Neon colours evoke the same primal instinct in the human brain as light does to a fly. We are attracted, entranced, curious. It’s something to do with these colours occurring in nature at pivotal moments in the day - sunrise and sunset. Portuguese artist Mariana PTKS draws on these colours and uses them as part of her cosmic landscape art to similar effect.
Striking in their simplicity, the Porto-based artist boils habitation down to its bare essentials - sun, moon, stars, light, land and water. It’s all we need to survive, to live and to wonder. So, why add anything else? A fascination with the cosmic nature of earth, that is, our relationship to our place in a much greater (infinite) cosmos.
With the phrase ‘cosmic’, or ‘cosmos’ we are provided a concept of inconceivable vastness. Spaces so great that they are actually beyond our conscious comprehension. It’s this theme of space that is so prevalent in all of Mariana PTKS’s works. The elements stand on their own two feet, faithfully representing the artist’s vision in a manner clear to her audience, not just because of what’s on the page/canvas/wall, but precisely because of what isn’t.
Given ample room to breathe and stretch out, her paintings invite you in, provoking in us the same primitive instincts that a real sunrise does. There’s a narrative there, one largely untold, that gives us want to supplement what we are looking at with own experiences. As with the multitude of iconic sun sets and rises in film, literature, video games and other art, as well as our own memories - we fill the spaces with ideas of our own, the paintings providing a backdrop to our own memories.
Besides the cosmic relevance of the colours in the skylines, the artist also peppers her paintings with a healthy dose of stars and planets, signifiers of something beyond the human, yet also things that Mariana PTKS integrates as part of a human narrative. On Wellington boots, cars (in her Festival Iminente collaboration) and ornaments of animals, we see tropical gradients dappled with celestial bodies.
Always simple and always with the caveat of exploration - whether of self or the world - her murals and street art remind us of the scale and significance of our own lives as part of something far greater, both in scale and also in concept. Although no life itself features in the artist’s works, they are full of the potential of life, full of questions about what that means and full of the raw, human wonder that space and the sun evoke within us. It is all life, distilled to its most essential.
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