Beatrice Marchi roleplays the tropes of prom queens & pop stars in a view of femininity from the perspective of a fish out of water in Happy Yellowing

, 28 April 2020

Beatrice Marchi’s Happy Yellowing solo exhibition at Berlin’s Sandy Brown is a soothingly colored choir of paintings inhabited by nymphs smiling idly. The Berlin-based artist deploys an affinity for characters and fantastical worlds that reach out to a viewer and ask them to step into her painted carnival of drawn-up mythologies. That reaching hand can be slippery, nebulous, or an actual shrimp claw.

Beatrice Marchi, <em>Happy Yellowing</em> (2020). Installation view. Photo by Courtesy Sandy Brown, Berlin.
Beatrice Marchi, Happy Yellowing (2020). Installation view. Photo by Courtesy Sandy Brown, Berlin.

In the center of the compact gallery space is a papier-mâché model of Marchi’s main alter ego ‘Loredana’—a large crustacean with a human-like face that is buried deep into the hole of a massage table. An ‘Ariel’ in reverse, Loredana’s story is told by Marchi in past performances and video works. It’s the never-ending fable of a literal fish out of water and her unlikely path to fulfil her dream of residing in this dry world. The color gradient describing the different stages of her maritime physique mimic the unfolding of a life. The eponymous ‘Happy Yellowing’ work shows the siren, whose body awaits a spa treatment,while the ballad of her odd drama sung by Marchi herself emanates curiously from the inner structure of the sculpture. Surrounding her is a soothingly-hued choir of paintings inhabited by beautiful maidens gazing outwards.

The cool freshness of the canvases rendering the gallery space as Loredana’s retreat is home to female figures whose delicate carnation blends in with the atmospheric shades of their natural habitat. In ‘Io come Angela o Angelica’, a face peeking out from underneath a waterfall of turquoise hair grins idly at the viewer. The fluid features that emerge from the landscape of rock formations conspicuously resemble Marchi’s own. Creating a deceptive world of bodies and nature, magic and reality, self-portraits and role play, the paintings’ seduction spells out pop like a fizzy lemonade. The stories Marchi weaves together here center around an auto-fictional conundrum of lonely fandom, dress-to-impress emulation, and the stitching together of the varying pop cultural narratives aimed at young girls. Their future is exported into a fantasia of unreachable and politically-mute environments for princesses, castles and the deep sea. 

Beatrice Marchi, ‘I love Segantini (with J-Lo)’ (2020). Installation view. Photo by Courtesy Sandy Brown, Berlin.

Marchi’s interest in a ‘girl power’ momentum that mythologized a generation’s outlook onto the perimeters of life clearly shapes the painted narratives that her characters inhabit. In their lazy poses, these creatures carry a teenager’s defiance, best embodied by one of the painted characters’ star-shaped cutouts that acts as tooth jewellery. This LED-powered glimpse from underneath a widening smile in ‘Ninfeeee’ serves as proof of their cheeky reluctance to be mere luminaries of the male gaze. The pretty figures, clouded in shades of blue, evoke the gum chewing, bubble bursting sass of a High School prom queen who is in on the patriarchal joke—a character ever present in teen flicks of the early ‘00s. In ‘I Love Segantini (with J-Lo)’, two of them lounge in a large disk of tinted lake water, towered over by a field of snowy mountain tops submerged in the pink fade of a disappearing sunset. A sketched female figure crowns this landscape, her mane and swift grip of a pole serving as her insignia in this world of fantastical femininity. The ruler of this empire of fairytale nixies is a depiction of Jennifer Lopez sporting the performative weapons used during her halftime show at the 2020 Super Bowl XVI just a few weeks prior. Personified as a pearly, shimmering Queen of Pop, Marchi excavates the playful discourses of teenagers unchallenged in being well read in pop culture and takes pleasure in the effervescent taste of those narratives.**

Beatrice Marchi’s Happy Yellowing is on at Berlin’s Sandy Brown running March 5 to May 30, 2020.