Jana Mertens - Private collection - 2018

Based on my enthusiasm for the whimsical fruit portraits of the Renaissance painter Arcimboldo, I began to study various fruit and vegetable counters in detail in order to mould the most beautiful specimens and cast quantities of strawberries, tomatoes, peanuts, romanescos, pomegranates, carrots, leeks, oranges etc. in plaster. I then used these mountains to create an Arcimboldesque figure, a processual work that literally grew and proliferated. I am interested in a presence and power and, of course, above all in the invention of figuration. There is no longer an individual part, but an abundance and splendour, a whole. A highly symbolic allegory with which Arcimboldo transformed the emperor's face and which, in its fresh contemporary reference, takes on an expanded, fully sculptural and life-size dimension. Arcimbolda thus stands for the renewal and transformation that our times require. The sparing reworking with wax and glitter was convincing for her first appearances. As a final material, aluminium is more durable and dazzling and, moreover, a further transformation from the original transience of the material into the galactic.

Jana Mertens

©Jakob Aolphi

Jana Mertens' sculptures are made of rough, austere material and are bursting with power. They are mostly hybrids in which the artist powerfully and skilfully combines moulded and found objects - everyday objects in the sense of "objets trouvés" - to create a new unity. The starting point seems to be an irrepressible desire to create and an equally great passion for the material and its specific feel, which become a source of inspiration in the process of moulding. The everyday objects Mertens integrates into her works become potentially sculptural elements, just as the sculpturally moulded in turn give rise to associations with the figurative or representational. Their respective formal and thematic narratives seem to intersect, but without completely merging. In works such as "Arcimbolda", they form fantastic creations with a highly bizarre and grotesque appearance. Nevertheless, they are characterised by a deep seriousness and reference to reality, as they reflect the grotesque nature of life itself. This tension, this irresolvable paradox and the mastery of concrete realisation make Jana Mertens' works appear as disturbing and unwieldy as they are lively and fascinating.

Dr Stephan Dahme
Custodian of Graphic Art of the Bauhaus, Modernism and
of the Present, Klassik Stiftung Weimar