Same word but different meaning
Painting as a Crime
A commentary on the work of Rania Rangou
Hee-hee, I thought and started to get dressed, and life set out again to flaunt itself in front of me through its everyday routine.
Mikhail Bulgakov, Devilishness
In an age (for a long time now, it's true) when visual artists have abandoned representational painting, those who continue to serve it tend to treat representation as something established, something that never lies (never can), something like photography in the pre-Photoshop era. For them, painting belongs to an innocent world, angelically fashioned. There are plenty of them (still). Rania Rangou does not belong to this category.
Her work, though it is undoubtedly painting, distils within it all the experience of the media of the last 40 years, of art installations, of photography, of video, of cinema (of this, more anon). Rangou constructs a visual thriller in which features from reality intertwine with exercises in painting, enigmas and puzzles, in a sinister psychodelic trip. The total silence (painting doesn't make noises, of course) seems to conceal a menacing soundtrack.
The unit of her work here is structured on the myth of Narcissus, a metaphor for the birth of (visual) art through his reflection which the narcissistic but asexual youth gazes at, thus presaging his death. Because Narcissus must not get to know, on pain of death, himself. The analogy with the artist's journey of self-knowledge is obvious. If this allegory of representative painting as a necessary intermediary for an experience of things can be related to Rangou's painting, it is for it to be destructured entirely. Here (in her works) any representation seems to conceal the threat of total subversion. In this way, the myth of Narcissus (it is forbidden for the gaze to look upon its image) is related to another myth, that of Medusa (the gaze conceals death). In the painting of Rania Rangou, the gaze enters upon perilous pathways.
This is work which requires careful observation by the beholder. At first sight, we see scenes from everyday life. Then we discover a series of puzzles and paradoxes. And then the climate becomes threatening ... Perhaps the best equivalent of Rangou's work comes not from painting, or even from the visual arts, but from the cinema. Strange as it may seem, Rangou's visual thriller seems to be engaged in dialogue with the films of David Lynch. As in those, Rangou's painting calls into question almost every probable fact. As in those, the veneer of 'normality', of happiness, of the family, of 'ordinary people' conceals the greatest dangers. As in those, you feel absolutely certain that we have some of the interesting examples of their art. How else can the painting of our times be, if not like this?