(1969 – )
79.0 x 76.5 cm
Maria Kontis' drawings are developed from photographic sources, found or personal to the artist. They have a curious sense of cool detachment, emphasised by the flatness of the picture plane and limited palette, and the mediated nature of the subject. Her highly finished pastels emerge from the paper in tonal layers, reflecting her interest in Seurat, and their genesis in the monocular photographic image. They are also part of a long tradition of trompe de l’oeil in art.
Nostalgia and history (personal and shared) are a continuing theme in Kontis' work. Until now, the source of her imagery in photography was emphasised by the depiction of the photographic object as a whole, often curling up at the sides casting a ‘shadow’ on a monochromatic background within the greater image; in her current work, the edge of the source photograph goes beyond the picture plane.
The subject of this drawing is an American circus performer, Manfred Fritch (1931-2012), who was known as 'The Great Doval' in his high-wire act. However, the image denies an easy narrative or obvious connection with its subject, which is deliberately obscure, and there is an equal emphasis on formal qualities in the image. Manfred Fritsch invokes the aesthetics of mid twentieth century American documentary photography, kitsch and fascist/utopian body aesthetics, and neo-romantic landscape.
Veronica Tello, Vitamin D: new perspectives in drawing, 'Maria Kontis', pg. 318-319, 2013, 318 (colour illus.).