of humour and brutal force, and her unadulterated enthusiasm.

1639 Manon Bara Chien classique 2018 laque sur toile100x80 cm

A bittersweet balance of unlimited warmth and ungraspable unruliness that captured our voracious gaze. This is all just to say that Manon Bara’s work is gold. The Frenchwoman, who found her way to Brussels after perambulations in Germany, makes work that is so spontaneous and unrestrained, and attests to such love and devotion – to art, to life, to those that deserve love and perhaps go without – that it effortlessly finds its way to your heart.

Paintings in a magnificent balance

In her first solo exhibition at Mathilde Hatzenberger, Manon Bara is again revealing her raw and unadulterated side, how could she not? Her paintings splash out at you from a completely unpretentious urge to create. From a gluttony, fed by a love of German expressionism, the expressive power of the materials, the traces that (over)flowing paint can leave.

1639 Manon Bara Autoportrait noir fond bleu 2018 laque sur toile 50x40 cm

It is not only in that tangible sense that the (auto)portraits that Manon Bara is exhibiting in “Faces” are layered. The paintings find a magnificent balance between turbidity and directness, control and wilfulness, the animal in the human and the human in the animal. Through the frontal appeal of a pigeon, a bear, an Afghan, a grandmother, a child… – all in paint that meanders gloriously and gets ever deeper – art echoes like a second nature that is just as wild and inescapable as it is vitally essential.

Manon Bara’s practice is as instinctive as the exploration of skin. And it is precisely that nature that finds an immense pleasure in painting. With her hands dug lustily in the materials, in a very earthly way, she elevates paintings to something sacred. Gluttony becomes generosity. And devoted love.

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